Meet Our Team 11/08/2016
How long have you worked here? Since 1990.
Tell us an interesting facts about you: I’ve been lucky enough to see orangutans, chimpanzees and gorillas in the wild - all amazing experiences… how many people in the world can say that?
Why did you become a keeper? I have absolutely no recollection of ever wanting to do anything else! Since the age of five I wanted to be a keeper at Chester Zoo, thanks to my mum bringing me to the zoo countless times as a youngster.
I developed an interest in not only the animals themselves, but also their behaviour. An early recollection is a bison giving birth and the rest of the herd forming a protective circle around the female, as they would in the wild. I think that was the turning point when my interest increased to beyond simply viewing the different species.
There were a few diversions before becoming a keeper, but now I’m here everyone’s stuck with me (hopefully) for a good few years to come!
What’s your favourite animal and why? Orangutans – For those of us lucky enough to have bonds with the apes in our care, it’s a real privilege.
What’s the best part of your job? The best part about my job is the close connection I have with our orangutans. Running a close second is being part of the primate team here at the zoo. Good animals, good people!
What’s been your most memorable moment in your career to date?
When I first started working with orangutans it coincided with our two Sumatran orangutan females being pregnant. Subis and Emma were both hand-reared and we were slightly worried they couldn’t rear their own infants. We decided, so they could get some maternal tips, to mix the two pregnant girls every alternate day with our Bornean orangutan females that had young.
It was a fairly simple process but the outcome was that they have now raised 9 infants between them, and in turn those youngsters, more importantly the females, are observing maternal behaviours ready for when they have youngsters of their own and know what to do! I’m very grateful to Bornean orangutans Martha and Sarikei for passing on their great maternal skills to our Sumatran girls.
What’s so special about Chester Zoo? It’s my second home! These days I even come in on my days off with my family and still enjoy walking around a visitor…there’s always something new going on!
Have you visited any of our conservation projects abroad? If so which ones and what did you do? I’ve been really fortunate to have visited Sabah, Borneo and was involved in building a new holding area at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. I’ve also visited Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Uganda, Africa, where I helped build climbing frames from poles. Chester Zoo also sends keepers with our apes when they are moving to other collections.
This helps to settle them in to their new exhibits, routines and also with the orangutans new carers. This has led to me working briefly in zoos in Norway, Hungary, Holland and Spain.