A childhood love of animals paved the way for keeper Marty Hart to dedicate her professional life to caring for primates at Perth Zoo.
After studying Conservation Biology at university, she completed some casual work experience at the Zoo, and now more than 22 years later, remains as one of our dedicated primate keepers.
And while she loves every aspect of the job, a career in zookeeping was never her original plan.
"After I finished my degree, I did ten weeks of work experience with Perth Zoo, and when I was offered my first contract, I remember being super excited, but also thinking that I would do it for a while, but not forever – that was 22 years ago!" Marty said.
"Once I'd started doing proper shifts and becoming immersed in the job, I found it was so much more than just feeding and cleaning, and I started to see how progressive Perth Zoo was and still is."
Marty works primarily with some of our closest living relatives, orangutans. And while the team follows a daily routine, no two days are the same when it comes to looking after the intelligent and cheeky primates.
One of the most important parts of working on this round is developing good personal relationships with each orangutan.
"Having a good rapport with individuals is key to this job, and there needs to be a lot of trust between both parties," Marty said.
"We always spend some time with our animals, just quietly observing or interacting if they choose to do so."
The strong rapport between our keepers and the orangutans continues to have a monumentally positive impact on their health and welfare.
Thanks to the immense trust, keepers are able to conduct live blood sample draws, brush their teeth for good oral hygiene, and maintain a good understanding of their overall body condition and health.
And while keepers dedicate quality time to maintaining these relationships, there are still plenty of other daily tasks to achieve.
"When we come in for the day, we start with food preparation, then feed and check on our animals, medicate if necessary, do behavioral observations, provide enrichment, conduct training, and, of course, we clean the habitats and night quarters," Marty said.
"It's great to have a routine, but when working with animals, sometimes the day is thrown into chaos, and something unexpected comes up, so we always need to be ready to adapt."
Despite having worked as a keeper for more than two decades, Marty is still learning something new every day.
"We do work within a routine, but every day one of our individual animals will do something that surprises us," Marty said.
"That's why in this job, patience certainly doesn't go astray. It can take hours, days, and even years sometimes to get an animal to do what you have asked – whether that's moving to another area of the exhibit or allowing you to take a blood sample while conscious.
"But when you do make that breakthrough and connect, it's the most rewarding feeling."
You can help us with this incredible care for orangutans. Make a donation to Perth Zoo today!