8:10pm Wednesday 9th January 2013
By Chantelle Rees
I AM gazing into the dark brown eyes of a gorgeous creature, who is lovingly following me wherever I go.
But Jake the giraffe only loves me for one reason – the bucket of carrots I am holding in my hand.
His cupboard love tricks me into thinking we are best friends and I am sad to leave him – but then I have other animals to tend to during my role as a park keeper at Cotswold Wildlife Park.
Myself and web editor Stephanie Tye were thrilled to be invited to the park, near Burford, to take part in its Keeper for the Day experience.
Arriving on a chilly morning, we were keen to get stuck in – and so we did – by helping to muck out at the farm area of the park.
A far cry to the desk-bound duties we are used to, we merrily cleaned up the living areas of reindeer (while avoiding being jabbed in the bum by their antlers), a rather placid bull and a trio of friendly rhinos.
After learning a bit about the animals we were helping to care for, this was followed by a quick tea break and the part of the day we were looking forward to most – penguin feeding!
We were quite excitable by the time we got to the penguin corner of the park – where we were given the task of feeding two gorgeous baby penguins.
After a lot of cooing, giving them enough food and preparing their medicine, it was time to head off to the next task.
The lemurs – a bunch of cute Madagascan primates – were eager to get their hands on the vegetable feast we had waiting for them and were eyeing us up expectedly by the time we got to their cage.
While we were walking around the park and meeting all the different sorts of animals, we were lucky enough to work with the park keepers on a one-to-one basis, which was helpful and made sure we got the most out of our day. We learned that most of the animals at the park are fine with the winter temperatures – more so than we were.
For those that need a little more heat, they have overnight temperature controlled accommodation and they can retire under heatlamps at any point during the day.
After saying hello to a bunch of lovely meerkats and other small mammals, a beautiful but fearsome lion, a pack of hungry wolves, a pair of friendly Brazilian tapirs, some cute red pandas and three majestic giraffes, it was time for us to head to the reptile house to meet some scary looking snakes and other strange creatures.
There was a whole host of weird and wonderful animals vying for our attention – including a miniature tortoise which behaved himself for me, but proceeded to urinate all over Steph when she held him. A definite highlight.
Primate keeper Hayley Rothwell said: “Keeper For A Day is a great experience for anyone interested in animals as they get up close and personal to a lot of species they would never normally get the chance to.
“We give people a real insight into our daily work and what it takes to look after such amazing animals.
“People don’t always realise what our job as a zoo keeper involves and it gives us a chance to share our experience. “It is great for us, as keepers, to share our experience, knowledge and passion with others that are interested and are keen to learn.”
All in all, the Keeper for the Day experience was amazing – it gave us a great insight into the working day.
Be a keeper for a day
The Keeper For A Day experience costs £225 and you must be aged 18 or over. It is done on a one-to-one basis and runs from 9am until 4.30pm. Lunch is included and you also receive a goodie bag and certificate of your experience.
For younger wannabe zoo keepers, the park offers animal encounters (suitable for everyone aged six and upwards, although children must be accompanied by a responsible adult), which last approximately 30 minutes and give children the chance to get up close with certain species.
For more information log on to www.cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk or call 01993 823006.
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