– Sharni Thomas

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS -

I’VE been a keeper for about six years and I’ve been here at the Wildlife Habi­tat for the past 14 months. I’m a team leader now. I’m 27 years old and have wanted to work with an­i­mals ever since I was young.

I did a Bachelor of Sci­ence at univer­sity, study­ing 3½ years to get a ma­jor in zo­ol­ogy, then vol­un­teered over­seas in Africa to work with the big cats and an­telopes, then even­tu­ally vol­un­teer­ing here in Aus­tralia with na­tive an­i­mals. Then I landed a ca­sual po­si­tion as a keeper and even­tu­ally a full­time po­si­tion, which I held for two years be­fore I be­came head keeper and then I moved over here.

It’s cer­tainly a phys­i­cally and men­tally de­mand­ing field, but also one of those jobs where you get as much back as you put in.

It’s a re­ally re­ward­ing job, and no two days are the same. You have to be pretty adap­tive and ex­pect change in your daily rou­tine. You never know what the job’s go­ing to throw at you – any­thing from an an­i­mal be­ing sick or per­haps need­ing to be caught up, so that be­comes pri­or­ity, and you have to be able to jump into that.

Or it might be go­ing out on a call to in­jured wildlife or be­cause there’s a bat stuck up a tree or power lines, or re­move a snake from some­one’s cat en­clo­sure in their back­yard – there’s so many things that you could be asked to do or given the op­por­tu­nity to do in your daily work.

Phys­i­cally, it can be clean­ing up af­ter the an­i­mals, lift­ing things, all sorts of man­ual labour. Men­tally, it might be do­ing pre­sen­ta­tions to the pub­lic, do­ing pri­vate tours, and hav­ing to know all the in­for­ma­tion about the an­i­mals – and also know­ing what the guests want and try­ing to cater to their needs as well.

At home I have a joey that I’m look­ing af­ter at the mo­ment, and I have my own pets.

The main thing I’ve learned is to be open to new things, em­brace change and get on with it.

Sharni Thomas at the Wildlife Habi­tat

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