Perth Zoo records keeper marks 40 years employment


Perth Zoo records keeper Chris Wilson with Tricia the elephant.
Perth Zoo records keeper Chris Wilson with Tricia the elephant.

NOT many people can say they have been employed with a company for more than 40 years but Chris Wilson is an exception, with an exceptionally uncommon job.

Mr Wilson joined the team at Perth Zoo in 1977 and was the 20th keeper that had ever been employed; an occasion so momentous it was recorded in that year’s annual report.

Starting as a bird keeper, Mr Wilson held that position for about 10 years until his previous experience working at a lion park in Wanneroo landed him the position of senior zookeeper for the African savannah exhibition, which he left in 1997-98 after suffering a severe back injury.

“When I first started work the industry it was male dominated and we only had about 20 keepers that looked after over 420 species, in comparison to nowadays where there are more than 70 keepers for about 170 species” he said.

“Whilst working the African savannah, I was also an auxiliary elephant keeper which is how I came to work with Tricia (60) who was an adolescent then.

“I will always fondly remember taking the elephants for walks down by the Swan River and up through Mends Street several times a week; something keepers would never be able to see or do now.”

Perth Zoo records keeper Chris Wilson tending to penguins in 1978-79.

Today, Mr Wilson looks after the zoo’s extensive animal records database, which he said has been the most important job he has done during his employment.

“I have always been a bit of a history buff and yes I have done a lot of work; I have helped build and design exhibits and moved and bred lots of animals but I get a kick out of the fact I’m now recording the zoo’s history,” he said.

“When I started animals used to come and go and there was nothing to show for them while they were at the zoo but now I do my best to ensure they leave something behind, whatever that may be.”

Mr Wilson said he didn’t expect to stay at the zoo for 40 years but found it is a job that is hard to let go of.

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