The Junior Zookeeper for a Day experience at Woburn Safari Park was probably the best I have ever had. It has certainly made me rethink my choice of going for doctoring. If you don’t believe me; read on, you will be wowed. Sorry to all foreigners who can’t take part in this amazing experience.-MW
So; my very first Zookeeper for a Day experience. Well, I thought, it can’t be bad, I guess. As I have always been a big lover of animals ever since I was young, this was almost a breakthrough for me. For years now I have been bugging my parents to buy me this experience, and the answer was always and ever no. But today, this holiday, I finally managed to make them agree. And wasn’t it great!
The day starts quick and early at nine-thirty, before the park has even opened. I personally enjoy a quiet place to a crowded one, but I don’t know about you…It is best to get there at around nine for toilet incidents and in case the zookeeper prefers to come early. Once your guide arrives, she/he will ask you how you came to Woburn for the experience. If you came by:
Car-Go into your own car and follow the guide’s jeep to the end point of your day with the guide. This way it gets rid of hassle and having to drive through the whole queue of cars driving through the safari.
Walking, Bus, Tube or any Other Method of Transport-Get into the jeep and she/he will drive you to the first activity of the day.
Your first activity after all the driving is at Rainbow Landing at the foot safari. Helping out to feed the three types of lorikeets; dusky, red and rainbow lorikeets or ‘lories’. You will be given a liquidy nectar substance which is the alternative to finding heaploads of flowers everyday and handing them to the lorikeets! The birds tend to like sitting on your hair or on your shoulders, and perhaps screech in your ear. You should be fine and even if you do get scratches they will be hardly anything. Try to feed the red and rainbow lorikeets separately from the dusky lories, for the dusky lorikeets are rather mean and pretentious about their food.
The next job is not always liked as much. Cleaning out the donkey and ponies night stable. Sometimes this can be a very weary and gruesome job at having to clean up the whole field, the floor, the road and two stables with boards, but fortunately you get special equipment and a wheelbarrow to put the excrement in and truck it over to the rubbish tip. Spades, shovels and ‘pooper-scoopers’ which rake the faeces towards the shovel are typical elements of cleaning the stable up. Don’t worry, you get to wash your hands afterwards.
After tipping out the wheelbarrow, your guide will take you on a tour around the road safari, getting up close to each and every species of animal (excluding the apes, okapi, giraffes and Chapman’s zebra) using the jeep. You don’t have to stay in the queues and you don’t have to keep your windows up even in the carniverous enclosures! On our tour, we managed to see Raja, the bull Asian elephant at the park, walking out into his paddock. As bull elephants are very dangerous when provoked and completely unpredictable, he is never allowed out into the safari unlike his female associates. That is why in his paddock the fencing is a thick, strong, electrified wire fence in case he rages.
After that we came into the main safari and got up close to all the animals, including watching the white rhinos storming into the herd of Ankole cattle, with brown coats and bended horns turning up, and Sable antelopes, critically endangered in the wild just like the Scimitar Horned Oryx (although they are Extinct in the Wild, which is a greater risk) and coming so close to one of the female Amur tigers I could reached out and touched her! And not just that, but your tourguide will tell you about every animal and species as you come in, go around or pass them.
When you have finished your tour, you will drive back towards the foot safari area and hand-feed the penguins with fish whilst there is a talk going on about them. The best way to feed them the fish is by holding it in your hands and letting them take it from the head of the fish. Some people might be a bit sensitive in this part of the experience but that’s ok.
After the talk is finished and the penguins don’t seem hungry anymore, you will go to the Land of the Lemurs where there are three different species of lemur. Perhaps you might be able to get a few minutes to touch the lemurs, especially the black and white ruffed ones. When I went my particular favourite was a lemur of this species, called Buddington. He is very friendly with keepers and people and doesn’t mind a nice scratch or tickle under the armpits! During your time inside the lemur enclosure there will be another talk going on, which is the lemur’s feed (another feed in the afternoon which is a selection of fruit instead of vegetables, the ring-tailed lemurs come out for this talk) and whilst this is happening you will be able to place and hand-feed lemurs around the feeding area with people watching above.
Be careful though, the brown lemurs may bite you! It doesn’t hurt at all though, it doesn’t even leave a scratch, so you should be fine.
You should wash your hands before getting back onto the jeep for your final activity from your experience: close encounters with the giraffe, zebra, and monkey enclosure (including bongos). Rothschild’s giraffe are the rarest in the world and it was amazing to get so close to them feeding! One of the females, called Kiera, is generally very friendly and quite curious; she usually comes to the jeep and peeks inside for a quick lick.
Also there is a three week old baby giraffe at the park, and a baby Chapman’s zebra, who prefers attention and sits next to the roadside! Inside the monkey enclosure there are three different types of monkey (or perhaps two), and bongos which you will see too. The animals preferabley keep to there area of the enclosure which helps a little.
Unfortunately that is the last activity included in the experience, but you still have five hours left to roam the park. I would suggest going on the foot safari only, as you have already seen all the animals in the road safari and there would be no point. There are still many talks, activities and places to go to in the foot safari, including the new desert exhibit (which you have most likely heard of already) with mongooses, porcupines and meerkats. Great staff, great food, great places, and most of all, great animals, a truly exhilerating day.
Experience Rating: 9/10