– Sharni Thomas
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