Looking for an original activity in Sydney? Why not have a look behind the scene at the Taronga zoo. They organize a tour called Keeper For A Day and I decided to discover the reality behind the children screaming at animals… A great experience!
INFO & PLANNING TIPS - Taronga Zoo & Keeper for a day
The animals of the Taronga zoo have surely some of the best views zoo animals can have. The zoo is indeed located just across the bay from the city center. It can be reached via ferry, bus or cars. It is not the only wildlife park in Sydney, and you can decide which one to visit with my battle post.
But this time I did not want to just walk around and observe the animals. I booked to become a Keeper For a Day and discover what happens behind the scene. It was a deep dive in the world of being a keeper (not just the glamorous part of training animals… ) with very passionate people always ready to answer all my stupid and less stupid questions
SEALS @ TARONGA ZOO
The tour start at 8:30 before the zoo opens for the public. I met my keeper guide at the main entrance and it turned out I was the only one that day. Lucky for me! (however the group size is maximum 6 persons so it is always a very personalized tour). There is no pre-determined program; it depends on what is happening on that day in the zoo and also your preferences.
We started by joining the last activity of the Roar & Snore group (the ones who slept at the zoo) where we learned more about seals and were able to touch the fur.
Then I went behind the scenes to see all the other pools where seals can enjoy time away from humans. Photos are not allowed behind the scene but let me depict what I was allowed to observe there: One of the seal was painting! He was taking a brush in its mouth and creating abstract art on the canvas! And the fact is that those paintings are selling at 150 AUD, what an artist! (the painting program is to help save endangered species). After a few canvases, it seems quite satisfied with itself and we had to get out as he started getting horny and went kissing all the females…
After a look at the water and food management for the marine area & a quick breakfast observing elephants, we entered the nocturnal section. I entered one of the exhibits (a brilliant one, showing us a typical Australian backyard). We cleaned the floor, change the water and I fed some possums. They are so cute!
Then we again went behind the scene and discovered the kitchen with the various size dead mice and chicken, plus worm and all… Strangely I was not so hungry at the time.
I observed the breeding section and learnt more about the gliders… OMG, it was moving fast…
CLEANING THE ZEBRA ENCLOSURE
We then headed to the Zebra enclosure. They were moved out and we entered to clean the enclosure, which was much more difficult than the small nocturnal one. I took the shovel and got the poo out… I told you it was not so glamorous!
We prepared their meal and medicine and let them back in. While observing that both of them were properly taking their food with the medicine, their keeper explained me their plan to get a herd. This is visibly a very complex process to make sure they all get along…
FEEDING THE GIRAFFES
Then I had the opportunity to hand-feed carrots to the giraffes. This was definitely the HIGHLIGHT for me as giraffes are my favorite animals. I just had to be careful and keep my head far away. It was very impressive to have them throw their huge tongue at my hands…and a bit gluey
VISIT TO THE ZOO HOSPITAL
After a lunch break, I discovered the quarantine area and the hospital. We met with the vets and I learnt about all the different situations they get from confiscated animals at customs, to animal with fishing hooks left by lazy fishermen. They receive animals in very bad shape. That day they were caring for possums, a Tasmanian Devil, snakes, owls, a penguin, a pelican… Photos are not allowed in those sections. I can only tell you what a great time I had with the passionate vets. We interacted with the pelicans and the devil & I was surprise at how they were playing with us.
TALKING TO A TORTOISE
As we approached the end of the tour, I entered the enclosure of the Tortoises and met with the 60 year old male and the 90 year old female! It was great to be able to discover those giants so closely
FEEDING THE MEERKATS
And we finished my day as a keeper at the Taronga zoo with the Meerkats (as I told them how much they make me laugh). We sent them some balls with worms inside to that they have to work to get their food.
Which animal is your favorite?