A Little Bit of Africa in Australia
The Western Plains Zoo opened to the public in 1977 and was the first facility in Australia to cater to specifically built to be an open range zoo. Rather than using walls and fences, the zoo uses a series of concealed moats to divide the animals, giving visitors the impression of actually being with the animals in the wild. At the time of opening, the zoo contained 35 different animals from six countries, currently they boast over 1,000 different animals from the five continents of the world. They currently have 40 zoo keepers on staff. The zoo is renowned for many of their conservation programs and works closely with their sister zoo, Taronga in Sydney.
About the Zookeeper: Haley
Haley left school at the end of year 10 in 2005 with the hopes of one day pursuing a vet nursing degree. In early 2006 she decided to accompany her parents on a trip to Dubbo. While they went furniture shopping and antiquing, she decided to visit the Western Plains Zoo – a decision that would change her life. She decided to go for a guided tour of the zoo, and was so inspired by the zoo keeper guide that she decided to move to Dubbo and become a zoo keeper herself. That inspirational zoo keeper is now her housemate. Haley had always been drawn to animals, and loves that there are so many different species to learn about. She enjoys the fact that as a keeper you get to build a strong relationship with the animals you work with, and also that you get to interact with people as well.
Whilst she works in all areas of the zoo with all different animals, her favourite animals are the lions, as she really appreciates and respects the complex social structure they have.
She loves the open plan style of Western Plains. People can see nice and close, without the need for large fences or enclosures. She also thinks it’s beneficial for the animals to live in such natural surroundings, but admits that they all follow certain procedures now (feeding times etc) so they’ve lost some of their natural instinct. She is currently a trainee keeper and will eventually move up into a Trade Keeper role.
There are great, well-defined career paths within the zoo, and Haley also loves the fact that she can transfer to other zoos in Australia, allowing her to work with and learn about different animals. She can also transfer with zoos in other countries, and while she loves living in Australia, she’s excited by the fact that the opportunity is open to her in the future.