Shawn works with Asian elephant Asha during her morning bath, offering treats and positive reinforcement as he leads her through behaviors.
Name: Shawn Finnell
Title: Animal Area Technician, Pachyderm
Tenure at the OKC Zoo: 3 years
Residence: Oklahoma City
1. What are your primary responsibilities at the Zoo?
I help with the daily upkeep and husbandry training of the elephants and rhinos – from baths, foot care, cleaning of stalls and preparing diets to anything else that needs doing around the habitats.
2. When did you know you wanted to be a Zoo keeper?
I had never really thought about it until I started volunteering at the Sedgwick County Zoo (Wichita, KS) after I took a job in the restaurant there. I realized working with animals was something I liked and something I wanted to do. After my first time working with elephants, I understood why they were so popular!
3. What do you love the most about working with the elephants?
I like that they’re very multi-faceted animals and require a lot of unique care. I enjoy doing the medical aspects like foot care and trunk washes because it’s pretty involved and you have to build a relationship first. You have to have a strong bond to accomplish what we do to take care of them.
4. How has the addition of Malee the elephant calf changed the dynamic in the elephant area?
We are a lot busier since Malee came along! Right now we are doing a lot of ground work with her when it comes to training and practiced behaviors. She is a blank canvas so it is a lot more interesting! Training is an important part of building a safe environment for both the animal staff and the animals and helps us provide the best possible care for them.
5. What is your favorite part of your day?
I like the end of the day, when the elephants are all settled in for the night and eating their hay and relaxing. I love just watching them chill and be elephants.
I live in Oklahoma City with my wife, Becky. I started my zoo career as a volunteer at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas, then worked as a keeper at Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Kansas. I first worked with elephants at Wildlife Safari in Oregon before moving to the OKC Zoo. My hobbies include going to the movies, playing on the Zoo's sports teams (soccer and softball) and elephants, elephants, elephants! I am a member of the Animal Behavior Management Alliance (ABMA) and the Elephant Managers Association (EMA), where I sit on the conservation committee.