The zoo keeper for a day experience at Dudley Zoo is the perfect gift for any animal lover, as News reporter Kelly Harris found out.
IT’S not every day you get the chance to tickle tapirs, act as a climbing frame for hungry lemurs and meet inquisitive meerkats but that’s exactly what I did when I went behind-the-scenes at Dudley Zoo.
I jumped at the chance to be a keeper for the day and as I was told to wear old clothing, I had a feeling it would be a pretty hands-on experience.
The day got off to a smelly start as I helped clean the farm but thankfully my mucking out duties ended there as I gave the kune kune pigs their breakfast before moving on to the primates.
Under the watchful eye of head of lower primates, Nicole Wright, I managed to get so close to a Saki monkey that it could gently take a peanut from my hand before she took me to meet the thirsty chimps, armed with a watering can full of squash.
She then took me to meet a pair of meerkats, who immediately took a liking to my wellies and wasted no time having a nibble while I stroked them, albeit with caution, after being warned they can bite.
When keeper Stephanie Sawyer greeted me at Lemur Wood by asking if I minded being jumped on, I bravely said no. She gave me a handful of treats and within seconds, the ring-tailed lemurs launched themselves at me. Luckily, they are gentle creatures and remained perched on my shoulder and hanging off my arms until there were only crumbs left.
I was then led to the orangutan enclosure where I got up close and personal with Benji, Jazz and baby Sprout, who impressed me with her gymnastic skills.
As I was beginning to think the day couldn’t get any better, I was allowed feed the penguins, giraffe and give the tapirs a belly rub before moving on to the big cats.
I was in awe of the snow leopard and tigers although they were slightly intimidating close-up, gulping down the chunks of raw meat I cautiously poked through their cages on a stick.
The day flew by and it was fantastic to see how passionate the keepers were about the animals and the knowledge they possess about each individual animal was fascinating to listen to.
Keeper experiences can be purchased for both adults and children, with prices ranging from £80 to £245.
For more information visit www.dudleyzoo.org.uk or call 01384 215313.