Zookeeper for a Day (2019).

Animals, Keeper for a day, Work experience/volunteering

Mum and I arrived promptly at Blackpool Zoo at 9am, following a smooth 45-minute drive, in preparation to be a Zookeeper for a Day.

Much to my delight, we were the first on the car park (aside from the keepers!) and we excitedly cooed over baby rabbits hopping around the vacant area. 

I had previously carried out a Zookeeper experience in November, 2017. I had the most incredible time and enjoyed expanding on my knowledge surrounding a collection of animal species. So when Christmas 2018 arrived, I kindly asked Santa for the same opportunity.

Beginning the day at 9:30, we were greeted in the reception area with 2 keepers. Willeminj and Amy. Willeminj had been working as a zookeeper for years, and previously worked in Antwerp Zoo (Belgium) and the other was a trainee keeper, named Amy.

My first task of the day involved working with the Camels, who had been relocated to the ex-elephant enclosure shortly after the building of Project Elephant. We headed eagerly into the enclosure, armed with a large purple wheelbarrow and a series of tools, in preparation of spot-cleaning out the enclosure. This simply involves the removal of faeces, as opposed to the full removal of substrate. 

MAMMALS

A warm-blooded vertebrate distinguished by the possession of fur, and Females that secrete milk as nourishment for the young.

I then fed the Camels, who soon appeared to the front of the outdoor paddock after hearing the shaking of the carrot filled bucket. They were highly inquisitive animals. We had to be wary of the possibility of being spat on, especially since Camels spit stomach acid, rather than just saliva.

Following my experience with the Camels, we headed over to the Giraffe and Tapir enclosures (Yay!) ready to feed them their morning snack and to issue them with lots of cuddles!

We firstly stopped at Giraffe Heights – Home to the four stunning Giraffes at the Zoo. With a wonderfully built suspended viewing area, allowing visitors to closely see the animals in both their indoor and outdoor spaces.

The Giraffes at Blackpool Zoo are all Female. They are very unique individuals, since they are hybrid (they have been interbred between species) meaning they aren’t allowed to reproduce. All the same, they were curious, friendly and (obviously) my favourite African mammal – So cute! Additionally, they evidently have a black tongue (as pictured above), as this helps to protect them from sunburn.

The Giraffes were given carrots. However, their diet also consists of browse (naturally, they feed on acacia leaves), hey and pellets. Alongside other vegetables, such as cabbage.

We then wandered to the Tapir enclosure, home to two beautiful Brazilian tapirs: G’kar and Pocahontas. This being, the third time I’ve worked with both individuals! Interestingly, Pocohontas has managed to retain spots from birth, which usually fade with age. And she is significantly more wary in comparison to G’kar, who has the personality of a playful labrador.

We fed both G’kar and Pocahontas a collection of carrots, gave them lots of cuddles and tummy rubs before proceeding to our next location.

The Aardvarks were next. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with these fascinating mammals. They were clearly highly inquisitive and curious, aswell as being playful and mischievous. 

Upon entering the enclosure, the individuals were playful and clearly aware that it was meal time. One excitedly ran out of the enclosure and was soon caught by Amy – whilst the other climbed all over me (much to my delight) as they sought mealworms and sniffed me with their extended, adorable snouts. 

They were fed mealworms. I issued this with both hand feeding and scatter feeding methods, to encourage natural foraging behaviours, alongside increasing both physical and mental stimulation, and wellbeing.

The Anteaters were next. Again, both the male and female were fed mealworms. I cupped then through my hands to allow the animals to use their long, sticky tongue to reach for them. This encourages natural behaviours, and prevents boredom.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go into the anteaters enclosure. The reason being, because of the sharp claws, not necessarily due to aggression. The claws are extremely sharp and could easily tare through human skin.

REPTILES

Reptiles are distinguished by having dry scaly skin and because they lay soft-shelled eggs on the land.

After taking a quick break, we were ready to meet our next keeper (Angela), by the Tortoise house. Angela guided us into the enclosure, in preparation of feeding the Zoo’s oldest resident, Darwin, aged a respectable 101! Darwin’s breed have a life expectancy of 200 years. And he’s been living at the Zoo since it’s opening in the 1900’s. 

