Zookeper for the day at Beauval

Les Maîtres des Airs, spectacle au ZooParc de Beauval
©ZooParc de Beauval

I’m called Léa, I’m 13 years old and I go to school in Poitiers.

It all started on my birthday. Aunty Chris gave me a really original gift: a ‘Junior Zookeeper’ experience at the Zoo de Beauval. I didn’t even know that this kind of thing existed! Chris knows I have dreamed of working with animals since I was 6 years old. I watch lots of reports and videos on the internet and I already know a lot of things! Especially about red pandas. They have a cute little face, and with their little paws… they’re just too beautiful!

L'Heureux Hasard c'est

I looked at zoobeauval.com straight away… there’s so much to see! 

My parents, little brother and I set off early. I wanted to be there when the zoo opened to make the most of it. As I had to be at the entrance at 2:00pm, we had the whole morning to look around the park. We saw birds, big cats, fish, small mammals and shows. Wow, the morning flew by! Suddenly, Dad said, “You’d better hurry if you’re going to be on time.” When we got to the entrance, there were some others waiting. I felt a bit nervous, but when Flavie arrived, I went crazy!

Flavie is one of the zookeepers. She is really nice and smiles a lot, she came over and gave me my badge. Suddenly I felt like a real zookeeper too! Then she explained to us what was going to happen and what to watch out for.

One of the first things to do is prepare food! Grr, I wanted to take care of the animals first! But in fact, it’s really important. Besides, we don’t just cut up fruit and vegetables. To make the meerkats search for their food, we put mealworms in bamboo canes pierced with holes.

Flavie explains that this is called ‘enrichment’. Zookeepers need to come up with ideas for replicating wildlife situations. You have to keep the animals occupied and interested in their environment… It contributes to their well-being, it’s really important. That way they live better in captivity and it’s easier to reproduce. The goal is to save some species from extinction.

But who is looking after my well-being? I can’t take it any more! I want to see the animals! When the zookeepers say, “Let’s go!”, I’m the first up!

We start with the giant tortoises. They move at a snail’s pace, really slowly, like in films… Then, we feed the meerkats… It’s funny to see them arguing as they try to catch the worms! They climb on top of each other and scratch and rummage with their snout in the bamboo cane. Everyone laughs!

Then we see the sitatungas… I tell you, I didn’t even know what they were! It’s a kind of Antelope with thin white stripes… The young also have spots, a bit like Bambi… So cute! Flavie tells me not to stroke them so that they keep their animal reflexes… Too bad, they’re too cute! And the arapaïmas … Same, I didn’t expect them to be big voracious fish! And there are the coatis and the… There are so many species at Beauval!

A summary of the experience

I started having fun with the others. Mathis loved tigers, but he wasn’t allowed to feed them, for safety reasons.

Flavie told us all about her job, she answered all our questions and had loads of stories… She knows the animals’ habits and has little nicknames for them. She’s like a real mum! As the day went on, it just confirmed that this is what I want to do in the future!

Then, it was time to clean out the coatis’ enclosure. It wasn’t my favourite bit, but it went quickly. Animals, like humans sleep better when their room is clean and tidy… If Mum could hear me saying that!

We gathered together, it was already 5:00pm… It just wasn’t fair, it went far too quickly! Flavie gave me a certificate! I’m going to stick it on my bedroom wall next to my poster of the red pandas… And I’ll keep my badge too! I’ll wear it to school on Monday, my friends will be so jealous!

In the car, I didn’t stop talking. There was so much to tell! We absolutely must come back in winter and do the ‘Junior Zookeper’ again, because the activities would be different. And I’d get to see Flavie again!