Keepers Diary - May
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.
The summer’s here and the sunshine and warmer weather signals nice times for the keepers, but it also signals different tactics in looking after the animals.
Unlike the winter months, there is no longer the need for extra bedding to keep the animals warm, instead cooling down and provision of water are the main objectives.
One species I look after are the bearded pigs, which are from Sulawesi in Indonesia and are the only migratory species of pig in the world. We look after a family group headed by the father Pugley and containing two young males and five females.
The group are usually quite friendly to one another; however there are the odd little disputes and these can become more frequent as the temperature increases. But they do love a good shower and this is a great way of relieving the tension and breaking up any aggression.
To begin with they avoid the water, but then liken to it and soon enough they’re all trying to get a good soaking. The shower also starts up a scratching frenzy and the pigs will use anything in sight to scratch on, posts, the shelter and even each other when tolerated.
The camels don’t like to be showered like the pigs however they do like their ice lollies. These consist of pieces of fruit submerged in fruit tea buckets which are then frozen with a rope in so that they can be tied up.
They provide the camels with hours of enrichment as they lick away the ice to get to the fruit pieces. This is also a great way to cool them down.
One side effect is that the camels look like they are wearing terribly bright red lipstick, which is very amusing!