We fed Darwin a handful of carrots. He was on a higher diet in comparison to the other individuals due to illness, and it was vital to ensure his health didn’t rapidly deteriorate. He confidently crunched them and then went on to having lovely neck rubs.

MARINE MAMMALS

We then walked to the Otter enclosure, which housed both a Male and Female. Otters are carnivorous and have cat-like teeth, therefore, their diet consists of mainly meat.

Both individuals were fed separately to ensure they had full access to their food. And they had to wait quietly and patiently before the food was thrown in. I chose to feed fish, which the otters soon excitedly delved in to.

BIRDS

A warm-blooded, egg laying vertebrate, distinguished by the possession of feathers, wings and a beak.

After our experience with the Tortoises, we headed over to the penguin kitchen. Angela briefed us on the penguins names and gave detailed information into how she can confidently distinguish them. Flipper tags are fitted onto the wings of the individuals, but can easily fall off or start to fade away due to the chlorine filled water.

Some of the penguins were located from other countries, so have coloured flipper tags. The penguins from Germany have red, and those from Italy have black.

We then walked to penguin beach to feed the penguins and to listen carefully to the given talk. Fish (some loaded with essential vitamins and minerals) were carefully thrown in as we had to simultaneously watch for sneaky seagulls in the process. Angela proceeded to carry out a “kan-kan like manoeuvre to kindly gesture the seagulls out of the way. 

We then fed the Pelicans, wandering from penguin island, past the red pandas, to the pelican enclosure. We threw in fish as the animals elegantly caught them with their widely expanded mouths, some helped to feed the babies as they hadn’t quite mastered the art of fencing for themselves sufficiently yet.

ELEPHANTS

Of course, Elephants are mammals and one of the largest, but the Elephant section is separate from mammals in Blackpool Zoo as they are classified as a priority 1 animal.

For the Elephant section of the experience, I had the pleasure of working alongside Zookeeper, Lauren, for the second time. Lauren worked with my cousin and I during our first Zookeeper experience in 2017, and she works primarily with the Elephants and big cats.

We headed to Project Elephant – An incredible project development at Blackpool Zoo, which provides the 5 resident elephants with a new state of the art enclosure, consisting of a large indoor and outdoor area. Project Elephant better suits the animals needs, and helps to encourage natural behaviours whilst working to prevent stress and discomfort.

Kate (The oldest in the herd), has temporarily been separated from the other elephants. This is due to her and Tara initially struggling to get along. So, the individuals have been kept within close proximity of each other to (hopefully) encourage them to become friends. Kate is due to return back with the others shortly.

Lauren kindly showed us around the enclosure, which included viewing behind the scenes and gaining a glimpse into the hefty moving crate, which was used to relocate the 4 newest herd members.

The indoor enclosure has a vast collection of fixtures and fittings – including: Suspended hay nets, which randomly drop at different times throughout the day, feeding boxes, 6-feet of sand, tree trunks for scratching (which can easily be moved around with the assistance of a small vehicle).

After touring base camp, we headed back outside ready to feed the Elephants. Blackpool Zoo offer their elephants a variety of food and important supplements to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. To which also includes daily heath checks, weigh-ins and behavioural observations.

Health checks are important in all animal species. Especially in Elephants, as every individual carries a strain of the EEHV virus, which can be fatal if left undetected/untreated for increased periods. The keepers are currently monitoring one of the youngest elephants daily, and to allow them to habituate to treatment methods if they should ever be required.

Further information on the lethal EEHV virus can be sought here:

PRIMATES

Flexible hands and feet with opposable first digits good eyesight and a highly developed brain.

My final animal encounter of the day involved working closely with some of the Zoo’s resident primates – Ring-tailed lemurs and spider monkeys.

We met keeper, Joe, by the lemur enclosure before venturing in armed with a bucket filled with a variety of different fruits and veggies.

Soon, we were armed with lemurs and feeling highly content as we observed them munching elegantly on grapes, apples and more.

