My Week: Lucy Hawley

One of the keepers at London Zoo reveals how the small furry animals in her care reacted to the snow that gripped the country this week

Gillian Orr@gillian_orr
Saturday 09 January 2010 01:00


I get up at 6.30am and make the commute from Welwyn Garden City into London where I work in the Rainforest exhibit of London Zoo.

I'm at work by 7.45am and meet my section to go through any incidents that happened at the weekend. Our section is mainly small mammals that are part of the Rainforest exhibit, so marmosets, tamarins, monkeys, otters and a couple of odd ones like cockroaches, stick insects, iguanas and piranhas. A little baby marmoset monkey is born in the zoo today, which is very exciting. The real fun comes in the afternoon when we get to feed the animals. It's a very standard day in the life of a keeper today. After work I go across the road to the pub with some of the other keepers.


Today we have our inventory day where we do a stock-take of all the animals in the zoo. I go into the meerkat enclosure with my clipboard, a set of scales and the electronic chip reader. Most of the animals are trained to sit on a target, which is a circle at the end of a wooden stick so they'll sit still on the scales. I love the meerkats; they seem to be everybody's favourite. The public is always surprised at how small they are but I suppose there's no frame of reference when you see them on documentaries. Then I weigh and count all the monkeys. It's a headache doing the stick insects and cockroaches. Then I target train our slender lorises and the yellow mongooses. When I get home it starts to snow. I turn into a big kid when it snows so I run about outside before I get dragged off to go and see Avatar, which is actually brilliant.


It's my day off today and I wake up to six or seven inches of snow so I go out for a play. I take some pictures and go sledging. Everything turns so pretty in the snow; it's like a wipe-clean surface. I love seeing strangers having snowball fights – the snow seems to bring people together. It's very nice.


My train breaks down on the way to work today because of the weather so I'm late. Lots of my colleagues are too. The zoo has to be closed to the public as there's too much snow but the animals in our section love it. The adult meerkats stay under the heat lamps but the baby meerkats run all over the snow chasing each other. We give them hot chunks of carrot which they cuddle to keep warm. The giraffes have to be kept locked in as the paddock is too icy but most of our animals are third- or fourth-generation British so they have adapted. Our meerkats have much thicker coats than those found in the wild so they're happy enough.


There are a lot of animals to service this morning as some of our staff either can't get in or have fallen over on ice and injured themselves. I love watching my animals running around in the snow. It seems the animals are adapting to the weather better than humans.

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