Jeff offers a branch of browse to Mary Ann the American bison from inside a corral at Oklahoma Trails.
Name: Jeff Rife
Title: Animal Area Supervisor, Antelopes
Tenure at the OKC Zoo: 7.5 years
Residence: Bethany, Oklahoma
1. What are your primary responsibilities at the Zoo?
First and foremost is the health and well-being of the animal collection in our area. This includes but is not limited to the daily feeding, cleaning, training, enrichment and anything else that may be needed for the animals. Along with this goes the responsibility of leading and training a team of five keeper staff to address the same responsibilities for the animals.
2. What animals are included in the "Antelope" area?
The Antelope area provides care of a large diversity of animals, including a large number from the Oklahoma Trails exhibit. The area is responsible for sable antelope, Somali wild ass, Abyssinian hornbills, hog deer, Indochinese sika deer, Chinese goral, Pere David’s deer, tufted deer, warthogs, beaver, otters, bison, elk, prairie dogs, badger, raccoons, seba short-tailed bats, kangaroo rats, black rat snakes, Norway rat, great plains toads, deer mice, black widow spider, brown tarantula, opossum, southern flying squirrels, striped skunk, screech owls, cacomistle, coyotes, Mexican grey wolves, whitetail deer, wild turkey and sandhill crane.
3. What are some of your favorite animals to work with and why?
It is hard to pick favorites, but three of the ones that I enjoy working with the most would have to be the bison, coyotes and Mexican grey wolves. I like working with them because of the intelligence levels and the social systems that they have.
4. Why is your job important, both to you and in general?
I have been around and worked with animals most of my life, and to me my job is a way to give to back to the animals and to the public. We provide an environment for the animals that is safe, healthy and provides for all their needs. This allows us give the public an opportunity to see and meet animals that most would only ever read about or see in pictures. This connection between keepers, Zoo guests and the animals enables us to spread our message of conservation and education to the public, hopefully inspiring them to take actions themselves whether it is locally or around the world.
5. What is your favorite Zoo memory from when you were young?
My favorite memory is just getting to go to the zoo and see all the different animals from around the world up close.
My home town is Hays, Kansas and I now live in Bethany, Oklahoma with my wife Toni, who also works at the Zoo in the pachyderm department. We currently have two furry “kids” - one dog and one cat. I graduated from Fort Hays State University in 1997 with a Bachelor of Science Degree, majoring in Range and Wildlife Management. I have been working in Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Zoos for 11 ½ years. Prior to Oklahoma City I worked at Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina, Kansas where I worked with the entire animal collection. I started at Oklahoma City Zoo as the Swing Keeper for Birds and Children Zoo departments, then I moved to the Great Ape area before coming to the Antelope department.