We then headed to the spider monkeys, again, armed with a large box of fruits and vegetables. Including: cabbage, peppers, cucumber and apple. The monkeys were housed with capybaras and ducks, who were also simultaneously fed too!

With that being the end of yet another incredible, and highly memorable Zookeeper experience.

I would like to take the time to wholeheartedly thank the keepers and animals at Blackpool Zoo for making the day so special, and for inspiring me greatly with such amazing animal care and conservation efforts.

Volunteering – Idlewild Animal Sanctuary

Animals, Work experience/volunteering

Where:

Idlewild Animal Sanctuary, Conwy Valley. North Wales.

When?

September 2017 – Present.

I began volunteering at Idlewild Animal Sanctuary in September, 2017. I opted to partake in voluntary work alongside my university studies. I sent a message querying about volunteering, and was soon invited in for an induction.

Roles:

The sanctuary remains close to my heart as it follows a vegan lifestyle, similar to my own. My roles at the sanctuary include basic animal care and husbandry (Cleaning out, feeding, grooming), whilst working with a collection of wonderful animal species. Including: Small and large mammals (Goats, Sheep, Donkeys and Rabbits) And birds. I’ve made friends grown in confidence and expanded on both my knowledge and experience within the animal care industry. 

I also enjoy spending quality time with the animals and encouraging them to remain both mentally and physically stimulated through different forms of enrichment. Alongside ensuring they are content and healthy. 

Volunteering – Little Owl Farm

Animals, Work experience/volunteering

Where:

Little Owl Farm, Oldham. Lancashire.

https://m.facebook.com/LittleOwlFarm/#_%23_

When?

February 2017 – Present.

I began volunteering at Little Owl Farm in February, 2017. After an email and 3 bus rides lead me to finding myself at the farm for the first time.

Roles:

My roles at the farm include basic animal care and husbandry (Cleaning out, feeding, grooming), whilst working with a collection of wonderful animal species. Including: Small and large mammals (Goats, Sheep, Donkeys and Rabbits) And birds. I’ve made friends, grown in confidence and expanded on both my knowledge and experience within the animal care industry.

I also enjoy spending quality time with the animals and encouraging them to remain both mentally and physically stimulated through different forms of enrichment. Alongside ensuring they are content and healthy.

Additionally, I enjoy expanding on my knowledge and experience with animal and nature photography. Snapping my farmyard friends brings me joy, and I love picturing animals in that given moment and sharing my images with others.

Chester Zoo 31/05/2019

Animals

I’ve been a regular, proud visitor of Chester Zoo from an early age. I became introduced to the Zoo during fulfilling and memorable family visits as I grew and developed and learned more about a variety of different animal species. I distinctively recall standing in awe, gazing at the towering Giraffes and becoming mesmerised by the Flamingos unmistakable pinkness.

My friend and I headed to the Zoo yesterday. The weather was in our favour, as it remained dry and temperate throughout. Though, I wouldn’t have minded either way. I’ve visited the Zoo in snowy conditions and warmer ones, and all experiences have been a joy!

https://www.chesterzoo.org

I wanted to give an insight into my favourite species. I particularly have a soft spot for Ungulates, which I guess heightens my admiration of Goats…

I particularly favour Chester Zoo. The animals’ enclosures resemble natural environments as closely as possible, and aim to encourage both mental and physical stimulation through enrichment and the exhibiting of natural behaviours. This is important, especially in captivity as it helps to reduce stereotypical and abnormal behaviours, such as: Pacing, head banging, pica (the consumption of non-food items) and bar biting.

Giraffes (Giraffa Camelopardalis)

Place of origin: Africa.

I had the pleasure of seeing the Zoo’s newest, and most beautiful, Giraffe calf’s who stood elegantly at approximately 6 feet tall. Twins: Mburo and Karamoja, and newest arrival Mojo. They were lightly coloured and curious animals, covered in patches that are totally unique like fingerprints. They successfully widened the smile on my face, with being my favourite African mammal. Giraffes are currently near extinction, and the Zoo aims to conserve and protect species for future generations.

