A Day in the Life of Keeper: Dave
Published: Sep 14, 2018As the spotlight shines upon the primate department throughout September we take a look into a day in the life of a primate keeper and their cheeky little companions.
The primate department cares for 18 species including a range of primates and small mammals. Due to the size of the department a day is usually split between two keepers, so here goes!
8:00am - 11:00am
Arriving at the Zoo bright and breezy it’s straight to the food room to begin the department’s mass breakfast prep (and I don’t mean the staff). During the morning feed each species on the department will have their own diet formed - some will begin the day with pellets i.e. the Sulawesi crested black macaques, and others will have a selection of chopped vegetables i.e. the pied tamarins and pygmy marmosets. We feed our primates vegetables as fruit grown for humans is too sweet for animals and can lead to weight problems.
Once food prep is completed it’s out into the Zoo to check on all animals; feeding them, changing their water and also cleaning exhibits. Cleaning includes raking and tidying up outside areas and the washing of walls, windows, shelves in indoor areas, plus picking through the floor for any poo or old food. It doesn’t sound too glamorous but it’s a great time to spend with the animals and make sure that they’re all ok, displaying normal behaviours and bright and alert.
Once all primates are fed, watered and cleaned, it’s back to the food room to continue more food prep for mid-morning feeds, wash dishes and take any rubbish from enclosures to the skip. And with that I think a cup of tea and biscuit is in order.
11:00am - 12:30pm
After first break we continue food prep for lunchtime feeds – both veggies and a protein feed. Protein feeds vary from meal worms to crickets to boiled eggs. Primates will be given a mix of a vegetable, protein and pellet diet throughout the day dependent on their diet plan created by our senior primate keeper.
We also give our marmosets and tamarins gum (no not chewing gum, tree gum). In the wild this makes up a tiny proportion of their diet. It can be difficult to digest if they have too much, so we tend to limit tree gum to particular days throughout the week. This is when the zoo starts to get busy and we assist in public feeds and encounters to engage with the public to ensure they get the most out of their day at the park.
1:30pm - 3:30pm
Once we’ve been fed and watered its back to work.
After lunch time is generally spent providing enrichment for all animals. Enrichment can take many forms including behavioural, environmental, sensory or food based. It is used to encourage and stimulate the animal’s natural instincts/ behaviour and is something that Newquay Zoo provides all animals with daily. A great form of enrichment we have been doing this summer due to the glorious weather is fruit tea ice lollies. Which the ring-tailed lemurs and capuchins were a particular fan of.
Other afternoon activities include catching up on any maintenance work for enclosures. Carrying out weight checks on animals to ensure that they are happy and healthy. Providing training for a lot of the species on department including the macaques, capuchins and Owston’s civets etc. Training can take many forms, macaques for example, are trained to display different parts of their body so that we can assess them on a daily basis. They are trained to come to different places just in case we need to separate them at any time. They have also been trained to open their mouths so they are able to take medication if they ever become poorly. All aspects of this training are extremely important for the conservation efforts of this Critically Endangered species.
3:30pm - 5:30pm
Final rounds of the day, and of course it’s back around the Zoo for the last time to feed, water and check all primates, plus some final sprucing up and cleaning of exhibits, delivering some final enrichment, food and browse. We must make sure our section in the food room is clean, tidy and dishes have been washed up. Finally any freezer food for animals the next day will be taken out i.e. Boki-boky’s will need chicks and insects for the following day. Then it’s to the keeper room to fill out our diaries and check in with any events that have occurred throughout the day.
And that’s that, home to rest and await the next eventful day on section as every day is different, the animals always have a surpise of some sort in sort for us. And that's a day in the life of a primate keeper. Make sure you catch up with our Keeping up with the Keeper series every Monday to find out more from Head Keeper Dave about this cheeky little lot.