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Meet the Reptile Keepers at WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo

17 Sep 2014 15:49:37

Meet the Reptile Keepers at WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo

Q: I have heard people say that the reptile keepers are the rock stars of the zoo world. How do you think this label suits you?

Matt: I wouldn't go as far as saying that we are rock stars, we are just fortunate to work with some of the best animals that Australia has to offer. You could say that people probably think that we have rocks in our head rather than being rock stars.

Dean: We can be eccentric at times that's for sure. Are we the rock stars of the zoo world? I'll let others decide on that, mind you, I won't complain if that's the general consensus.

Q: We can all imagine that the best part out of your day is feeding the big crocodile Rex. Is it?

Matt: It definitely is a highlight of my day being able to feed Rex

Dean: It's definitely one of the highlights of my job that's for sure. But so is feeding and handling the world's most venomous snake. The great thing about being a reptile keeper is that there are many cool things, and cool animals to work with.

Q: What is your typical day at work like?

Matt: Cleaning enclosures; as well as feeding animals, and maybe a little bit more cleaning.

Dean: It varies, but feeding and cleaning are an absolute guarantee. In the morning I basically do a headcount on all the animals, followed by exhibit cleans before the public arrives at 9am. Then it's pretty much morning tea and then time to clean the off-show enclosures. In the afternoon, I might do some staff training if it's required. No two days are exactly the same. Sometimes things are crazy busy, other times it's a bit more low-key.

Q: What is something that would surprise people about your job?

Matt: Working with a wide range of animals that all have their own personalities which we need to get to know.

Dean: I think there is a certain "glorification" associated with zoo keeping. Most people believe that we just cuddle animals all day and get to go on TV. The job itself is usually very physically demanding and there are aspects of it that aren't glamorous at all.

Q: What is your favourite thing about working at WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo?

Matt: I have to say that the best thing about working at WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo is being able to work with such a great team, and also to be working for a company that cares so much about animal welfare, and who are passionate about conservation.

Dean: We have a really cool collection of animals and it's relatively close to home for me; which is always great. But definitely working with reptiles right in the middle of Darling Harbour is awesome. I've always loved the city.

Dean reptile keeper

Q: Have you ever been bitten by one of your reptiles?

Matt: Yes, unfortunately I have been bitten by a few things. Thankfully nothing venomous and nothing that has been too serious!

Dean: I have. It's just part of the game I think, when you handle enough of them, sooner or later something will grab you. Fortunately, I've never been bitten by anything venomous or dangerous. A few python bites here and there, but that's about it really.

Q: Do you have your own animals at home?

Matt: I have two turtles, two chickens, one cockatiel, and one Siamese fighting fish.

Dean: Yes, I have diamond and water pythons at the moment but that's about it. Over the years I have downsized my collection a lot. The novelty of keeping a large collection wore off pretty quickly once life started to get very expensive in Sydney.

Q: If you could share a fascinating fact what would it be?

Matt: At the end of the Devonian period, about 270 million years ago, the first amphibians evolved from a group of fish and became the first vertebrates to colonise the world's land surface.

Dean: The world's most venomous snake, the inland taipan, is not considered to be dangerous because it has never actually killed anybody.