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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The American Association of Zoo Keepers is recognizing the dedication of zookeepers and aquarists nationwide with National Zookeeper Week Sunday, July 21 through Saturday, July 27.

Among accredited zoos and aquariums across the country, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is proud to be a participant. As part of the celebration, guests can enjoy the Zoo for only $2 General Admission per person on Thursday, July 25.

Throughout the week, appreciation activities will take place for all Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens animal keepers who devote their careers to the care and preservation of animals. There will be a luncheon and awards ceremony and free or discounted meals at participating area restaurants, such as Juniors Seafood.

All week, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., guests will have the opportunity to create thank you notes for zookeepers, which will hang in the Zoo's employee break room.

"Being a zookeeper is all about passion and commitment. It's about the rare opportunity to make your passion your career, and the commitment you make to the animals, who become like members of your extended family," said Dan Maloney, deputy director of conservation and education at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. "Our animals staff is among the best anywhere, and I'm proud to serve alongside them every day."

The Zoo is open Monday - Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with tickets sold until 4 p.m. Weekend hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with tickets sold until 5 p.m.

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens encourages guests to use sunscreen, bring refillable water bottles and dress appropriately for hot weather. Those bringing young children to play in the Splash Ground should bring waterproof diaper covers.

For more information on Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, visit www.jacksonvillezoo.org. To learn more about AAZK, go o www.aazk.org.