Animal Keepers’ Forum Comes to BHL


Image of a cover of Animal Keepers’ Forum, featuring a simple line drawing of a person pulling a wheelbarrow and carrying a shovel over one shoulder, in front of an enclosure with a horse. Text reads: “Animal Keepers’ Forum”, “Dedicated to Professional Animal Care.” Animal Keepers’ Forum. 1978. Digitized in BHL by Smithsonian Libraries.

Animal Keepers’ Forum, first published by the American Association of Zookeepers in 1974, set out to solve a problem: animal care and conservation requires specialized knowledge, but institutions were limited in their ability to share experience with each other. Animal Keepers’ Forum has connected animal care professionals for the past 44 years, and serves as both a current resource for husbandry best practices and a historical record of conservation efforts.

Now it’s openly accessible on the Biodiversity Heritage Library as part of the Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Thanks to permission from the American Association of Zookeepers, Smithsonian Libraries has digitized the complete run of volumes from 1974 through the present, with a 2-year embargo period.

The 2015 special issue on prosimians gives a great sample of the publication’s scope: Duke University’s Lemur Center details their husbandry practices for mouse lemurs, with specifics from housing and diet to breeding and animal biometrics; St. Louis Zoo explains how they sustainably grow and harvest browse for their Coquerel’s Sifakas; and the Lemur Conservation Foundation shares how the AKO Project uses storytelling through picture books helps engage kids in wildlife conservation.


An image of two children’s picture-book covers featuring paintings of lemurs, and a photograph of children posing with picture books and smiling. Animal Keepers’ Forum. 2015. Digitized in BHL by Smithsonian Libraries.


Photo of four chicks perched in a line. The chicks are black and white with yellow beaks. Article title: ‘Hand-reading White-crested Laughing Thrushes (Garrulax leucolophus) as a Method of Increasing Captive Population Sustainability’. Animal Keepers’ Forum. 2015. Digitized in BHL by Smithsonian Libraries.

The mission of the American Association of Zookeepers (AAZK) is “to advance excellence in the animal keeping profession, foster effective communication beneficial to animal care, support deserving conservation projects, and promote the preservation of our natural resources and animal life,” according to its website. The AAZK was founded in 1967 in San Diego, CA. Its first publication was an unofficial newsletter called The Ruptured Rhino (1968-1969), which is also coming to BHL along with the AAZK Bulletin. Eventually, The Rupture Rhino led to Animal Keepers’ Forum, which became the association’s official publication in 1975.


Image of the first page of Animal Keepers’ Forum, v. 1 no.1. Transcription from ‘Editorial Comment’ by Dave Ruhter: “Among zoo keepers, as with very few other professions, there exists a void in intraprofessional communications. If you are fortunate enough to have access to zoo magazines or occasionally obtain an AAZPA newsletter, you can find out what’s going on in the zoo world. But what’s happening among keepers at Denver or Brookfield? When was the last time you heard of new programs at Tulsa or Los Angeles? As problems come up, have you ever wondered what your fellow professionals are doing in similar situations? This is what Animal Keepers’ Forum is all about. We are offering to you a vehicle of communication with topics that concern and interest keepers… the more knowledgeable you are, the more valuable you are to your animals and to your zoo.” Animal Keepers’ Forum. 1974. Digitized in BHL by Smithsonian Libraries.


Photograph of an ocelot, a small, spotted wild cat, in profile. Article title: Overnight Behavioral Study on 1.1 Brazilian Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis). Animal Keepers’ Forum. 2015. Digitized in BHL by Smithsonian Libraries.

Until its digitization, accessibility to Animal Keepers’ Forum was fairly limited without a subscription. Jacqueline Chapman (Digital Collections Librarian) and Kristen Bullard (former Branch Librarian, National Zoological Park & Conservation Biology Institute and current Science Researcher Services Librarian, Natural & Physical Sciences Department) of Smithsonian Libraries authored a paper and presented at the 2017 AAZK National Conference to address the significance of making this resource available digitally and for free (‘Connecting Keepers to Collective Knowledge: The Digitization of Animal Keepers’ Forum and the Promise of Open Access to Zoological Scholarly Communication’).

They share that a search of the global online library catalogue WorldCat found only 30 libraries with Animal Keepers’ Forum, and that Smithsonian Libraries was the only institution listed as having a complete set of the periodical. As a result, it has been one of the most frequently requested titles from the Smithsonian’s Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute library branch through interlibrary loan. (While it is likely available at libraries that don’t participate in WorldCat, the WorldCat search result does indicate that it was relatively difficult to access for those without the resources to subscribe.)

“Some species are so unique that information about their care is hard to find and [Animal Keepers’ Forum] might be one of the only sources for this material,” Chapman and Bullard write. “The knowledge within [Animal Keepers’ Forum] is now available to anyone, allowing the best practices and lessons learned, this collective knowledge of zoo keepers, to be accessed without barrier to anyone. This will hopefully support capacity and knowledge building in institutions that have suffered from limited resources over time.”


Image of a cover of Animal Keepers’ Forum, featuring a simple black and white illustration of a California Condor chick being fed by a puppet resembling the head of an adult condor. The image is by Mary Deckert, a docent at the Los Angeles Zoo, which participates in a recovery program for this critically endangered species. Animal Keepers’ Forum. 2007. Digitized in BHL by Smithsonian Libraries.

Many thanks to: the American Association of Zookeepers for contributing this resource; the Institute of Museum and Library Services for funding the Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature project; Smithsonian Libraries for digitization; and Jacqueline Chapman and Kristen Bullard for sharing their insights!


‘About Us’ (
‘Animal Keepers’ Forum’ (
‘Connecting Keepers to Collective Knowledge: The Digitization of Animal Keepers’ Forum and the Promise of Open Access to Zoological Scholarly Communication’ (Chapman & Bullard, 2017)

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Written by

Elizabeth Meyer joined the Ernst Mayr Library at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology as a project assistant in 2015. She digitizes and transcribes library materials for BHL, including the archival collection of American ornithologist William Brewster (1851-1919). With her background in biology, she enjoys promoting access to scientific information and writing blog posts to connect people to BHL.