Awe inspiring career for Waikato grad

20 March 2015

April McMurtrie

University of Waikato graduate April McMurtrie is enjoying her role as a zoo keeper at Wellington Zoo. Handling the resident cheetah is just one of the highlights. 

 Image supplied by Wellington Zoo.

Handling cheetahs, training giraffes and rearing emu chicks are just a few of the things keeping University of Waikato graduate April McMurtrie busy in her inspiring career as a zoo keeper.

Caring for animals and educating the zoo's visitors

April's main duty is to ensure that all the animals under her care are healthy and living a high-quality, enriched life.

"I prepare and feed-out diets, clean exhibits, and fulfil any behavioural needs of the animals in my care, such as walking the dingoes daily. I also provide enrichment for variability and variety and to incorporate training and conditioning into the animals' daily lives. For example I train the giraffe to follow a target stick to their crush area for daily weights and to carry out health checks," says April.

Not only does April care for the animals, she is also tasked with educating the zoo's human visitors. "I give daily talks and take visitors behind the scenes for animal encounters. I aim to empower visitors to believe in the need for a sustainable co-existence between wildlife and people."

April was offered a zoo keeper position at Wellington Zoo following a Bachelor of Science (Technology) at Waikato University. She majored in Animal Behaviour and Biological Sciences and as part of the degree, spent a year completing a work placement at Hamilton Zoo.

Valuable experience from work placement

The former Te Awamutu College student says the work placement was essentially the beginning of her career.  "By completing the placement, I had both theoretical knowledge and proven perseverance while also having an extensive background in practical, industry-specific experience. Without this, I feel I would not have been able to hit the ground running in the industry as I have."

For April, the biggest highlight of her job is the opportunity she has been given to build bonds with animals such as giraffes and cheetahs. "Sharing a life with such awe-inspiring animals is so humbling and so fulfilling that I couldn't imagine myself in any other career."