Today is International Zoo Keepers Day and it is an opportunity to stop and reflect on the role our keeping team undertake to support the care of our animal collection. As a personal reflection I clearly remember visiting the Auckland Zoo as a child and watching fascinated as a keeper told our rowdy group to be quiet as she was caring for a baby chimpanzee……….it is ironic that years later my greatest passion, the care and management of chimpanzees, became a focal point of my zoo career.
As a teenager I came across the stories of Gerald Durrell. As I immersed myself in his fascination of the natural fauna of Corfu and later his establishment of the Jersey Wildlife Trust, I KNEW I wanted to be a zoo keeper.
From the time I secured a trainee keeper role at Auckland Zoo (a long time ago ) I have retained a lifelong long passion to ensure that as custodians of any species we care for we are working to provide the very best welfare outcomes and advocate their story. And we know for Perth Zoo the whole team supports this outcome!
So, today on International Zoo Keeper Day, as we celebrate our keeping colleagues, when you see a keeper today think about this:
- Zoo Keeping is not for the faint-hearted, particularly on those cold rainy days when you swear the Swan River has come up to meet the Main Lake;
- Keepers have a great sense of humour – you have to if a large part of your role is to clean up after animals, but……….. if we had a penny for every time we’ve heard: “Look at the funny animal” whilst we clean an exhibit, we’d be rich!
- It is an amazing opportunity to know an individual or group of animals right through their life cycle but…………….it is not always easy to explain this complex relationship and how unique it is to the visitor doing their whistle-stop tour of the Zoo;
- Zoo Keeping is a highly educated profession. Despite wearing king gees and bluntstone boots to work, most of your colleagues ‘in green’ have university degrees or have completed higher studies. They are experts in animal husbandry and behaviour;
- And speaking of the uniform, we do understand why you don’t recognise us outside of work when we are not wearing ‘the greens’. We’re not always covered in animal snot, or for the female keepers, ‘dressed like boys’!
- Importantly, on this day it’s essential to know that zoo keepers do their job because they’re passionate, because they love it and genuinely care about animals and saving wildlife.
**Happy International Zoo Keeper Day everyone**
Maria Finnigan - Perth Zoo A/Executive Director