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International Women’s Day

Did you know more than 70% of the employees at Perth Zoo are women? We hope the experiences of our three female Supervisors of Zoology will help inspire you not only for International Women’s Day, but also to join us on the Saving Wildlife journey!

Holly Thompson, Primate Supervisor

I’ve worked at Perth Zoo for nearly 17 years, almost six of them in my current role.

I lead a dynamic team of zoo keepers who have animal welfare at the forefront. They are passionate like me and very keen to learn and enrich the lives of the animals in our care.

Personally I feel we need to be authentic when given the amazing opportunity to work with such amazing species and that is why I dedicate a lot of my personal time to volunteering with NGO’s and working in the species range states such as Sumatra, Borneo, Java and Vietnam. We can then better manage the species in our care because we know what their wild behaviours are and what their habitats are like. I empower my team to think beyond our borders in Perth and inspire visitors to make simple changes in their day that can be better for wildlife and the environment.

Fortunately I always knew I wanted to work with animals and most specifically help wildlife and their habitats. I was told in school I wouldn’t be able to get a job as a zookeeper due to it being too competitive, that only spurred me on more and I did a lot of work experience during my school years, and whilst working a few jobs and doing my degree. Hopefully this inspires our younger generation that they can do absolutely anything, if they put the work in.

The theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter, how do you balance all the work in your area?

For me it is simple, animals first. I manage my day and the teams around what we have on for the animals’ care that day.

I had cancer in 2009/10 and this also taught me to slow down and don’t sweat the small stuff. For me balance is managing your resources and this is my mantra to my team a lot of the time. I consult my staff who are best equipped to assist. This may be with animal training, enrichment, and timing for exhibit works/keeper talks. I don’t feel that I know everything or should know everything and I have my team to assist with that, they are my main resource and I use it.

I have worked here for a long time and have a great relationship with a lot of our primates. Balance for me is going and observing them and having some one on one time. The joy I get from having Jermei, a white-cheeked gibbon, swing over as fast as she can and put her arms through the mesh to pull me in for a big hug is the best balance for the better you could ever ask for!

 

Cathy Lambert, NSBP Supervisor

During my time at university studying biology (as a mature age student) I saw a newspaper article about the Zoo’s amazing program to breed and return endangered native animals to the wild and I was inspired to hopefully work there one day and contribute to that conservation effort.  After a couple of years working for the Department of Conservation and Land Management I had my chance in 1996 and was lucky enough to land a position as a keeper on the Zoo’s Native Species Breeding Program (NSBP). 

My first major challenge at the Zoo was to take the lead in managing a breed for release program for the endangered dibbler, a species that had never been bred in captivity before – what a privilege!  With the help of many colleagues, the program flourished and has now delivered over 900 dibblers to the wild, helping in some way to secure their future.  Dibblers are very close to my heart, but I’ve also worked with many other fascinating animals on similarly rewarding programs.

 After 17 years working as a Keeper, I made the very difficult decision to leave the “hands-on” work of animal husbandry for a more administrative role in overseeing all species in NSBP, and have supervised this section since 2013.  I still do make the time though to get out from behind my desk and amongst the daily routine for all of our animals as often as I can! 

The theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter, how do you balance all the work in your area?

This is a tricky one, and prioritization is the key.  In some work areas, tasks can sit in “In-boxes” for a while – not so where I work.  The welfare of our animals always comes first, and if an Annual Report has to wait while I help the team sort out an issue or help with husbandry on a busy day, then that’s what I do.  So from this point of view, prioritization of key tasks is pretty straight forward.  To help manage the team workloads in general I find it important to have staff that can multi-skill across different areas, so people can be supported during peak busy times – such as when we have 70 dibblers to feed after the breeding season instead of the usual 20!  Being surrounded by a stable and supportive team helps us all to achieve goals and makes coming to work more enjoyable.

 

Belinda Laming, Australian Fauna Supervisor

Like so many of my colleagues at Perth Zoo, I grew up with a deep respect and fascination for wildlife, a trait that was strongly encouraged by my wonderful, nature-loving mother and grandmother.

I was always drawn to wildlife-based activities such as spotlighting for Western ringtail possum in our State’s southwest, recording frog calls at dusk in local wetlands and volunteering to support wildlife rehabilitation groups. I undertook work experience at Perth Zoo while finishing my Bachelor of Science (Zoology) and was extremely fortunate to be offered a job on my last day! I worked as a zookeeper for over nine years, specializing in Australian Fauna, before an opportunity arose to take on the Supervisor position six years ago.

We have around 80% of Perth Zoo’s species under the care of the Australian Fauna section and it is this amazing diversity that I love –caring for everything from beetles to geckoes, tortoises, owls and bats – you never stop learning in this job!!! Australia is blessed with such an array of wonderful wildlife, yet sadly, as a nation, we have the highest mammal extinction rate in the world. I encourage people to take the time to observe and connect with our awe-inspiring wildlife and take any action they can to help preserve our unique flora and fauna for generations to come.         

The theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter, how do you balance all the work in your area?

I think those outside of the industry might not realise the complexity and challenges that come with zoo keeping and managing a zoo – on top of having the skills and knowledge to care for our diverse range of animals, we also need cleaning skills, public speaking skills, maintenance skills, report-writing skills, the ability to use a range of technology to monitor our animals, a degree of veterinary knowledge, botanical knowledge, and a strong handle on time-management to achieve it all in a day!!!

As a Supervisor, I also undertake staff management, administration, recruitment, training, national species management, stock procurement and organise a multitude of animal imports/exports – so there’s always a lot to juggle!

I’m very fortunate to have the support of an amazing team of skilled, dedicated zookeepers, who work tirelessly to ensure the animals in our care are well-provided for, whilst ensuring our valued visitors also have an enjoyable experience at Perth Zoo. I also find that living in the Perth hills, ending each day surrounded by majestic marri trees and tiny terrestrial orchids, watching flocks of beautiful black cockatoos flying overhead and seeing inquisitive quenda hopping through the garden, gives me all the motivation I need to come back and do it all again the next day.  

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