Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Zookeeper for a day

Oh golly Chia! Sorry for being so slack with the blogposts!

It's not that I haven't read them; I loved the clay gingeries that you made! They looked sooo good that I wanted to eat one! And you look gorgeous in all of your going out photos! Looking at your posts made me realise that it has been a while since I've hit the town dressed to the nines, and enjoyed the night life. I feel a bit like a Nanna wanting to have an early night most weekends these days.

On my side of the City, I've been working and counting down the days till Christmas break! I can't believe that Christmas is just around the corner and this time last year, you were getting ready to jetset to Prague!

Last weekend started like most weekends, ran, did chores but I felt extremely exhausted. So Kev and I had an early Saturday night.

Sunday morning I woke up sleepy-eyed around 6.30am and was surprised that Kev seemed quite rested. He was like 'how about breakfast?' We have a tradition of having a cool Sunday breakfast for the last two years. I suggested the markets, but he responded with 'How about South Perth? Mend St Cafe?' I wasn't going to refuse that! So we got up and and got dressed.  I decided to wear my glasses because I was just so exhausted and really could not be bothered putting in my contacts.  However, Kev suggested 'Hrm, how about your contacts?' I was a little surprised as Kev is not one to suggest me to wear things, but I just lazily acquiesced. He also packed my sport clothes and badminton shoes saying that he will bring it along just in case we take too long at breakfast and miss badminton. I just nodded. It sounded like a good call.

It was only when we were about the leave that I noticed the big yellow and black bag which held the rackets had remained untouched in the corner of his room. I sleepily drew Kev's attention to this with  'Hey...?'  pointing to the corner . He sheepishly responded with 'Oh! Whoops!' As we walked out of the house I mumbled 'Dodge Kev... dodge.'

Once we arrived at South Perth, we decided to eat at La Galette de France for breakfast and we enjoyed the laziness and slow paced life at such an early hour of the morning due to the lack of people traffic.


Hrmmm shortbread!

After finishing breakfast we walked back to the car and I was ready to return back to bed (my favorite pass time on Sunday mornings!)

Happy in the morning!

We passed the Perth Zoo on our way home. Seeing it, made me realise that Kev and I have never gone to the Perth Zoo together, and that he has never been to Singapore Zoo. I then went on to say what an awesome time you and I with the uni crew had in Singapore at the Zoo and Night Safari when we went there back in 2007, and that in the meantime we should try Perth Zoo one day. Kev was like 'Ok' and kept on driving. Though not long after, he pulled up behind the Zoo.

'Ok, it's time for you to get out.'

I was puzzled. 'Uhhhh... why?'

He got out of the car and went to the trunk. I followed him and asked him wearily 'Hey? What's going on?' as I was still exhausted, looking forward to bed and really confused.

'You're going on an adventure. Here's your day bag...' as he looped a small shoulder bag around my shoulders, opening it up to show me a pre-packed water bottle, my waterproof camera, my 'A' cap and sunnies.

It just so happened that a zookeeper walked passed and Kev asked her whether this was the drop off point for 'Zookeeper for a day.' She said yes, and that she would walk us there. I still did not understand what was going on. Kev then said 'Surprise! Happy early birthday!'

The next few minutes from when we walked into the administrative part of the Zoo, to when I had to say goodbye to Kev, was just a blur. I had some idea what was going on, but my feelings were just numb. Kev hugged me goodbye and said he would meet up with me when I was done and we parted.

Zookeeper Anna

I was teamed up with my zookeeper (who I will refer to as F). F told me that we would attend a quick staff meeting and then we would get straight to it. When I entered the meeting room, she informed me that I was going to be zookeeping the African Savannah enclosure and that my day will involve following her around and feeding, cleaning the enclosures and interacting with the animals. I was to be a zookeeper!

The whole experience didn't sink in until we arrived at the Meerkats when they all ran up to the fence excited to see us. The fact that they were even interested in seeing us was a surprise! F happily greeted them while leading me to the store room. Here she showed me what they fed Meerkats.

Good morning Meerkats

Protein and veggies

After we fed them, I was let into the enclosure and I was able to sit in there and hand feed the Meerkats too!

On Sentry duties
They were so adorable! F said that they talk to you all the time, and she was right! Squeak-squeak here, and squeak-squeak there! F explained that they just had a few babies and they were more involved in their Sentry duties because of it. I thought it was so cute that they had someone on watch. They take turns!

