Keepers Diary - July
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.
We said farewell to three of our primates this week, as two of our red bellied lemurs and Max the head male of our Francois languor troop all relocated to Belfast Zoo.
Getting primates ready for a move is an art form and requires patience and flexibility, plus a lot of knowledge about the individual animals. Because primates are so intelligent, often there must be no changes to the daily routine on the morning of the move, otherwise the animals get suspicious and then become almost impossible to catch.
As well as changing as little as possible from the norm, we box train our animals a few weeks prior to the move. This involves gradually getting the animal used to the transport box firstly being in the animal’s enclosure and then eventually getting the animal used to being inside the box.
Red bellied lemurs, as with all lemurs, originate from the gigantic African island of Madagascar and, as the name suggests, are an orangey-red colour with very fluffy fur!
The catch up of these lemurs was very simple indeed and this is because they are almost nocturnal and so are often in their nest box in the day anyway. All that was required was to put a board over the nest box hole.
Catching Max was slightly more difficult, but again it went smoothly in the end. It required the box being put up against the den door so that when Max went to leave the den, he walked into it and then a waiting keeper slid the door shut.
Max has successfully fathered three babies at London Zoo and has now moved on to share his genes with another female based at Belfast.
His relocation will help genetic diversity in the captive population and thus help the survival of this threatened species, Max has done a lot of good for the preservation of his species and by moving to Belfast will help even more.
We were all sad to see them go, but also happy to hear that they had arrived safely and were getting settled and used to their new homes.