Leaves
Leaves

A visitor came up to me after a talk the other day and said, ‘You have really found your niche, haven’t you?’ I am really proud to say that I feel like I have.  I found my voice, my confidence and cemented my love for wildlife whilst working in an Environmental Education Centre in South Africa. From then I knew I had found exactly what I wanted to do and never looked back.

Working with animals and children (and adults) isn’t for everybody, but it really works for me! At Living Coasts we have an action-packed timetable of talks and feeds.  At weekends and over the holidays we have extra scheduled fun activities to keep all our visitors engaged and the education staff on their toes.  What I love about the talk schedule is that it’s all timed so that visitors can follow you around the site. I like to think that we form a little team with the visitors going around the place - we are able to chat and discuss the animals in between talks.  It is amazing to be able to share updates on the animals and go into depth about conservation projects that we are involved with around the world.

Being a presenter I need to know lots of interesting facts and bits of information about all the animals.  However, on Penguin Beach I can sometimes walk myself into a sticky situation when announcing, ‘Did you know that all of the penguins have names’ … I see visitors’ eyes light up back at me, then comes the realisation that this is a direct invitation to be tested on this newly acquired fact I have shared.  Although I do know many of the penguins’ names, having just under one hundred means that being tested can send me into a bit of a panic.  Luckily, the wonderful Penguin Patrollers are there to swoop in and confidently name the ones I don’t know.  We do get quite a few humorous comments on the beach, too; one visitor pointed at a bird and asked what type of penguin it was. I had to politely break it to them that it was in fact a duck.

At the Zoo the animals’ birthdays are a real highlight. I get very stuck in to making special birthday enrichment ‘presents’ for them.  On one particular occasion I made a blue sprat jelly cake for Pat, who is the oldest African penguin in the UK. She was 37, so I felt that she deserved a cake with her name on.  I proceeded to hand pick out the nice looking sprats - much to the amusement of the keepers - and decided to make 3 layers of jelly so that the sprats could be placed in a pattern.  It was all worth it, as she came out of her burrow for the photographers and she made it into the newspapers and onto the radio.

My favourite place at Living Coasts is Waders Estuary. There are beautiful views across the water, it’s a nice calming place to relax in the afternoon.  I have had many in-depth chats about the birds with visitors here with the sun shining down.  In all of my talks I try to encourage people to go and look out for wildlife in the local area, whether it be a seal in the Bay or the guillemot colony at Berry Head near Brixham, the lookout point by the Estuary is a great place to do this.

See you on Penguin Beach soon….

By Sophie Gough Education Presenter at Living Coasts

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