Meet Our Team 11/08/2016

Sam

How long have you worked here? I'll have been at Chester Zoo for three years and working with animals for 17. 

Why did you become a keeper? I've always loved animals. As a child my home always had pets, from dogs and cats to rats and reptiles. My interest in exotic animals led me to volunteer at a specialist sanctuary when I was 14 which I ended up working at for many years as it was so rewarding to provide care for these unwanted animals. It's not always easy to do this as the resources are more limited than in zoos.

Eventually I moved on to working in zoos and I have lived all over the country in order to get as much experience as possible. I've been lucky enough to work with a vast variety of animals, from monkeys to sealions, to rhinos and penguins. Nocturnal mammals are now my main focus. I came to Chester to work on Twilight section with the bats, aardvarks, anteaters, sloths and porcupines etc.

What’s your favourite animal and why? My favourite animal has to be the pangolin. They are referred to as the "scaly anteater" and there are eight species which come from Asia and Africa. We don't have them here at Chester and there are only a handful in zoos across the globe.

They are one of the world's most trafficked mammals and it breaks my heart to think that of all the species facing extinction, these precious creatures might cease to exist on our planet before many of us even know what one is, let alone see one in person (which is a privilege I've not yet had). My favourite expression is "Google it" when it comes to the pangolin because they really do have to been seen to be fully appreciated!

Being a part of the Chester Zoo team is really special because you know you're a part of a major force in conserving biodiversity worldwide. I would really like to visit the giant armadillo conservation programme (based in the pantanal and cerrado regions of brazil) which is supported by Chester Zoo. The team there carry out valuable ecological research on this vulnerable species which will help in the creation of more protected habitat for a range of local species. They have extended their research to other related mammals (from the family xenarthra-which includes sloths) such as the smaller armadillo species and even giant anteaters!

What’s the best part of your job? The best part of my job is the feeling you get that comes with the successes each day. Whether that be the birth of a critically endangered animal like the Visayan warty pigs or something small like training the sloths a new behaviour which will benefit their husbandry. 

I love meeting young people who have been inspired by something they have seen or learnt on their day at the zoo. When they tell me they want to be a zookeeper or work in conservation it makes me feel really proud to do what I do and hopeful for the future of animals in the wild. 

Sam Greenhill - Chester Zoo

What’s the worst part of your job? The worst part of my job is the lack of understanding of what we do here and what good zoos are about. There are many species that would not exist today (such as scimitar horned oryx) were it not for the efforts of zoos to preserve these animals and protect their wild habitat. That's what it's all about.

Zookeepers work hard, we get into this because we care a great deal about the animals and want the best for them. It's not always easy and it can sometimes be really sad but our charges keep us motivated and give us a sense of purpose. 

A lot of keepers see it more as a calling than a job. I for one can't imagine ever doing anything else.