A Day in the Life of Keeper: Gary
Published: Aug 24, 2018Our first installment of the 'A day in the life of' series focuses on our bird department and its senior keeper Gary Ward....
In the first instalment of our ‘A day in the life of’ series, we focus on the bird department and its senior keeper Gary Ward. Get to know his daily duties on section, plus the extra responsibilities that come with being a senior keeper.
Arriving at the Zoo at 8:00am sharp, I begin the day in the food prep room chopping fruit and veggies for the morning feed. Each species has different dietary requirements, so we separate diet prep into bowls for different aviaries. As senior keeper it is my duty to develop the diets for each bird – closely monitoring and updating their diet accordingly.
Once food prep is done it’s off to distribute the food to our multiple aviaries. Whilst feeding the birds we check to make sure they’re all OK and identify whether any breeding activity is apparent. If so we will continue to monitor the birds and keep an eye out for any sign of nesting.
The final task before first break is to make sure that everything on section is ready for opening, which includes hosing down pathways and general tidying in the exhibits.
Back to it! First the not-so-exclusive job of cleaning the dirty dishes from the morning’s diet prep - but it’s got to be done. We then continue with the morning feed, beginning with the waterfowl on the lake, topping up their hoppers so that they can feed from them throughout the day.
Newquay Zoo offers several animal encounters, one being a penguin encounter which keepers oversee. So each morning we check with the front office to see if any encounters are booked and coincide this with the penguins’ morning feed. Aside from guests who have booked in for penguin encounters, I like to try and engage with the public as much as I can – passing on knowledge about particular birds or answering any general queries.
This is our time to do different jobs around the section, including cleaning of enclosures, sheds and any more dirty dishes. Also weeding the exhibits or planting new plants, moving birds around the Zoo, changing perching and making sure birds have got nesting material. Afternoon jobs are highly varied and can change daily - these are just a few of our most regular.
On to the final rounds of the day! We go back through and check on all birds again – making sure they are all OK, and that there aren’t any illnesses, injuries or fallings-out. We also top up their food and give the birds insects before heading up to the keepers’ office. Here we record the daily activity in our diaries, keeping a close record of things like birds moving or any breeding activity.
As senior keeper, I also check stock to make sure there is sufficient for the following day. Fresh produce like fruit and veg will be ordered daily and dried food will be ordered as and when needed. That’s that – 5:30pm and home time!
Besides daily duties as senior keeper, I regularly attend BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) meetings and discussions. This is a great opportunity to network with other collections and potentially collaborate to source new birds for a breeding pair or to introduce a new species to our collection. Similarly, we may have a particular species of bird at Newquay Zoo that other collections need.
An example of this came earlier this year, when we introduced our rarest species to the collection; the Javan green magpie. The female came from Chester Zoo and the male from Prague Zoo – I have already noticed some breeding activity from this pair, so hopefully we will see some chicks soon.
Further responsibilities include keeping up-to-date with the latest husbandry developments i.e. feeding, cleaning, enrichment and enclosure development. This includes building some of the different aviaries we have around the Zoo. Finally, it’s my job to help train new keepers and voluntary workers (training placements) to create the next generation of keepers.
So, there we go! That’s a day in the life of a bird keeper. Make sure you catch up with my video log each week to watch my day in action.