Keepers Diary - November 2005
I am Oliver Duprey, a trainee keeper on the Mammals South section, a large and diverse department of the zoo that includes the big cats and bears, the primates and the Casson pavilion that houses bearded pigs, camels and pygmy hippos.
I graduated in zoology last year and following a period as a volunteer I was taken on as a keeper at London Zoo. I hope this diary will offer an insight into the life of a zoo keeper and explain the varied roles that this job entails.
As you can probably guess a big part of a zoo keeper’s job is to clean the animals out and keep them fed and watered. Breakfast is the main priority and then the cleaning, which tends to take much of the morning. It involves changing the bedding, sweeping and scrubbing the floors and walls and raking the paddocks outside. The afternoon is then spent preparing food for the animal’s evening meals and providing enrichment so that they don’t get bored.
Enrichment means that we provide the animals with activities that enhance their lives at the zoo, whether that be making them forage for food as they would in the wild, taking them for daily walks or providing them with toys.
Obviously enrichment varies depending on the age and condition of the animal, there is no point in making an elderly animal race around when it would much rather just sit down and have a nap, like my granddad!
Another important role for the keeper is to maintain the health of the animals in our care and this begins with observing when they are not quite themselves. When animals aren’t well keepers work closely with the ZSL veterinary staff to administer medicines to help them recover.
I normally work with the camels, bearded pigs, pygmy hippos and anoas, which are small buffalo that originate from Indonesia.
We have three camels of the Bactrian variety, two adults called Nadia and Nina and an infant called Noemie. Bactrian camels come from the Gobi desert and have two humps.
There are nine bearded pigs called Pugley, Pru, Polly, Paula, Greta, Michelle, Mustafa, Mutley and Holly, they come from Indonesia similar to the anoas and unsurprisingly sport lovely beards, even the females!
The pygmy hippos of which we have a male, Thug, and female, Nicola, come from West Africa and are much smaller than the common hippo. Thug weighs a mere sixty stone!!
Lastly, but by no means least we have our two anoas, Herbie and Tonia, who have successfully given birth to many calves at London Zoo, but who are now just an elderly couple happily living out their days in relaxation.
It is in the company of these wonderful animals that I work and as a result my job is full of enjoyable and fulfilling experiences which I hope to share through this diary.