Its Careers Week and so I thought I would share a little about how I ended up in my career and my own experiences in the animal industry.
I am often invited by colleges and universities to present a careers talk about two animal industries in particular. The trials and tribulations of creating my own zoo (Cedars Nature Centre) and the job I have held most of my working life, being an animal educator in the animal encounters industry (my alter ego Ranger Stu!).
Later this week I will be posting a blog about one job in particular, the zoo keeper! So keep an eye out for that one!
I had always wanted to work with animals. In fact I cannot imagine working in any other job sector! Apart from working as a paper boy and at Sainsburys as a teenager my work experiences have only been animal based.
Before I was 16 I wanted to become an RSPCA inspector, most likely from watching TV show after TV show on the subject. Once I went to college where I studied animal management however that all changed!
I soon came to realise my true passion was not in domestic animals but in exotic animals, the wilder the better in my opinion. I couldn't get enough of learning about them, I realised that whatever I wanted to do it would have to be zoo or conservation related.
I still thought I'd give domestic animals a try though and so I applied for work experience in three animal sectors, a dog kennels and cattery, a vets and a zoo.
The kennels we can probably skip over, I actually did not enjoy it at all and the only thing that got me through was a lovely Rottweiler who kept me on my toes!
The vets was an incredible eye opener for me and I had an amazing time working alongside the vets and vet nurses. I was able to observe an abdominal surgery on a bull mastiff, learn how to use an autoclave and also see how enjoyable (and stressful!) working in a veterinary surgery could be.
If it wasn't for my next work experience I think I would have quite happily trained to become a vet nurse!
Next was the zoo... This changed my mind forever and from the first day I was hooked! Seeing the passion the keepers had for the animals they looked after, I realised that this wasn't just a job but a lifestyle choice. I loved it so much that I started volunteering at the zoo as soon as my work experience ended.
Here's a tip I will bring up in my next blog... volunteer! Not only is it a great feeling, a great way to learn and a great way to meet likeminded people but 90% of the zoo keepers I know started off their career by volunteering!
I worked with some amazing species over the years from ants to lions and many of the keepers from those days taught me a lot that I still use today!
Whilst I was at college and volunteering another zoo keeping job came up (paid this time, yay!) with the company AnimalMan, the owner Nick provided animal parties and animal workshops at schools. Each day I would clean out the animals before college or on weekends. I was able to work with many of the species that I had a real passion for.
Eventually once I finished college I was taken on fulltime where I learnt how to give animal presentations to schools and eventually animal parties. This is where Ranger Stu started and it wasn't long before the animal encounters industry took over my life!
12 years down the line I'm happy to say I'm still doing what I love, educating children and adults about the amazing diversity on our planet and sharing my passion for the natural world!
In 2016 it was about time that myself and Nick took the next step... building a zoo! But we shall cover this in a future blog.