Meet Our Team 29/11/2016

Ian

What animals you look after? I work with all the zoo’s animals, from the fish, birds and amphibians up to the primates, big cats and elephants.

Any interesting facts about you? I have lived and worked with zoo and wild animals in Africa, America, Singapore and Australia since I graduated from veterinary school in 2008. I love extreme sports: I have sky-dived, bungee-jumped, cage-dived with great white sharks, been gliding over mountains, swam with whale-sharks and taken flying lessons.

Ian - Chester Zoo

Why did you become a vet? I have always loved wild animals since I grew up watching David Attenborough documentaries and drawing animals as a little boy. I have always wanted to make a tangible difference to zoo, wild animal and conservation work and I love the challenge of trying to diagnose and fix problems in a whole variety of species (amphibians are very different to reptiles, birds are very different to mammals, carnivores are very different to herbivores). I enjoy learning about and comparing different animals’ anatomy and physiology and, on top of all that, performing surgery.

What’s your favourite animal and why? Pangolins! These unique and bizarre mammals are covered in scales and eat invertebrates giving them their other name, ‘scaly anteaters’. There are eight species worldwide, in Africa and Asia, and their numbers are being decimated in the wild: they are the most poached and trafficked animals in the world as some Asian cultures believe (wrongly) that their scales (which are made of the same substance as human fingers and rhino horn, keratin) have medicinal properties. They are really unusual animals, rarely seen in captivity, yet they are being persecuted to the brink of extinction and I want to help raise awareness of their plight.  

What’s the best part of your job? I love the variety of work here at Chester Zoo: every day is different and things can change in an instant. You have to stay on your toes! I enjoy the challenge of working out why an animal is sick and doing my best to help it get better. I also love the thrill of working with dangerous animals and performing difficult surgeries and procedures on a variety of species, from tiny frogs to large mammals, and everything in-between.

What’s the worst part of your job? The job can be quite stressful at times due to the responsibility of looking after rare and endangered animals and the difficulty of diagnosing problems when the patient can’t tell you what is wrong! It is never easy putting animals to sleep, especially well-known and much loved characters within the zoo, but these decisions are not made lightly and it is always done in a calm, relaxed and non-stressful way.

What’s been your most memorable moment in your career to date? I was very lucky to spend four months working directly with free-ranging and rehabilitated Western lowland gorillas in Gabon and Congo-Brazzville in 2013. I was living in a tent in the African bush, surrounded by crocodiles, elephants and leopards whilst also being responsible for carrying out medical and anaesthetic procedures on gorillas in the field – a unique and absolutely amazing experience.