Okapis (Okapia Johnstoni)

Place of origin: Southern and Central America, Asia.

The Okapis continue to fascinate me greatly, with a horse like appearance and zebra-like stripes situated on the legs and the behind. Fascinatingly, they’re known as the closest living relative of the Giraffe and they share similar features. Ie: they’re both ungulates and herbivores. This Okapi in particular was enjoying a watermelon slab, before sharing it with the small Deer inhabiting the same enclosure.

Elephants (Loxodonta)

Place of origin: Africa.

The Elephants at Chester Zoo are a related herd, named the hi-way family. Heartbreakingly, two members of the herd have tragically passed away (October, 2018) due to the spread of the lethal EEHV virus, which is known to attack membranes, resulting in bleeding and a fever. Almost all Elephants carry the virus, yet, it only turns into an illness for some. I believe another member, one of the youngest, has also recently been treated for the disease and it currently making a speedy, successful recovery. The herd were being bathed during our visit, as they contentedly soaked up the water and widely opened their mouths, almost like a smile.

Find out more about EEHV here:

Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)

Place of origin: Africa.

Tapir (Tapirus terrestris)

Place of origin: Southern and Central America, Asia and Africa.

During my previous visit to the Zoo, the Tapirs were running around energetically outside. This being when the weather was dramatically colder. This time around, the group were relaxing indoors before one slowly proceeded to wake up. There are 5 species of Tapir, which inhabit forested regions in America and Asia. The youngest individual was easily identifiable amongst the others, due to white markings on the body. The markings are typically present from birth, but fade significantly during development.

 

More of my favourite images:

Veganism and recovery – cruelty free healing

Animals

In April 2016, I made the incredible decision of transitioning to Veganism. Something other than an Instagram fad, but a lifestyle always rising in popularity, involving love, peace and contentment. And, of course, joy for all beings.

Standing out from my family, I had never been a keen meat eater. I would never opt for meat during meal times and would always feel more comfortable choosing alternative options. I believe that consciously, I always knew it was wrong for me to consume animals who simply wanted to fulfil the entirety of their lives. Thankfully, my family have always remained supportive of my choices and have never forced any kind of lifestyle upon me.

As I also struggle with Anorexia Nervosa, Veganism may be viewed as another way of restricting certain food groups or making excuses for not eating things containing animal products. Though this may be the case for other sufferers, it isn’t for me. Not every choice make is Anorexia driven. And I wish to flourish into the happy Vegan I’m destined to be, for myself and my beautiful animal companions, with the message that Veganism can be helpful for those suffering from all kinds of Eating Disorders. But as Veganism grows, so does the demand for products suitable for myself and others.

Choosing Veganism has enabled me to feel as though I have a purpose. My purpose that remained unawakened for a lengthy duration of my life. Being a voice for the voiceless and caring for animals in the same way they care for me and turn the darkest days into brighter ones. I made the decision to switch on my own, which gave me independence and a sense of free will. Veganism for me hasn’t just been about transforming my dietary choices, but about strengthening my love of animals and kindness overall and about making a positive impact in our world.

Widening my eyes and increasing my knowledge into the harsh realities of the dairy industry (Prior to becoming Vegan, I was Veggie so I was already aware of the meat industry…) had implications in my decision. Witnessing animals being forced into a torturous and heartbreakingly cruel industry, where they are constantly used and abused like machines and torn away from their traumatised mothers was something I simply couldn’t contribute to anymore. Educating myself, and realising I don’t need animal products in order to survive, changed my life and my outlook into just how unfairly animals are treated in our world.

Additionally, as I am on a pathway to a career within the animal care industry I felt it was only natural of me to become Vegan. Because caring for animals is my life and something I am highly dedicated to. If anything, it’s given me even more of a reason to fight. Animals aren’t able to speak up for themselves in an understandable way, which is why people like myself do it on their behalf.

