Meet Our Team 11/08/2016

Niall

How long have you worked here? 45 years.

What animals do you work with? Chimpanzees. (And sometimes other primates).

Tell us an interesting facts about you:

  • I love DIY, gardening and have just started wood turning. 
  • Most of the chimps I’ve named are named after either song titles or artists for example Eric ( Clapton) Dylan ( Bob) You need a name which is easy to shout.
  • I have pictures of all the chimps we’ve got and all the ones I’ve looked after in our mess room. 
Niall

Why did you become a keeper? When I was growing up in Lancashire I often visited Chester Zoo with my Dad who was a member. I’ve got fond memories of visiting the zoo with him and once when we were having lunch in the Oakfield George Mottershead came in and sat with us, he asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I told him I wanted to become a zookeeper and Chester was the place I wanted to work. I wrote to George when I was 15 asking for a job, I was told I was too young so I wrote again when I was sixteen and I kept writing until I finally got a job at 17. I moved from Lancashire to Chester and I’ve never left.

What’s your favourite animal? When I was younger I always liked big cats, bears and reptiles. I looked after the big cats and bears and then in 1972 when I started working with the chimps that I realised these were my favourite animal. Chimps are intelligent animals; I would say they are more intelligent than some humans, so I find they give you something back when you look after them.

What's the best part of the job? Spending time with the chimps and helping build up one of the most successful group of chimpanzees.

What's the worst part of the job? It has to be when you lose an animal. 

What’s been your most memorable moment in your career to date? When we were breeding the chimps we were had the most successful breeding programme in Europe and I played an important part in that success. We are also one of the only zoos in the world to successfully introduce a male chimp into a multi-male group. 

Have you visited any of our conservation projects abroad? If so which ones and what did you do? I’ve been lucky enough to meet Dame Jane Morris Goodall a few times when she has visited the zoo and I would of loved to visit Gombe Stream National Park, where she studied the chimpanzees but I’m sadly too old to be trekking around forests.