I fell into wildlife pre­sent­ing. Peo­ple think I’m an ex­pert but I didn’t even do bi­ol­ogy at school

MICHAELA STRA­CHAN TALKS TO MAR­ION McMULLEN ABOUT THE DAN­GERS OF WORK­ING WITH AN­I­MALS... AND DI­NOSAURS

Hayes & Harlington Gazette - - SPOTLIGHT -

You’ve en­coun­tered many an­i­mals dur­ing your ca­reer. Are you look­ing for­ward to work­ing with di­nosaurs?

IT’S go­ing to be amaz­ing. These are life-size an­i­ma­tronic di­nosaurs. They are ab­so­lutely huge!

I think it helps hav­ing a per­son on stage with these enor­mous crea­tures just to show just how big they are.

Walk­ing With Di­nosaurs is a real live spec­tac­u­lar. It’s play­ing in are­nas be­cause it is so big it can only play in are­nas.

It goes through all the dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods to the end of the di­nosaurs and we have ev­ery­thing from rap­tors and stegosaurus to the ter­ri­fy­ing tyran­nosaurus rex. I’m go­ing to bring my son Olly over from our home in South Africa to see it.

Were you in­ter­ested in di­nosaurs grow­ing up?

I WAS not one of those kids ob­sessed by di­nosaurs. (Laughs) I met some boys when I was at the Na­tional Pet Show and they had di­nosaurs on their t-shirts and ev­ery­thing. You can spot them a mile off. They are ob­sessed.

I’m sure my knowl­edge of di­nosaurs will de­velop do­ing this show, but I don’t think I’ll ever be a match for an eight-year-old who is pas­sion­ate about di­nosaurs. They seem to soak it all up.

Are you sur­prised some­times at the jobs that come your way?

ALL the time. This one in par­tiuclar came out of the blue.

There have been world tours be­fore with dif­fer­ent peo­ple play­ing the role of palaeon­tol­o­gist Hux­ley, but I’m the only fe­male who has done it.

You’ve done a lot of an­i­mal shows over the years. Do you have a favourite?

THE Re­ally Wild Show is one of my favourites be­cause I did it for so long – 15 years.

I fell into wildlife pre­sent­ing re­ally. Peo­ple think I’m an ex­pert, but I’m not. I didn’t do zo­ol­ogy. I didn’t even do bi­ol­ogy at school.

My knowl­edge has grown over the pro­grammes I have done. I love the fact my ca­reer is so var­ied. It keeps it fresh.

Do you have any pets at home in South Africa?

A DOG called Rio. She’s a res­cue puppy and is ab­so­lutely gor­geous.

We’ve had her for a year-and-ahalf now. We also had a Jack Rus­sell who died at 16 and we’ve a cat that has de­cided to live with us. It be­longed to some­one down the road, but kept com­ing to us to eat.

Then four houses in a row said it had been eat­ing with them as well. It’s get­ting fat­ter and fat­ter.

How do you deal with be­ing al­ler­gic to ele­phants?

I come out in a rash when I’m re­ally near ele­phants. Not many peo­ple would even know they are al­ler­gic be­cause they only come into con­tact with them in a zoo.

When I’m that far away it is not a prob­lem, but up close, es­pe­cially when I’m with or­phan ele­phants and their trunks and saliva, I am sneez­ing and my eyes are swollen. It’s bizarre.

Is it scary be­ing around dan­ger­ous an­i­mals?

I HAVE great re­spect for an­i­mals. I have never been one of those who feel they have to be on an an­i­mal or next to one that might bite my head off. I know when to re­spect them and to keep my dis­tance.

You do a lot of trav­el­ling. How do you deal with jet lag?

(LAUGHS) I’m fly­ing all the time. It’s prob­a­bly why I pick up lots of germs, but even when I lived in the UK I was trav­el­ling a lot. It’s al­ways been my life.

There’s no jet lag from Cape Town though. It’s an hour or two’s dif­fer­ence so it’s not a prob­lem.

I’ve def­i­nitely got worse with jet lag the older I’ve got though. I went to New Zealand to do some film­ing. We were only there three-and-a-half days and I had jet lag big-time.

When you are in a place for just a lit­tle time it’s hard to beat it. We all just strug­gled through.

Is it tough be­ing away from home?

OLLY is used to my be­ing away. He’s not phased at all.

I try and show him what I’ve been do­ing when I get back. It would be dif­fer­ent if he was here in the UK and he was go­ing to school and there were peo­ple say­ing ‘I saw your mum on the tele­vi­sion.’ He’s a lit­tle bit re­moved from all that back home.

Have you ever had any an­i­mal in­juries?

I WAS bit­ten by a lemur in Mada­gas­car. It was not that dra­matic, but it drew blood and they were con­cerned that the lemurs could have ra­bies. I’d had a pre-ex­po­sure jab, but I had to have a post-ex­po­sure jab so the good old BBC sent me to the NHS ca­su­alty.

I sat in ca­su­alty for three hours and then they started lay­ing out a bed.

I asked the nurse what they were do­ing and they looked at the notes again and said ‘Oh, bit­ten by a lemur. I thought it said bro­ken fe­mur.” (Laughs) I could have left hos­pi­tal with my leg in plas­ter in­stead of just get­ting a jab.

WALK­ING With Di­nosaurs The Arena Spe­cial opens its new world tour in the UK on July 20. Go to di­nosaurlive.com for ticket de­tails.

Michaela comes face to face with some for­mi­da­ble gi­ants in Walk­ing With Di­nosaurs

Michaela with a lemur in 1992

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