Meet Our Team

Debi

What animals you look after? I help to look after the 21 different species of primates we have here at the zoo.

Why did you become a keeper? When I did my first bit of work experience I got very bored of filing very quickly. I've always been around animals, from my neighbour taking me to help milk the cows at their farm, to finally doing some actual work experience in an aquarium. It's just where I've been my happiest. Now that I'm a keeper I realise how fortunate I am not only to be doing a job that revolves around animals, but also to be part of the zoo community that helps to educate people, whether that's in terms of animal welfare or the conservation of a species.

What’s your favourite animal and why? If it's a primate it's more than likely my favourite. Why primates? I love their diversity - from our smallest at the zoo, the pygmy marmoset, weighing just over 100g- to the largest, Puluh, our adult male Sumatran orangutan, tipping the scales near 100kg. There is so much variance within their behaviour, intelligence, adaptability, anatomy and physiology that a primate is never just a primate.

What’s the best part of your job? Obviously the animals and not just the ones I get to work with. One of the perks of the job is just walking into work and watching the cheetahs having a morning stretch or seeing the greater one horned rhinos submerged in their pool, doing their best impression of a couple of giant rocks with ears.

What’s the worst part of your job? The death of an animal is always going to be up there as the worse aspect of the job. Animals are very good at hiding how ill they are, and it can sometimes be difficult to know if intervention is necessary or if an animal is just having an off day. A few times an animal that is behaving a bit out of character will suddenly act as if nothing is wrong at the appearance of the vets, which can be tricky! 

What’s been your most memorable moment in your career to date? Something happens almost daily that makes you stop and think, especially working with the primates. The small things to me are the most memorable - the way one of the orangutans will move something stuck in a slide that was preventing you from closing it or a chimp coming over and encouraging you to play - it's that empathy and understanding they have that always amazes me. 

What’s so special about Chester Zoo? Life at the zoo is never static. Things are always changing, progressing, being challenged, I really enjoy that ethos. 

Have you visited any of our conservation projects abroad ? If so which ones and what did you do? In 2013 I was part of a second team that went back to Sabah, Borneo to carrying on with building 'bridges' for the orangutans to cross patches of fragmented forest. This project was in conjunction with HUTAN, an NGO, who work alongside the Sabah Wildlife Department. HUTAN carry out numerous studies on the local wildlife, as well as undertaking reforestation projects and work alongside the local community to deal with human-wildlife conflicts.