Keepers Diary - June
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.
Aside from the obvious highlight of spending time with animals, my favourite part of the zoo keeper job is developing enclosure facilities for the animals.
Doing this gives a great deal of satisfaction as well as enhancing the animals lives and this month, spurned on by the very hot temperatures, I decided that I was going to build Thug, our male pygmy hippo, an outside pool.
Thug and Nicola, our pygmy hippos, have a large paddock which has a nice deep pool for them to swim in and in the day they share this area, however at night they are separated.
Thug usually prefers to have two of the dens and the smaller paddock, leaving Nicky to have the other two dens and the large paddock with the pool. So, I thought I would build Thug a small pool in his overnight paddock.
This involved digging a massive hole and dropping a pool base in. Then I had to ask the help of Jim our handyman who melted the sides of the pool so that I could bend them down. This reduces the risk of Thug cutting his feet on the sharp edges when getting in and also makes the pool look more natural as it sits flush with ground level.
Thug was dubious about his new pool to begin with, tentatively dabbling his hoof in the water. But it took only one day and I was delighted the next morning to see him happily lying in the pool, looking as if he had always had a private hot tub!
These sort of tasks are satisfying firstly at a design and creative level, but secondly, and more importantly, in seeing an animal enjoying all your hard work! It’s what makes the job so special.