At the age of 7, twin sisters Alex and Amanda Alamar made each other a pinky promise while visiting the San Diego Zoo: They would become zookeepers, no matter what.
That childhood promise has been tested by severe health issues – the sisters suffer from complex regional pain syndrome, also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, a nerve disorder that has lead to each sister being immobile – but neither twin was willing to give up their dream.
The twins have a lengthy history with zoos. They started their zoo journey at the age of 16 when they began interning for the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, also known as “The Little Zoo That Could.” That evolved into a full-time position for both sisters caring for tiger cubs. There, they earned the nickname “Tiger Twins” because they would mimic the chuffing noises tigers make to communicate with each other. Their Instagram handles are “tigertwinA” and “tigertwinB” (clearly, the name stuck).
They made the trek from southern Alabama to Fresno five years ago to work at Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Alex became an ungulate keeper when the African section of the zoo opened. She was originally hired as a relief keeper. Amanda is a carnivore keeper.
The twins were born in California, but moved around a lot when they were younger to follow their father, Pete Alamar, who is a football coach. Their father is now special teams coordinator for Stanford.
“We always said football is a family affair. It’s not just something that is just one dream. It’s the family’s,” Amanda said.
The twins felt that same support when pursing their dreams of becoming zookeepers (despite the fact their parents would have preferred their daughters stayed away from snakes).
The twins love to joke that they chose different hairstyles “for the public” to help people tell them apart (Alex is the brunette, Amanda is the redhead).
“I don’t think we look alike anymore, but I also don’t think the wildebeest look much alike and anyone who’s not an ungulate keeper would tell you the wildebeest look alike,” Alex said. “I’ll be here talking to a guest and someone will be elbowing someone else, ‘That was the one we saw at meerkat.’ ‘No, her hair is a different color.’ ‘She must’ve changed her wig.’
“ ‘No,’ I’ll say. ‘That was my twin.’ ”