A Short History of International Zookeeper Day
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A Short History of International Zookeeper Day

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Yesterday the global animal care community celebrated the 4th annual International Zookeeper Day. The 4th of October was first the Day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, animals, and the environment. St. Francis of Assisi is well known for his love and care for animals and stressed the duty humankind has to protecting and enjoying nature. At a time when the climate and extinction crises threaten wildlife globally, animals being displaced by the wildlife and pet trade, and millions being consumed for food this message is more relevant than ever.

Francis was born circa 1181 in Italy to a life of luxury, which he enjoyed until his capture in a battle between Assisi and Perugia in 1202. After his release nearly a year later, Francis had undergone great personal change that ultimately influenced him to renounce his wealth in devotion to Christianity and lead a life of Christ-like poverty. To counter the decadence of the church in his day, Francis travelled and preached his beliefs of selfless poverty and appreciating nature to as many individuals as possible, including animals. Though his inclusion of animals attracted some criticism at the time, his overarching message resonated so powerfully that he was canonised as a saint in 1228 only two years after his death.

Francis’s legacy of love for nature is still widely celebrated today, with the 4th of October as his official feast day. In 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergogli chose to take St. Francis of Assisi’s name when he became Pope Francis and has since used his position to strongly advocate for the environment and conservation.
Honouring animal caregivers on the Day of St. Francis of Assisi was proposed by Barcelona Zoo and the Iberian Association of Zoos and Aquaria. Since 2015, zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries, and animal care facilities around the world have come together on this day to celebrate the professionals who dedicate their lives to improving and saving the lives of animals.

The role animal care professionals are key and fundamental to safeguarding and caring for animals, as well as all the contribution to education outreach and research many of you are involved in. Thank you all for your dedicated commitment to this crucial task!

Statue of St. Francis of Assisi & the Birds at a convent in Megen, The Netherlands
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