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SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium

23 Tamaki Drive, Ōrākei

Auckland 1071

New Zealand

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We are re-opening Monday 31 August!
Regular days of operation: Thursday - Monday Bookings are essential - purchase your tickets online 24 hours in advance with a discount of 20%!
SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium

Meet the Keeper

Junior Penguin Keeper

14 Sep 2020 13:16:35

Meet Kristen

Q: When did you realise you wanted to be a penguin keeper / work with animals?

A: I have always know that I wanted to work with animals, when I was little I had about a million toy animals and always nagged my parents to take me to the zoo or aquarium. All through school I would rescue little injured birds and other animals and I always had lots of pets to look after. I used to really love watching all the zoo programmes on TV and it didn’t take me long to decide that I wanted to be one of the people who look after animals as a job.

Q: Do you have any other animal related experience you can tell us about?

A: I have been extremely lucky I have had a lot of amazing animal experiences in the past few years. I did an internship at the Auckland Zoo with the carnivore team which was amazing, getting the opportunity to get to know the Red Pandas, Otters, Servals and more, as well as learning all about how to give them the best possible care. We at SLKTA also had the opportunity to help out with caring for the Kakapo in 2019 which was a tremendous honour, being able to help out these incredible birds even in just a tiny way. One of my personal highlights has been being able to travel to Borneo for 2 months and help out in a rescue sanctuary for Sun Bears last year.

Q: Does being a penguin keeper put you off having fish?

A: Yes! One time I ordered a fish dish at a café, and they kept the skin on it and happened to cover it with aioli or mayonnaise which made it look exactly like a fish that had been stuck under a rock and gone slimy (which is one of the worst smells in the world!) Never again! 


Q: What’s the worst part of the job?

A: Cleaning up penguin vomit or cleaning out the drains! Penguins are extremely smelly creatures, and their diet is also quite stinky so all of their waste products are very pungent to deal with.  You always come home smelling pretty gross.

Q: What’s your daily routine like?

A: Waking up pretty early, arriving at work by 7am. During winter time this means that we arrive at work before the sun is up! First thing we do is clean up the whole enclosure and prepare the penguins food for the day. On average, penguins poo about every 20 minutes, and we have 78 penguins! By the time we get here in the morning, there is a LOT of poo to clean up. This takes us about 2 and half hours to wash away, scrub, and fill up with fresh ice. Over winter this all happens while the enclosure is still dark and cold as well! Over summer time we also often have little baby penguins or moulting penguins to look after. The rest of the day is lots of feeding and cleaning. We need to keep the penguins enclosure super clean because they are quarantined animals that don’t have any exposure to the outside world. This protects them from diseases such as aspergillosis but it also means we need to do lots of cleaning to make sure we don’t accidentally bring any bad germs into their home. Our work day ends at 3:30, when we say goodbye to the penguins and let them rest and do their own thing until the next morning when we do it all again.  

Watch Kristen's "A day in the life of a Penguin Keeper" video



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