You won’t have failed to notice that the weather has been a bit wintery of late! The keepers at the Lake District Wildlife Park have been showing true dedication and braving the wintery conditions to ensure that the animals they care for have all been fed, watered and kept warm and comfortable. Our keepers come from a variety of backgrounds, bringing with them a range of different skills and knowledge. If you are visiting the park, do take the time to listen to one of our keeper talks or just stop and have a chat as they have a wealth of knowledge about the animals they look after, that that they just love to share!
Name: Claire Ivill
Position: Cover Keeper
My name is Claire and I am a full time ‘cover keeper’ at the Lake District Wildlife Park.
I was a late starter into the world of animals. Four years ago, I was working in Manchester doing a job that no longer excited me. My partner already lived in Cumbria, so I decided to take a chance. I left my job, put my house up for sale and headed north. I had no idea what I was going to do but I knew it had to involve animals. I started volunteering at the park and secured a job working in the café. Through my volunteering I discovered I wanted to learn more about the animals I was caring for and I applied to enrol on the Level 3 Diploma in the Management of Zoo & Aquarium Animals. It is a 2-year programme delivered by distance learning and is designed for people already working in the zoo community.
It was a challenging 2 years, but it was worth every bit of blood, sweat and tears and I graduated with a merit. There is however only so much you can learn from a book and it’s the day to day hands-on experiences I get with the animals that continue to help me progress as a keeper. Every day is a learning experience in one way or another.
I also manage the record keeping software system called ZIMS (Zoological Information Management System). Record keeping is a big part of any zoo keeper’s day. It’s not just about cleaning and feeding the animals, we must record and document everything too.
As a cover keeper I get to work with most of the collection which is great! I have a real soft spot for the Black & White Ruffed Lemurs and one called Shrimp in particular. He loves having a scratch under his arm whilst he is sunbathing after breakfast. I also love working with the hoof stock which include the large surly looking Yak with their great big horns to the much smaller Bagot goats that just can’t help getting under your feet as you go to feed them in the morning.
If anyone had told me 5 years ago that I would now be a qualified animal keeper working at the Lake District Wildlife Park I would have laughed and called it a pipe dream. It just goes to show that sometimes taking that leap of faith and following your dreams can lead to amazing things.