How do you develop into a zookeeper at BC Wildlife Park in Kamloops? Along with the requisite love of animals, attending Thompson Rivers College might be simply the ticket.
Alumni Ardice Fleck (BSc ’01), Melany Leontowich (BSc ’10) and Cecily McLean (attended TRU ’18-’19) are three of seven full-time zookeepers on the park. They know every animal they give the impression of being after by identify and take care of them like household. Extra than simply dealing with day-to-day care, they analysis every animal to supply probably the most pure residing surroundings doable and encourage them to maintain their wild methods.
“My favorite a part of being a zookeeper is in fact working with the animals. I additionally take pleasure in researching and observing animal behaviour,” says Fleck, the park’s senior zookeeper.
Zookeepers work intently with the animals, studying as a lot as they’ll about every animal’s private historical past in addition to the species as a complete.
Fleck has labored on the park since she was a college pupil at College Faculty of the Cariboo (now TRU), first as a volunteer after which as a summer time pupil/intern. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in animal biology, she spent a number of years as schooling co-ordinator on the Edmonton Humane Society earlier than returning to the BC Wildlife Park and dealing her method as much as the senior place.
Rising up in Quesnel, Fleck liked the outside and knew she needed to pursue a profession in sciences. But it surely wasn’t till she began volunteering on the park that her path veered towards animal care.
“Initially I assumed I needed to do some type of discipline work,” she says. “I didn’t actually know I needed to be a zookeeper till I began volunteering right here, then had a summer time job and thought, ‘Wow! This might be a very nice profession.’”
Fleck sits on the TRU Animal Care Committee and obtained a certificates in animal ethics in preparation for the function. She has volunteered on the committee for about 4 years, and together with different members of the committee, critiques every analysis proposal involving animals on the college.
Whereas Fleck veered her path to work with wild animals, her co-worker Leontowich — who has been on the park since 2016 — at all times knew it will be her profession route.
Zookeeper agrees she has the good job
“I grew up in Burnaby, and my father was an teacher at BCIT within the Fish, Wildlife and Recreation program, so my life was immediately immersed within the superb pure world,” she says. “We spent our summers fishing, tenting and exploring new areas of BC. So, it’s no marvel that I gravitated towards that type of profession.”
Leontowich spent a summer time as a analysis assistant working with rattlesnakes and spadefoot toads. Extra just lately, she’s been spending lots of time working with Mia, a crimson fox who was handled on the Fawcett Household Wildlife Well being Centre after being discovered injured on the facet of the street final March. Mia is now in one of many park’s habitat areas, the place she is slowly gaining confidence and making associates with Raven, the resident marble fox.
“There aren’t very many individuals who get to do what we do and it’s so rewarding to construct relationships with wild animals,” says Leontowich. “You by no means get bored with listening to, ‘you will have the good job,’ as a result of we actually do.”
Coaching animals to help in personal care
The zookeepers do husbandry coaching with the animals of their care, instructing them behaviours that permit them to take part voluntarily in their very own well being care. When one of many wolves, Sijja, needed to be sedated for an examination just lately, Fleck described how they directed her to the fence the place a sedative was administered with little to no stress.
“We’ve obtained an space within the again the place they arrive as much as the fence and we are able to use a jab pole. We inject them within the hip by means of the fence after which they’re sedated. They arrive over for treats and we follow utilizing the pole with out a syringe on it after which once we really sedate them, there’s a syringe on it and we poke them,” she says. “By doing it that method it was not disturbing for her in any respect.”
The bighorn sheep have additionally had coaching that reduces their stress and makes caregiving somewhat simpler. Not too long ago, McLean’s coaching made rabies vaccinations stress free for the bighorn sheep.
“That they had zero stress. The coaching that I’ve completed with them is unreal,” she says. “In case you’re motivated and have the eagerness and endurance, you’ll be able to prepare something.”
The eagerness McLean has for the animals on the park is clear. As she strikes between the elk, the swan pond and the livestock, giving private care and a focus to every animal alongside the way in which, her extensive grin by no means stops.
“I’m ecstatic to be right here. It’s soul altering,” she says, including that after a decade of working in retail, she adopted her coronary heart and went again to high school. “This can be a lot of labor, however oh man, it makes me completely happy.”
Together with her focus set on working on the wildlife park, McLean started volunteering to get her foot within the door whereas taking improve programs at TRU. When a place opened, she jumped on the likelihood to observe her ardour and put her research on maintain. She has immersed herself in all elements of animal care and coaching on the park and hopes to proceed her schooling when time permits.
When requested what recommendation they’ve for individuals with comparable profession aspirations, every of the zookeepers had the same response: volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. In a aggressive trade, all of them agree that schooling is essential however expertise additionally performs an enormous half.