A day in the life of a: LVI Keeper
Published: Oct 26, 2018As the spooky month of October falls, we take a look into the day in a life of an LVI Keeper and the different species that they look after..
It’s October, and in the lead up to Halloween we thought we’d take a look at the department with the scariest species - LVI. LVI stands for Lower Vertebrate and Invertebrate, and includes reptiles (lizards and geckos), amphibians (such as frogs and toads), invertebrates (like spiders and mantis), plus some small mammals - our two loveable Hoffman sloths. So, now we know the different species that the LVI department takes care of, let’s see what a day holds for the keepers.
Arriving at the zoo bright and early (08:00am yawn!) it’s straight to the food room to start prepping food for Tropical House residents. First to be fed, and this is down to their lazy habits, is our pair of two toed Hoffman sloth – Roxy and Hadar. This pair tends to wake between 08:00am to 08:30am, so it’s crucial that we get their food up to them before they get restless and end up going back to bed (these guys sleep for 20 hours plus a day…). We usually stand for around 30 minutes feeding this pair, giving them a mixture of sweet potato, green beans, parsnips, lettuce, cucumber, peppers, carrot, butternut squash, apple and chicory. Once Roxy and Hadar have been fed, we must sweep the top Tropical House floor and pick up any food that has dropped to the bottom of the main exhibit - they do make quite a mess!
We have many free flying birds in the Tropical House – they need feeding, too. Bird food is placed around the exhibit, water bowls are changed and the main Tropical House exhibit i.e. the plants and free roaming animals are watered and sprayed. As we replicate their natural tropical environment, we need to make sure inhabitants are well hydrated in the humid heat – they are sprayed twice daily.
It’s then straight back behind the scenes to our frog room, which holds various species of insects, frogs, baby snakes, and lizards to spray and feed them. In these off show areas we tend to do a lot of breeding, later on some are transferred to our display tanks in the main Tropical House for guests to see. Others are exchanged with other collections to maintain good genetic diversity.
Back to it and we return to the Tropical House to spray, feed, clean and health check our main display tanks; this includes poison dart frogs, lemur frogs, vine snakes, goliath bird-eating spider and many more – all of which you can pop in and visit.
Our new and improved amphibian unit is another behind the scenes area where more exciting breeding activity happens - these are the animals that you will eventually see in Toad Hall. We head on over to the amphibian unit mid-morning to feed and clean the tanks, but also to check the quality of the waters and to decide whether they need topping up or cleaning – we keep a close eye on these to ensure that conditions for the amphibians are tip top.
This is also the time when we’ll be taking guests on the ‘keeper for a day’ experience. Firstly, visiting our tortoises and carrying out health checks, then off show in the Tropical House to share a few tips and secrets for successfully breeding some of our rare amphibians. Finally, before they meet one of our other marvellous keepers, we give them the opportunity to hand feed some of the free flying birds in the Tropical House top-flight (which is an amazing opportunity).
Find out more about this incredible experience here:https://www.newquayzoo.org.uk/support-us/animal-experiences/zoo-keeper-for-a-day
Time after lunch is usually spent catching up on bits and bobs which vary day to day. They might include cultivating as many of our own plants as we can, picking bramble plants across site to keep our stick insects content – we have several species of these including Ponderosa, Macleay and Thorny. We also use this time to build tanks, complete records and feed and water the tortoises.
Final rounds and it’s time to check in on everyone again, making sure they’re fed and have been sprayed. As well as checking on the animals we also mop and clean each area to make sure it is spick and span for the following day.
From this time of year onwards we tend to tuck the tortoises into their homes before we go as temperatures tend to cool down significantly. Final duties include prepping more food for Roxy and Hadar as, surprise, surprise, they have been asleep all day – but they do get up at around 02:00am for some late night snacking. We also feed our black tree monitor – and you may be surprised to know that a few times a week they tuck into scrambled eggs. This is to replicate their wild diet of raw eggs taken from nests – however, scrambling the egg makes it easier to include their supplements. They will also feast on grubs and insects.
And with that it’s time to head off home for a rest and see what tomorrow brings.