Zoos aren’t just about animals…
Published: Oct 13, 2017A look at some of the people and roles that keep a place like Living Coasts going.
Zoos are about animals, or more correctly, plants and animals. That’s pretty obvious. But they are also about people. The people who visit, enjoy, learn and discover. And the people who work, volunteer, oversee, guide and create.
Let’s put the living collection – that’s all the animals and plants at Living Coasts – to one side for a minute. And let’s put the people who go along with them – the keepers and the volunteers – there with them. They often get a mention because they have that close relationship with the plants and animals that so many of us appreciate, admire and envy.
Instead, let’s turn to the people behind the scenes, who do the less-glamourous stuff but who make Living Coasts tick. It’s a small team for a small zoo, but there are many roles that don’t get the credit they deserve.
There are the people who look after the water system, for a start. Living Coasts, with its pools and tanks, uses seawater from the Bay on which it stands. Torquay’s coastal zoo is, in one respect, a giant water treatment plant with some penguins on top. The pipes, pumps, filters and control systems fill humming rooms in the depths of the site, far away from visitors. Here, Derek and others maintain the water clarity, battle the elements (rain makes the seawater pools cloudy) and keep a lot of complicated machinery running.
Who else do the plants and animals at Living Coasts need? Stuart's Front of House staff welcome visitors and set them on the right path for a great visit. The grounds team, led by the ever-chipper Wayne, keep the place neat, clean and tidy – a never-ending task when you have excited children and messy birds (the Inca terns do tend to drop bits of fish around the place). Visitors themselves – without them, there would be no living collection, no zookeepers, no Living Coasts.
And there are more. Educators to tell you fascinating facts and provide an insight into the extraordinary world of penguins, otters and seals. Retail people to sell that perfect souvenir and that gorgeous cuddly toy. Catering people to make lunch and poor a lovely cup of tea.
Behind the scenes, there are accounts people, admin people, people who do the paperwork, people who market the zoo and people who keep it all from falling over for want of a spare part here or a safety inspection there.
People, paid or voluntary, passionate and dedicated, make Living Coasts what it is. Every one of you - Clare, Tom, Di, Caroline, the other Caroline - deserves a great big thank you. Thank you!