An extremely lucky person…
Published: Oct 21, 2015I am an extremely lucky person. I never had to make a decision about what to do as a job.
I am an extremely lucky person. I never had to make a decision about what to do as a job. When I was just a little younger than my daughter is now, in primary school, I remember my teacher asking the class what jobs they were going to when they were older. Mine obviously was zoo keeper. Many years later I met my teacher and she told me that I was the only pupil of hers who ever, to her knowledge, actually got to do the job they said all those years before. That’s a fact I am extremely proud of.
After studying for a Diploma in Animal Science I applied to Chester Zoo for my work experience. Amazingly, I was accepted and spent two months on the giraffe section. This not only looked extremely good on my C.V., but also cemented me on my path as a keeper. After 11 years, several zoos and a huge variety of incredible animals, circumstances forced a change of path and I left the zoo world. Now, 12 years on, I have been given an amazing opportunity to carry on working in an environment that has been a part of my life for over 23 years. Being a keeper at Living Coasts is an exciting and challenging opportunity. Of all the animals I have worked with, seals and their relatives have really captivated me. I have been lucky enough to work with six species represented by more than 60 individuals. They are an intelligent, mischievous and engaging group of animals. Of all the diverse species kept in zoos, they are one of the most hands-on. The training we do with our fur seals is an important part of our daily routines and a vital tool in the management of our animals. We are able to get truly hands-on and give them the most detailed examination, with their cooperation, up to three times a day. I don’t know of many other zoo animals we are able to do this with. I have also worked with one of our native pinnipeds, the grey seal. For five years I was in North Wales at the Welsh Mountain Zoo, which housed the North Wales Seal Rescue Centre. During this time we took in over 40 grey seals which were treated, rehabilitated and released back into the wild. It’s one of the most rewarding things I have ever done - especially when we got reports of two of our releases having been seen off the coast of Norway! It’s true there have been some harrowing and disgusting experiences: a sea lion coughed phlegm into my mouth during a talk and I had to carry on as if nothing had happened; a wallaby who tried to kick my nipple off. But I am still dedicated to my chosen profession. I’m confident that, back in primary school, I made the right choice. Stuart Parr Zoo Keeper at Living Coasts