Next to the Meerkats were the Hyenas and the Cheetah. However, it was the Hyenas that we saw first and what, to my big surprise, I fell in love with! They are so adorable and interactive with humans. They love scratches and rubs and would lean up against the fence and enjoy your adoration! F was also a big fan of the Hyenas and explained that it's such a pity they were given such a bad reputation.

My first encounter with the Hyena.  I melted in seconds

I returned to pat the Hyena again.

After the Hyenas I went to see the Cheetah. F warned me that she would go in first and then she would let me know when I could enter. She also gave me the heads up that the Cheetah will spit at me. I was confused, a little fearful and curious. As I waited outside I could hear F sweet talking to the Cheetah, encouraging it to come into the feeding area. I could hear an angry hiss in the room. F eventually asked me to come in slowly. When I did, I saw this long, slender, big cat hissing at me and staring at me with its angry big eyes. F told me that we will feed it some milk, however, she will start it off first. We both sat down on the floor, close to the fence, and F held out the syringe of milk.

Angry Cheetah

Docile Cheetah 
 The Cheetah wanted the milk, but didn't like us being there. So it tolerated us so long as I was squeezing the syringe and kept the milk flowing.

After that I went to visit the Rhinos! The Rhinos were so big and quiet and just amazing! I found it quite surprising that, the Rhino being such a large animal, absolutely loved celery! I was mindful of its sheer size and the huge horn that it had on its nose. I didn't want to be hurt by it, so I was a little hesitant at first, but soon got in on patting him.

Me getting acquainted with Mr Rhino

Om nom nom
Rhinos also loved to be rubbed and scratched! We dug our fingers into their thick, coarse, dry folds around their forehead and ears. Their ears were really strong! When they moved, its force was stronger than my forearm!

After that, we visited the Lions. They were pretty intense! When I walked in, I saw two large Lions and a Lioness pacing back and forth and ramming the gates. They wanted to be fed immediately!

It was a little unnerving, especially after the Rhino, Hyena and Meerkats. But it was still so very cool.
As the Lions were eating, F and I went into the Lion enclosure to clean up left over bones and lion poo.  Little did I know that someone else was in the Lion enclosure and watching us engage in our zookeeping jobs...

After that I went to see the Sun Bears and saw their training regime. The training was one of the most interesting things I've seen. The zookeeper would call a command and use hand signals to get it to either present its shoulder, hip, leg etc and then blow a whistle if the bear was compliant and then give it an immediate reward. I thought it was amazing that they were able to do such a thing!

After seeing the Sun Bears, we went back to the Lions who had returned to the viewing enclosure. Here I was able to hand feed them some chicken. It was a little nerve wrecking because they thrashed the fence and they just stared at you and only you, but once you gave them the chicken you were no longer their main concern.

Here kitty kitty

F trying to get a big piece of chicken through the fence

After the Lions, it was the funny, friendly, goofy Giraffes! I loved them! Their long necks and super long tongues made me giggle, as I tried to feed all of them. They were like those drinking birds! There were two of them who were bigger with longer necks and who got the food more so than the other ones...so I tried to dodge their faces (and slobber) to feed the smaller ones.

They liked to lick the camera

Me going to get more food, to realise I had 4 very interested giraffes behind me waiting.

After I ran out of treats for the Giraffes at around 12.30pm, my zookeeping experience came to a sad end.  F was amazing in answering all my questions and making sure I was able to experience as much as possible with the time allotted. I appreciated that I was the only person on this experience in the Savannah area, which allowed F the flexibility to take me to all the enclosures without bumping into any other people doing the same experience with other keepers. I think it's also a safety thing. You don't exactly want too many people in the feeding areas with the animals as I assume it would stress them out (just like that Cheetah).

Kev met up with me and we had lunch and a cold drinks to cool off. It was a super hot day and I was already pooped! At lunch, we exchanged stories of our morning. Kev's morning included the following:

Turtle party! - Cowabunga dudes!

Turtle on the go

Hungry turtle

Uber cute lone owl

Chia! The whole experience was amazing! I realised that I will probably not enjoy the zoo as much in the future, as when you normally go to the zoo, the animals don't really engage with you, and I will forever remember and compare my future zoo experiences with my time interacting with the animals on this occasion.

Thank you so much Kev for giving me the opportunity to have this experience! =)

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