This particular position has been posted for well over a year. 200 people have applied.But they're not qualified and those who are, don't want it. "It's a hard job to do and the pay is not really high," said Britt Thompson. Thompson is technically retired. After 23 years of service, the former senior elephant keeper at the Little Rock Zoo left last year. But he's back, part-time, because no one can fill his shoes. Emotional and smart, it's an art to take care of an elephant.You can look into their eye and they can know exactly what you are saying."These giant animals seem so sweet and docile, but they do require a lot of care and a lot of patience," Thompson said. "It's really really physical and potentially is dangerous. If you are no good at your job, you are going to get hurt," he said.
Zina and Jewel tower over keeper Kristin Warner.But she, and the other four people who already work here, simply don't have enough experience managing pachyderms and people."The people is the hardest thing, the elephants are easy," Thompson said. The other trouble: qualified applicants turn up their trunks at the starting pay. It is just $26,000 a year."When I came here, I took a 60% cut in pay," Thompson said. Still, Thompson says he wouldn't work with any other creature."It's just amazing to be next to an animal that large."That's why he's hopeful someone will take the post so, just like the elephants, he can finally kick his feet up.I'll be out of here by spring at the latest," he said. Those keepers are busy all day. The elephants need constant physical and mental exercises, they eat a ton and then, well you know what happens after that.The senior elephant keeper must be educated, experienced, and still do all that grunt work. Zoo officials say they are considering raising the starting pay, to draw someone with the right stuff, willing to come here to work.