Keepers Diary - January
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.
London Zoo is open to the public every day of the year except Christmas Day, but for us keepers and the animals that live here it’s business as usual 365 days of the year.
For the animals we care for it is just another ordinary day and as such the usual service is expected and must be provided!
Working on Christmas Day is special at London Zoo and to make sure that the animals get a little taste of all the extra treats that are doing the rounds, the keepers introduce a few festive frills to the everyday routine.
Extra enrichment feeds are given to help keep the animals happy on the day, such as ‘presents’ wrapped up with all the animal’s favourite tasty treats hidden inside. These sorts of enrichments are especially enjoyed by certain investigative animal species, such as the bearded pigs that I work with; they love anything new that is introduced to them and will tug and rip the presents apart with zest.
The extra enrichment treats aren’t welcomed by all though. The hippos, for example, will look at you with such confusion upon receiving the wrapped food items. The best present a hippo could receive is simple food and then peace and quiet – and that’s what they got as soon as the keepers had cleaned them out, so it was a happy Christmas all round.
Other news from my section this month includes the return of Sparky and Xena, two lowland Anoas that began their lives on Mammals South as son and daughter of Tonia and Herbie.
Until their move this month, they had been living over on the Mammals North department. The couple were originally moved away from their parents when they became too old to live as one unit without fights breaking out.
The problems arose when Sparky became a rival to his father Herbie. The rivalry between males is fierce and could easily end up with either of the males becoming seriously injured or even killed.
On their move back to Mammals South the problem has been solved by located them next door to their parents, in the hippo’s summer enclosure, but by providing a visual barrier so that the two males, father and son, cannot see each other.
More news next month...