At this time of year, we have students asking us questions about working in the zoo industry.
As the mock exams quickly approach, they are being asked to choose subjects and future careers.
It always seems so early; how many of us are lucky enough to know what we wanted to do when we were barely teenagers?
In fact, becoming a zookeeper is often based on a childhood dream.
Anyone with an affinity and passion for animals seems to have a lot of motivation to find their way into any of the animal related professions, and of course nowadays there are more opportunities than ever before.
It’s very different from the “career day” of my school years.
Unfortunately, once I clearly expressed my desire to work with animals, I was bullied by my peers for being “gentle”.
It just wasn’t seen as a “manly” occupation, which is ludicrous for all sorts of reasons, and thankfully a concept for the most part outdated today.
Even twenty years ago, there was a perception that zookeepers were only feeding and cuddling animals, but I only have to point out the new enclosures, built during the lockdown by the team of keepers, to ignore this ridiculous notion.
There are also many animals that we aim to handle as little as possible, to preserve their natural instincts and for our safety.
But twenty years ago, I was labeled a “bunny hug,” and very deliberately moved into jobs considered “boys”: engineer, mechanic, builder or plumber.
All laudable professions (and of course that same attitude caused problems for girls who wanted to enter those industries), but not for me.
Thank goodness I persevered; finding like-minded people on my college course in animal management was like a weight training exercise.
Working at the zoo has not only been my dream come true, but has enabled me to become an advocate for mental health, especially for young people.
The zoo industry itself is extremely welcoming and we love to meet anyone who sees it as a career.
So if you want to hear about the realities of work – the ups, downs, delicacies and dirt (literally), come chat with us.