My Anorexia has deprived me of countless things. Memories and friends have been lost, but my admiration for animals has always remained strong as a reminder of why I must fight. Being a life-long animal lover, I felt Veganism heightened the compassion I’ve always held in my heart for animals of all kinds. Transitioning to a cruelty-free lifestyle has enabled me to not only choose compassion, but to also feel increasingly compassionate (and happier!) too as I do all I can to minimise animals’ suffering with my food and lifestyle choices. Knowing my lifestyle reduces cruelty and suffering fills me with copious amounts of joy and fulfilment.

With the compassion I hold in my heart for animals, viewing them as my lifelong friends, I’ve been aiming to find the same level for myself as I work hard in my recovery pathway. Veganism isn’t a magical cure for mental illnesses and it’s vital to acknowledge that, though, it can give people a brighter outlook on life. Recently, my lovely teacher reminded me that I must care for myself in the same way I care for animals. Meaning, I mustn’t rush to give myself a hard time when I am faced with mental and physical battles day in and day out.

The life lessons we learn from animals are phenomenal and irreplaceable. From them, we can gain an increased understanding regarding love, happiness, care and compassion – all of which we struggle to apply to ourselves at times. Especially whilst going through a dark patch.

Spending my time volunteering with animals continuously insights me into the loving beings we’re blessed to have with us. And for me, Veganism will only continue to aid me in my recovery pathway from Anorexia and other mental illnesses.

Animal Therapy – The therapy extending beyond four walls

Animals, Mental Health

Today I want to talk about a kind of therapy that is more than sitting in a room with a trained therapist. Animal therapy. As with each day that comes I am learning more about the benefits and uses of animals in people’s daily lives and individual roads to recovery from various issues, meaning I am very keen to give others an insight into why animals are becoming increasingly popular in healing.

What is animal assisted therapy?

Definition: Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a type of therapy that involves animals as a form of treatment. The goal of AAT is to improve a patient’s social, emotional, or cognitive functioning

Therapy animals are often seen as Dogs, which is wonderful since they assist so many people in need of a loving, helpful, forever companion. However, we are blessed to have with us so many wonderful and unique animal species who also deserve recognition for the roles they play in our lives as companions, helpers and life-long friends.

With animals in therapy, there isn’t that added pressure of worrying over causing upset to the other person with certain things have been expressed. In therapy I always find myself struggling to string a sentence together, let alone trying to get it out of my mouth. I have never liked the idea of communication in case speaking about my bad times makes the person listening feel equally as bad. But with animals it flows naturally and it feels way more comfortable due to the lack of awkwardness and the increase in calmness.

Animals bring out the best in us without special training. Just simply by being themselves.

A key factor highlighting the positive attributes as having animals as therapy is that you are under no obligation to communicate with them if you choose not to, but you are still aware that the animals are there to listen and to be the friend you need to pick you up when you’ve fallen. Even without speaking, which can be tough for many people, animals can easily pick up on high levels of stress and anxiety, which Humans struggle to detect without the physical signs and symptoms – such as crying. Animals are excellent at detecting mental signs of distress, not just physical ones. They will quickly do all in their power to alleviate that by nudging you for attention or sitting with you to prevent you from dwelling on your thoughts and feelings alone.

Talking therapies have always proven tough for me since I struggle to verbally talk about my thoughts and feelings due to judgement and fear. But with animals, there is none of that, there is no worry or fear of judgement or abandonment. Whenever I am surrounded with the Goats, my problems are no longer swimming around my mind or bothering me as much for me to feel the need to express them anyway. I don’t have the time for my thoughts to linger when I have a responsibility to care for, and play with, the Goats. 

‘Animals make all the bad things go away’.

I am one of many people worldwide who personally experiences animal therapy. I’m not talking about an assistance Dog. Many people experience animal therapy from friends with fur to friends with scales, or even spines. There is no limit in which animals can be used for animal therapy. But today, I’m talking about Goats. Goats for me have acted as a form of therapy, alongside being the best friends imaginable. Excellent listeners who give the best hugs and provide the best happy distraction, aswell as endless love and affection.

With animals I don’t have to sit and figure out how I will express myself, it just naturally happen whenever I am in their presence.

It’s time we moved on from using Goats for meat and dairy and instead focused on their values, providing them with the happiness, love and freedom they deserve. Goats are the honorable, trustworthy and kind hearted companions we all need in our lives.

