KINGWOOD, W.Va. (WDTV)- Zookeeper Brian Hovatter has always had a passion for wildlife.
"I like to be around animals, that's just me. Wherever you put me, I'll be around animals."
Originally, Brian trained animals for movies, but in 1992, he decided to open Hovatter's Wildlife Zoo in Kingwood.
"We just collected so many animals that we decided to open up to the public and we've been here ever since," he said.
Hovatter's houses over 30 species, ranging from farm animals like goats and alpaca, to more exotic species like sloths, tigers, alligators, chimps, and, the most popular exhibit, the giraffes.
While Hovatter's isn't an official wildlife sanctuary, many animals on the property have been rescued or are retired from show business.
"We bring them back here and try to give them a better life," Brian said.
Being a zookeeper is a lot of hard work. It takes an entire team to feed the animals, make sure they're healthy, and clean the grounds each day.
"We go around, make sure everything is good in the morning and give them all fresh water. We have one girl that goes around and does all the medication, she looks if there's a hair out of place on any animal, then they come back and report that to me, I report to my veterinarian, and we log everything."
I got a behind the scenes look at the giraffe enclosure and got to help feed Zeus, one of the four giraffe's at Hovatter's.
Brian says his favorite part about running the zoo is educating kids and watching their faces light up when they get to see such incredible creatures up close.
"I love to see the ones that don't get to see this stuff that often that get to come in and actually touch a giraffe and feed a giraffe. [Usually] they're never going to get to do that but they do here."
Hovatter's Wildlife Zoo is working to add an otter exhibit and possibly carnival rides for kids.