INSIDER: A day in the life of a zoo keeper

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Most children dream about becoming a zoo keeper and working first hand with animals.

With ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, you can find out for yourself what it is like to be a keeper for a day.

For international zoo keeper day, reporter Beth Pearson was given the chance to step into the world of the staff at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

Starting the day at 8.45am by meeting and feeding the greater one-horned rhinos, this was considered a late start by keeper Adam Davinson.

He said: “I work with the animals in the zoo that originate from Asia - the one-horned rhino’s that we have are from regions in Nepal.”

Female rhinoceros and first time mum Behan was keen to have breakfast.

Behan and her one-year-old calf Bali, snack on a mixture of fruit and vegetables.

Adam added: “These rhino’s often graze on branches and leaves through the day and we give them two ‘big’ feeds so we maintain their balanced diet.”

The next morning task for Adam is mucking out the gaur house.

He explains: “Gaur are native to south Asia and look a bit like bison - they are the largest bovine on the planet.”

Surprisingly, there is a technique to mucking out these huge animals, but it took a few attempts to fully get to grips with.

Moving through Asia and into Africa - team leader Mark Holden led a meerkat feeding.

Ringo and Paul are the meerkat’s at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo and their exhibit is filled with holes and pit falls - just how they like it.

Mark explains: “The meerkat enclosure is filled with holes and divots, they like to dig themselves and have sharp claws to pull through the sand.

“We feed our meerkats dry biscuits as well as live crickets and other bugs, this keeps them healthy and active.”

Next on the itinerary was feeding sprat fish to a group of African black-footed penguins.

The park bird keeper, Mairee Vincent, explained the importance of keeping the penguins moving and swimming whilst they were being fed.

She said: “Moving where the fish fall into the enclosure means the penguins have to work harder and move around to get to the fish.

“If we didn’t do this they wouldn’t get as much exercise as they need.

“When the penguins have eaten, they will get out of the water and shake their bodies, this helps them to digest.”

Finally, food was prepared with team leader of invertebrates Alex Cliffe and trainee keeper Thomas Maunders.

Over ripe fruit was prepped and laid out on feeders for the 30 species of butterflies in the zoo’s new butterfly house.

The assortment of fruit included bananas, mango and oranges.

Alex said: “Overly ripe fruit is best for butterflies because it means they can easily get their proboscis into the softer fruit and eat it.

“We prepare fruit every other day for the butterflies and I also feed and maintain the crocodile enclosure.”

After a day of cleaning, feeding and meeting zoo animals, it was clear that following the childhood dream of being a zoo keeper is a hugely demanding and not as glamorous as we once imagined.

For more information about becoming a zookeeper for a day at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo and more about the conservation work the company does around the world, visit: www.zsl.org/zsl-whipsnade-zoo