My wonderful friend Lainey Morse the founder of Goat Yoga and my fellow crazy goat lady is one of many people using animal therapy as a means of adding happiness into other’s lives. Lainey has experienced the healing properties her Goats possess, meaning it has proven to be very beneficial in her recovery from mental illnesses. Goats entered Lainey’s life and have aided her, not only mentally, but also in her heart and soul too as she continues to inspire many (myself included) with her continued bravery and strength each day. Additionally, Lainey’s yoga classes have grown to be a worldwide phenomenon which were created with the idea of Goat Therapy and compassion. Though it doesn’t cure people’s issues, it aims to give people a happy/calming distraction from their every day issues, worries and stress. And, unsurprisingly, people LOVE IT! Because it’s impossible not to be filled with joy and contentment when surrounded with such cheerful and jolly Goats!

To gain an insight into Goat Yoga in a greater depth, please visit: http://www.goatyoga.net.

There are lots of amazing properties about Goats that many people have yet to recognise. Goats have gentle souls, they are highly intelligent animals, cheeky and inquisitive, sharing many known characteristics and personality traits with Dogs, a “man’s best friend”. Meaning they are very easy to bond with and are always down for cuddles and affection, an instant mood booster and anxiety reliever.

I feel that with Goats, I am never alone. Being welcomed with their presence is always a huge heart warmer and when being around them it’s as if my problems have magically vanished, appearing vacant and less heavy in my head. As soon as I see a Goat, that is it! I am quickly drawn to them and fail to take my eyes off their playful behaviours. Goats bring out the best in me and enable me to temporarily forget about the other issues in my life, a key property in the art of therapy. Providing me with senses of worth and importance, common factors that are easily forgotten during times of mental distress. My darkest thoughts quickly begin to focus on the wonderful animals I am surrounded with, seeing them getting on with their daily lives without a care or fuss in The World proves to me that a life without worry is possible.

Our animal friends teach us many life lessons that I highly value and treasure close to my heart. I am confident that with the continued help of my animal friends, anything is possible, and I will continue on my journey towards happiness and self-love to aid me in my career pathway of saving animals in the future, just like my inspiration Lainey Morse.

In the photos below, you will view animal therapy occurring with the presence of Goats. Judging from my expression in each individual image, I am feeling very happy and content with the help of my four-legged friends. 

Would you look at these images and see somebody suffering with complex mental health illnesses? Goats don’t only mask my feelings on the outside, but also on the inside too.

 

 

Blackpool Zoo – Zoo keeper for a day (2017).

Animals, Keeper for a day, Work experience/volunteering

On the 19th November, 2017, I was lucky enough to have the wonderful experience of being a Zookeeper for the day at Blackpool Zoo alongside my beautiful cousin, Savannah. I would firstly like to point out that the experience was the most enjoyable, informative and well organised experience I have endured. And one I’d, wholeheartedly, recommend to everybody! Additionally, I would like to take the opportunity to thank Blackpool Zoo and their incredible Zookeepers for making the day one I’ll never forget. And, of course, the animals for making my day unforgettable and a day I’ll forever treasure close to my heart.

I received this opportunity as a Christmas present in 2016 and had eagerly waited all year for the day to arrive. I had wanted to do this for a very long time, but the waiting lists had always been lengthy, so you can imagine how excited I would’ve been. I was counting down the months, the weeks, the days and then I was soon to be counting down the hours and then the minutes.

The day approached. I had my alarm set for 6am – hours before we were expected to arrive to the Zoo – and I quickly got dressed into my zoo gear. Work boots, waterproof pants, a water proof coat and lots of warm thermals to wear underneath. I could barely sit still. We drove the 45 minute journey to the Zoo (Me, my mum, my auntie and my cousin) and sat excitedly waiting for the time to come around.

We then headed into the Zoo’s reception area where we were greeted by a lovely receptionist who handed us high visibility jackets to wear, stating ‘Zookeeper for a day’ on the back. Admittedly, I felt very special whilst wearing the jacket and I couldn’t wait to get started with, what was set to be, the best day of my life. We sat in the reception area for a short duration of time, awaiting our next step on our big day!

