Whipsnade keeper goes walkabout to New Zealand
Tuesday 3 October 2006
Whipsnade sea lions keeper Alex Pinnell enjoyed a grounding in zoo life Down Under when she took part in a recent exchange visit to New Zealand.
The 24-year-old Hemel Hempstead-born keeper spent six months at Auckland Zoo in NZ’s north island, while antipodean Melanie Friedman came to Whipsnade to work on a number of animal sections for the same period.
Alex, who has worked at Whipsnade for four years including a year with the chimpanzees, said she learned lots about keeping primates she had never worked with before.
These included siamangs (black-furred gibbons), spider monkeys (so-named due to their long spindly limbs) and a New World monkey the cotton top tamarind.
Alex also worked with the sea lions – even swimming among them – and handled the daily shows, mirroring her regular job at Whipsnade.
“I picked up some great techniques to enrich these animals, which I can pass on to Whipsnade for the benefit of our sealions here,” she said.
But despite seeing some “fantastic scenery and amazing plantation” Alex, who lives in Watford, admitted to missing Whipsnade.
“I was glad to see its wide open spaces and see my sea lions again,” she said.
During her time at Whipsnade, Mel was able to work with a variety of species including elephants, American and European bison, grey wolves, different marmoset and lemur species, brown bears as well as a wide variety of other animals including domestic farm animals.
She said: “For me what I got out of the exchange was the experience to work with species that Australasia will never have in the region, observe the different ways zoological institutions operate, make some great contacts in an international zoo and some amazing friends.”
A spokesman for Auckland Zoo added: “Keeper exchange programmes are an extremely valuable tool for zookeepers, particularly those in geographically isolated countries such as New Zealand, who also have a reasonably small captive population and limited variety of exotic species.”
Whipsnade is currently hosting a visitor from Denmark’s Aalborg Zoo. Trainee keeper Anne Nilsson, 27, is spending three months with the team on the Africa section.