How a Park Visit Inspired an Entire Career

July 23, 2021
Hi everyone! My name is Kayla and I am one of the Zoological Supervisors at Busch Gardens Tampa. This year, I celebrated ten years with SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment! In that decade, I’ve been honored to care for some of the world's most amazing animals from spotted eagle rays and speckled mousebirds at Discovery Cove to orcas and pilot whales at SeaWorld Orlando to Busch Gardens’ Asian elephants, African penguins, American alligators and more!


Working with each species has been a unique experience and every individual has taught me something new. Whether we’re talking about a macaw, a dolphin, or a pine snake, one of my favorite parts of my job is watching guests connect with the animals around the parks.

One moment with an animal, one visit to a zoo like Busch Gardens can change a person’s outlook on the entire world. Meeting Parsley, one of our African penguins, could inspire someone to eat sustainable seafood. Seeing Bubba, our 71 year old Aldabra tortoise, up close could encourage someone to pursue work in reptile research. Feeding an elephant on one of our insider tours might spark a passion for conservation projects.

Kayla and Bubba the Tortoise

One moment can change everything. One moment could inspire a whole career!

After all, that’s how I became interested in caring for animals. In 1998, my parents brought me to SeaWorld Orlando on a family vacation and I was inspired to pursue a career in the zoological field after seeing the killer whales. I wanted to help people understand how we’re all connected and I’m so incredibly thankful to have that opportunity every day.

Family Photo

Whether you’re inspired after touching a sloth during our Sloth Encounter, watching a cheetah reach their top speed during a cheetah run, or feeding a kangaroo right out of your hand, becoming a part of the zoo field is a rewarding experience.

No two zookeepers are exactly the same. Some of us have a degree in biology, others psychology, or zoology. Some of us started our animal-oriented careers volunteering at animal shelters, veterinary clinics, a 4-H club, or interning at our local zoo or aquarium before becoming a part of the Busch Gardens Team.

But, I can assure you that we all have one thing in common: We each had a “moment” that awakened a passion.

It’s why we work on holidays and weekends. It’s why we wake up well before the dawn each morning. It’s why we brave the heat and the storms and cold. Because it’s worth it. The animals are so very worth it. And knowing that you get the chance to give someone else their moment every day? A moment that could change their perspective? A moment that could help change the world?

That’s worth it too.

Happy National Zookeeper Week to all my fellow (and future) zookeepers out there. Keep doing what you do.