Wellington Zoo full of animal magnetism

No two days alike at Wellington Zoo

AMY JACKMAN
Last updated 13:51 19/12/2012
dingo
MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ

ANIMAL MAGIC: Wellington Zoo Keeper Dave French says the zoo's animals are advocates for their wild counterparts.

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There is no such thing as a typical day at Wellington Zoo, keeper Dave French says.

Mr French, who has been a keeper for 10 years, looks after the zoo's carnivores including lions, tigers, dingos, meerkats, red pandas and otters.

"Every species has its own quirks and requirements," he says. "Like all animals, they will take a shine to some people and not like others."

Working with animals means no two days are the same.

"There really is no standard day. There's a list of jobs we have to get through and a routine we try to stick to, but because they're animals, they throw up lots of different challenges.

"We have living creatures here, so it's not like a computer that you turn off at the end of the day. There are occasions when we have had to stay overnight for whatever reason - a big surgery, a birth."

Mr French says the animals themselves often stop the keepers doing their jobs.

"You are working with animals so nothing goes to plan. One example was the other day when it was sunny and nothing I did would persuade the lionesses to come inside so I could clean their enclosure," he said.

"They were enjoying soaking up the heat from the rocks too much.

"I love my job, but jumping into an enclosure with three lions is a no-go area for me."

Mr French says the favourite part of his job is interacting with the public.

"The reason we keep animals in the zoo is so they can be advocates for their wild counterparts," he says.

"The closer we can get people to them, the more of a connection you can help them make and hopefully they go away inspired by it.

"I often think about what happened to me when I was a kid that has really stuck with me. So every day I try to give other people those kinds of memories."

 

DID YOU KNOW?

A giraffe needs between only 20 minutes and two hours of sleep a day.

Tuatara have a third eye. It is on top of the brain and they cannot see out of it.

Tigers have striped skin, not just striped fur.

A meerkat's dark fur around its eyes protects them from the sun.

Black and white ruffed lemurs often hang upside down to eat.

An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.

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- The Dominion Post

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