expert eye

No 5: John Pullen, zoo keeper, on 'Fierce Creatures'

The image of the zoo was pretty true to life, apart from maybe the keepers, at times. I've never known anyone to take their animals to meetings or generally carry them about. We like to get close to them and we obviously have an affection for them, but we don't regard them as pets in any way. On our primate section there isn't one animal you could actually pick up.

In the film, the keepers were very much like one big family, and in that way it was very similar to real life. It's a very emotional job and people do bond, particularly when the zoo or the animals are threatened. There was a reference in the film to when London Zoo was going to be closed down: we really did feel very militant and protective.

I thought the concept of "making contact" was slightly Americanised. But there are without a doubt people who have an affinity with their animals. The more time you spend around them, the more time you get to learn about them, particularly with primates, as they are very close to us. Their basic emotions are very much the same as ours: they laugh, they cry, they have good times, they have bad times, temper tantrums, all that sort of thing.

You can get zoo directors like Rollo Lee who know nothing about animals and it's also very possible for big corporations to own zoos, but the "fierce creatures" policy would never have worked. People do want to see aggressive animals like tigers or whatever - in this country you'd never see them otherwise - but often when you get to the zoo they're asleep and not doing anything. But most people come for the cute and cuddlies - I think the film got across their attraction very well, with Cleese becoming more and more attached to those five furry animals he initially threatened to shoot.

The Kevin Kline character's idea of sponsorship was a bit scary. We do look for corporate sponsorship to build new exhibits and while I don't think there's anything wrong in it, it must be done correctly. I wouldn't want huge banners all over the place, or to have to wear one of those stupid uniforms. London Zoo is the only capital zoo in the world that doesn't have government funding, which makes sponsorship part of our life nowadays. A lot of companies want to get involved with zoos and green policies - it makes them look good and they feel they're contributing to the wild as well.

John Pullen is assistant head keeper of the primates section at London Zoo.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

    £90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

    Investigo: Finance Business Partner

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

    Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

    £8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project