Meet Our Team 11/08/2016
How long have you worked here? 6 years.
What animals do you work with? Currently elephants (3 ½ years) previously giraffes (2 ½ years + 3 years and another zoo).
Tell us an interesting facts about you: I have a degree in psychology which makes my colleagues very paranoid as they think I'm always secretly evaluating their behaviour.
Why did you become a keeper? I honestly didn't have a clue what I wanted to do once I'd finished my degree at Chester University. Towards the end of my final year all I had really decided was that I wanted to stay living in Chester so started to look for jobs locally. A friend recommended that I check Chester Zoo's website as they hire a lot of seasonal staff and it was there that I saw the advert for the 12 month internship programme. I'd done a little bit on animal behaviour as part of my psychology degree and it had sparked an interest, so I applied not really thinking I'd hear anything more about it.
It then came as a huge surprise to me when I was invited for an interview and an even bigger shock when I was offered the internship and before I knew it I was starting on the giraffe section. After about a week I knew that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my working life. And I haven't looked back since.
What’s your favourite animal and why? I've spent the majority of my career working with elephants and giraffes. But as it's too hard to pick between them, I'll go for pygmy goats. After my internship I got a job at Banham Zoo in Norfolk. As with all trainee keepers there I started out working on the children's farm. A lot of people didn't like working on that section but I loved it, especially the pygmy goats. They are great fun to work with, full of life and always up to something they shouldn't be. Elephants and giraffes are pretty cool but I'll always have a soft spot for pygmy goats.
What’s the best part of your job? I really enjoy managing habitats to create enriching environments. I find it extremely rewarding forming sand mounds, creating bark piles and digging out mud wallows and then watching the elephants interact with what I've built. A big part of our job is to come up with new and innovative ways of keeping the elephants busy whilst at the same time encouraging natural behaviour, and it's a task I relish. All the more so as it usually involves me spending time messing about on the section tractor and excavator.
What’s the worst part of your job? I've never been able to cope very well with the heat. Unfortunately the elephant house is a pretty warm building both in summer and winter. For this reason I continually wear shorts all year round which just about gets me through the winter months. I still struggle through the summer though and if the temperature outside gets over 25 degrees I'm pretty much useless. Luckily those days seem to be few and far between.
What's been your most memorable moment in your career to date? I've been lucky enough to be present for both a giraffe and elephant calf being born. Both were unforgettable experiences and it was a privilege being able to witness such natural events take place.
What's so special about Chester Zoo? The thing I like about Chester Zoo is the feeling that you are working for one of the best zoological collections not just in the U.K. or Europe but the world. We are leading the way with the things we are doing here both in captive animal management and conservation. And that feels pretty good.
Have you visited any of our conservation projects abroad ? If so which ones and what did you do? Not yet, hopefully at some point in the future though.