Lauren the Zookeeper turned up and politely introduced herself and we were taken along to the old Elephant enclosure. Blackpool Zoo have recently developed a new project, named ‘Project Elephant’ which is the new enclosure for Kate and her new Elephant friends. So before heading over to that, we were taken to her previous enclosure to be given some (very interesting) information about the Zoo’s history, which included the history of the Elephant enclosure. And Kate! It’s safe to say, Kate has been through one heck of a journey and she certainly is a credit to Lauren and the rest of the Zookeepers. It’s very heartwarming to hear how Zoos have improved in today’s modern day society, where we have a better understanding and knowledge of Zoos and the requirements of different animal species. This became evidently clear to us when we were taken around Kate’s new house! (Project Elephant)

The new house was INCREDIBLE! And it appeared to be much better suited to cater for Kate and her needs. I was lucky enough to have a VIP tour of it. It’s much larger and more natural looking. There are a range of fixtures and fittings suited to Elephant life. Including tree trunks that can get moved around the enclosure, to represent an Elephant’s natural environment and to act as enrichment. There is now a swimming pool in the outdoor area for Kate to enter, as and when wanted, and there were hay nets suspended into the air that were put onto a timer. Ready to be suspended down to the Elephants during random times throughout the day and night. Again, this highlights the improvements in enrichment and knowledge from Zoo staff.

Project Elephant ‘Base Camp’ is now open to the public at Blackpool Zoo, with an incredible enclosure and 3 gorgeous Elephants to visit.

It’s a vital requirement of Zoos to provide enrichment for the animals, in order to prevent them from boredom and stress. It’s also part of  The Five Freedoms. (Animal Welfare Act, 2006). Also, enrichment serves a purpose of keeping the animals physically and mentally stimulated. A requirement in which Blackpool Zoo carry out exceedingly well.

  1. Freedom from discomfort
  2. Freedom from fear and distress
  3. Freedom from hunger and thirst
  4. Freedom to exhibit natural behaviours
  5. Freedom from pain, injury and disease

We then had the chance to feed a variety of different, gorgeous, animals. Some of which included: The Giraffes, Penguins, Anteaters, Pelicans, Lemurs and Tortoises. We also had the chance to meet the Tapirs (Who I immediately fell in love with) and the Aardvarks.

After we had our VIP tour of Kate’s new enclosure, we were then greeted by another Zookeeper who took us to carry out some more of our daily tasks. We headed to the Tortoise enclosure and were, happily, faced with Giant Tortoises. Including Darwin – The Zoo’s oldest resident. We were given a selection of Vegetables to feed to Tortoises, it was very fun watching them chomp away. Though, we had to be very careful to mind we didn’t get stood on. The Tortoises were friendly, but giant. Friendly giants. Plus, we didn’t want any broken feet…

Feeding the Penguins involved filling their fish with essential vitamins and mineral tablets. We had to hold open the Fish’s fin and then place the two tablets inside. We then headed out to the Penguin pool and went on to feed the Fish, which the Penguins were clearly very excited for as they gathered around the front of the pool. We then listened to the Penguin talk which was informative and presented very well. A task I found, near, impossible was being unable to stroke one of the Penguins (due to the zoo choosing to NOT having him having any human contact). The zookeeper explained how this particular Penguin was the only one to have not been touched by Humans, even the keepers, as they wanted him to be a more ‘natural’ Penguin. Which is fantastic (not very easily done though, he was adorable!) 

I’m very eager to talk about the highlight of my day (though, it was all fantastic) I absolutely adored meeting the Tapirs. I’ve always had an interest in them, but I can happily say that my love for them has increased. Spending time with the Tapirs was incredible and it has, in fact, inspired me to work with them in my future animal care career. There are two Tapirs at Blackpool Zoo, one was more friendly and the other was quite timid and wary. I got to spend lots of time tickling and cuddling the Tapir (we even had some kisses) and he was slowly closing his eyes as we continued to tickle him in his favourite spot. This experience allowed me to engage with Tapirs for the first time, and also enabled me to see what magnificent mammals they are.

