As part of our series of Keeper Chats for our blog, we caught up with Trainee Keeper, Vicky, to find out a little bit more about life for the humans of Project Elephant.
The Smart One:
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your career so far?
I started my career at Blackpool Zoo as a Research Intern, studying the behaviour of orangutans. After this, I started a Research and Educational seasonal job where I did public talks and lessons for school children. I also studied for a Masters in Animal Behaviour where I observed the behaviour of the girls at Project Elephant when they moved across from Twycross Zoo; this started my close bond with Project Elephant. I then began working with the elephants as an Elephant Trainee Keeper.
Have you always known you wanted to be a zoo keeper?
I always knew I wanted to work with animals, especially exotic animals. Since a young age, my background has been research and academic focused, but I now love having hands on experience and when the opportunity came up to work with elephants I couldn’t miss out.
What advice would you give to an aspiring zoo keeper?
I would definitely say to volunteer as much as you can. Speak to your local college about what animal courses they offer and do as much research on these as possible.
What’s your favourite thing about Project Elephant Base Camp?
My favourite thing about Project Elephant is working within a facility that allows a flexible herd dynamic, similar to what they would experience in the wild. It is great to see the bonds between each elephant and how every social dynamic is different. I also love providing enrichment, so they’re constantly using their brains to problem solve, just like they would in their natural habitat.
We know the day of a keeper at Base Camp is very busy and varied – but what is your favourite part of the day?
My favourite part of the day is setting up the exhibit for the day, so the elephants can enter and interact with the environment. I love to see their reaction to novel items, such as a pile of bark or sawdust. There is often lots of trumpeting, interaction and playing from all the elephants – which is great to see.
Obviously, you know our elephants better than most, what’s your favourite characteristic of one of our herd?
My favourite characteristic is Esha’s cheeky attitude. She is intelligent just like her mum Noorjahan, and as the youngest, she normally gets up to mischief! The rest of the herd let her get away with whatever she wants! It can make her quite challenging, but when she is chasing seagulls around the grass paddock, it always makes me laugh!
When you’re not looking after our herd, what else do you like to do with your time?
In my spare time I like to be in the outdoors. I love camping and travelling as much as I can and will often go on long dog walks. I like to spend lots of time with family and friends.