Lions, Penguins and Giraffes, oh my!
When I was a kid I wanted to be a Vet or a Zookeeper working specifically with big Cats. Fast forward 20 or so years and due being terrible at biology, the closest I’ve come is volunteering at the RSPCA, owning a wee tabby beastie cat and hanging out with office monkeys, sorry, I mean colleagues.
Until now. For the record, being a Zookeeper for the day at London Zoo was one the coolest things I’ve ever done. Ever.
The day is started by meeting your zookeeper for the day, who gives you a touch of breakfast and a debrief of the day before heading out to do a few chores, namely mucking out & saw-dusting the Zebra & Okapi pens.
monkeys workmates howled with laughter when they heard this, offering me all sorts of mucking out work for their friends, but laughter of our group and the reward of hand feeding Giraffes at the end of it more than compensated for any hardwork.
We wandered over to the aquarium to feed live locusts to some of the large fish and chat to the keepers…
before making dinner feed buckets for the Bearded Pigs. As you do. We then threw whole hazelnuts to them, much to their unmitigated delight.
I’ve never seen animals get so excited about small knobbly bits being chucked to them!
A leisurely stop before our lunch at Penguin beach was my utter highlight of the day. Or so I thought it would be…
Readers, meet Ricky, the Rockhopper Penguin. Cantankerous, mouthy and generally pretty awesome (so awesome he has his own facebook page).
We hung out with a pair super friendly Humbolt penguins, and did some token scrubbing of the rocks around Penguin beach – well eventually.
Admittedly I almost had to be pulled away from cooing at the Penguins and scheming how to fit one into my handbag.
All of our work now done, Lunchtime followed, then we were given wedges of steamed potatoes to feed to the Colobus Monkeys (check out the pure white baby in this Momma’s arms)…
…and live mealworms and crickets for the Meerkats. *shudder*
We chatted with the keepers about how to make friends with Coatis (hint: take treats), which was utterly divine…
Then fed squares of sweet potato and carrot to Ringtailed Lemurs. I fell head over heels for them. Inquitisive, sweet, soft and the sweetest little sticky hand perfect for climbing trees.
With the sun setting and afternoon tea in our bellies, we left our new friends behind, trudging out of the zoo happy but knackered.
Everyone has asked me how you get involved doing this; I did the Zookeeper for a day at London Zoo (having found a Groupon for a half price experience) – In my mind it’s the best donation to a working animal preservation society I’ve ever made. There are several around the UK with varying prices, and even half days especially for kids.
Do it. I ummed and ahhed for days about booking it in, and enjoyed every single crazy moment and already want to go back.