Ayessa Rourke

L.A. Zoo Animal Keeper Ayessa Rourke and Sumatran Rhino Harapan

L.A. Zoo Animal Keeper Ayessa Rourke and Sumatran Rhino Harapan

Ayessa Rourke moved to California in 2000 from the East Coast, where she had enjoyed a 10-year career as a jazz, soul, and big band singer. After taking a course in cabaret singing at Los Angeles Community College, she was on their mailing list. One day, the new fall course catalog arrived with the Los Angeles Zoo animal keeper training class on offer. Having grown up helping a neighbor rehabilitate wild animals, she had always had a keen interest in caring for exotics. Long story short, she took and passed the course and was subsequently hired as an animal keeper at the Los Angeles Zoo, where she has now worked for 15 years. Her current assignment has her caring for giant river otters, maned wolves, and Baird’s and mountain tapirs. She loves all creatures, but loves the South American the most because “they are often unknown to the public and offer a great chance to educate.” She lives in Pasadena with her husband, musician R.G. Rourke and her shelter rescue dog, Mildred Pierce.