Another highlight of my day…(Okay, they’re all highlights) was feeding the Giraffes. Giraffes are my favourite animal, including Goats of course, so having the opportunity to get so close to them (for the second time) was definitely an experience to remember. Not many people can say they’ve been face to face with the World’s tallest Mammal! We fed the Giraffes with Acacia leaves, which are similar to their natural diet, and they highly enjoyed them. I loved seeing their large tongues sticking out ready to grab the leaves. I also loved how friendly and gentle they were, considering their size. Giraffes have charming personalities and never fail to amaze me with how majestic they are.

Now, lets talk about the Lemurs. My goodness, what a life-changing opportunity! I wanted to take my Lemur friend home, he wouldn’t leave my shoulder and I felt very accepted within the ‘Lemur community’ I had just headed into. We headed into the Lemur enclosure after being welcomed by the Zookeeper and were given some information about them. Stepping into the enclosure was an experience in itself, I suddenly felt a little weight on my shoulder and was faced to see a gorgeous Lemur waiting for his grapes right beside my head. It was epic! We were handed grapes and the Lemurs were quick, and eager, to approach us for their snack. It was adorable seeing them taking hold of the grapes and taking bites out of them *insert Lemur chewing noise here*

The Lemurs concluded the day, and what a day it was! We then headed back to the Reception area to hand in our jackets and to receive a goody bag, containing a range of small gifts and our very own completion certificate.

This was an experience I’ll never forget, certainly something I aim to take part in again. It has provided me with a real glimpse into Zoo life and what is typically involved in a Zookeepers’ day – essential as I strive for a career within the animal care industry.

Lots of love,

Laur xx

My Tickle a Tapir experience – Blackpool Zoo

Animals

On the 25th March 2018 I had the opportunity to meet the two gorgeous Brazilian Tapirs at Blackpool Zoo (for the second time) when carrying out the `Tickle a Tapir’ experience. I chose to book myself onto the experience following on from my Zookeeper day, where I developed a keen interest in Tapirs and fell in love with their unique personalities. It was certainly a highlight of my day which I wanted to experience again. The experience was incredible and lasted approximately an hour – in this time I fed the two Tapirs (named Pocahontas and G’kar) and learned more about them in the process. Including the fact that they have a very hearty appetite and their long snouts were proving to be very beneficial in their overall survival process, aiding in feeding and breathing.

Brazilian Tapirs are just one species of Tapir. They are intelligent, Herbivorous (feeding on plants, vegetables and fruits) Mammals from South America. With a life expectancy of around 30 years old. Unfortunately, their conservation status is vulnerable – meaning their species are at risk of becoming endangered due to habitat loss, and since they are hunted for their meat and skin, which is used to make leather, it saw a massive decline in their overall species number.

Blackpool Zoo are just one of many Zoos in The UK who carry out vital conservation work, which is important in playing a crucial role in protecting our fantastic animal species from facing extinction. Without Zoos, we would’ve lost many animals due to dangers and threats in their natural environments.

I was greeted in the reception area where I eagerly waited with my Mum and her partner Chris, by a Zookeeper and one of the men from the work experience department, from which we headed down to the Tapir enclosure together. I was given a talk about the Tapirs and then into the enclosure we headed, ready to be greeted by two very hungry and curious Tapirs.

Pocahontas is two years old and Jafar is seventeen years old. I could differentiate the two when I realised that Jafar still had markings on his legs from his younger days. Typically, Tapirs will lose their markings at around the age of two, but Jafar didn’t lose some of his. The pair had recently had some dental work done and I was warned (beforehand) by the Zookeeper that they may be quite wary of me; considering they had been sedated a few weeks ago I found them to be very friendly and trustworthy. Yet, understandably, curious.

The experience is certainly something I would recommend to others, and would carry out again myself. I found the experience both fun and informative. The keepers were very knowledgeable and quick to answer any questions, or queries, I had. My experiences at Blackpool Zoo have always been positive and memorable, I am a very proud member and a definite visitor for life.

Lots of love,

Laur xx