IMAGINE if your job involved the management of around 100 full time workers and the care of more than 1700 full time animals, well that is what zookeeper Chad Staples, the Director of Life Sciences, does at Featherdale wildlife Park.
Zookeeper Chad is the head zookeeper at Featherdale and oversees the round the clock care of all the animals housed, born, cared for and bred at the wildlife park in western Sydney. with so much action going on he said, “this job is with you 24 hours a day seven days a week. You don’t simply clock off at 5:00.”
Working with Featherdale for the last 20 years, Chad said the one thing that keeps him going is his morning ritual of a hot cup of coffee and a quiet walk through the park.
“After a coffee the first thing I do is i go for a walk around the park. it is actually the biggest blessing I have in this job because i get to wander through this amazing collection. i can breathe out and just relax and let the animals tell me what they need,” he said.
Even though he likes to start each day the same, Chad said what he does across an individual day can differ depending on what time of year it is.
“My day can be vastly different depending on the season, for instance this time of year breeding season has kicked off. it is crazy busy because you’ve got lots of animals that are difficult to get together, so you’re managing lover’s quarrels as much as anything.
“I’m dealing with lots of stuff with babies now as well. Mainly we’re incubating and raising chicks so it is a very busy season for us now, and my job can be different every day because of that,” he said.
One of the biggest challengers with working with animals is that they obviously can’t talk to you directly, but zookeeper Chad says the longer you’re in the job the better you get at understand the animals through their behaviour.
“The biggest skill in the job is learning to look at your animals and know if something is not right. If you’ve been around an animal long enough you’ll know if everything is normal and then hopefully they’ll be telling you in body language, in where they are, in what they’re doing, that something is not right,” he said.
But according to Chad the hardest part of the job, emotionally and physically is dealing with sick animals.
“Challengers come from a range of places in this job. One of the most emotional challenges is when animals aren’t well. That can be something that hits you really hard.
“You grow very attached to these animals, they have personalities, you’ve seen them from birth. You’ve often raised them and seen them all throughout their life and when things start to go wrong and animals start to get sick, I find that very difficult because you do take a lot of it on emotionally,” Chad said.
Zookeeper Chad’s biggest piece of advice for young, aspiring zookeepers is you should never give up.
“It is a tough industry to get into as there is lots of competition. But if you want it bad enough and you keep making yourself available and pushing yourself then one day you’ll get in, just keep being persistent,” he said.