When you think of cool jobs, surrounding yourself with cute and cuddly animals has to be right up there. We caught up with Blaire Bunter a keeper at Moonlit Sanctuary to find out what it’s like to work with Australia’s cutest and most interesting animals.
How did you become a keeper and how long have you been working at Moonlit Sanctuary?
I’ve been working at Moonlit Sanctuary for 4 years. I studied a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Wildlife Conservation and Biology) at Deakin University. During this time, I volunteered at a number of wildlife parks, shelters and zoos not only in Australia but also overseas. Becoming a zookeeper requires not only an understanding of animal behaviour and welfare but also physical fitness, patience and attention to detail.
What’s a typical day like in the life of a keeper?
A typical day usually involves providing food and water for the animals, presentations, health checks and enclosure maintenance. However, my day can vary it may also include record keeping and animal training.
What is the best thing about working at Moonlit Sanctuary?
The best thing is making a difference in the lives of each individual animal whether that be through training, enrichment or providing them with a safe environment.
Do you have a favourite Australian animal?
My favourite animal is the Spot-tailed Quoll. I love them because they are the biggest carnivorous marsupial on mainland Australia, they have one of the strongest jaw bites in the world for an animal of that size and their breeding ecology is very interesting.
Do the animals recognise you individually, and is it difficult to establish a bond?
Yes, some of the animals do recognise us individually. Quinnie is a Spot-tailed Quoll that I helped hand raise. She only lets me pick her up for cuddles and also allows me to put a harness with a leash on so she can be taken for walks. She might let a few of the other keepers give her a pat but there are two or three people that she won’t let them near her. It wasn’t easy to establish such a strong bond, it involved spending lots of time interacting with her, not only on work days but over the weekend.
If you could choose one Australian animal for a pet, what would it be?
Definitely a Spot-tailed Quoll, it would be very challenging but the bond you can build is extremely rewarding.
Working with animals is unpredictable, do you have any funny moments from you time at the sanctuary?
One of the funniest moments not for myself but for the other keepers was when I was chased by one of our male Koalas. We were playing male vocal calls to our female to see if she was interested and get her moving towards our male when suddenly he turned towards me and started chasing me. Unfortunately, he thought I was another male Koala trying to steal his girlfriend and he was not going to allow that. After chasing me right round the enclosure I was able to find safety by climbing up a ladder. The three keepers watching were too busy laughing to come and help me, although once I found safety I too saw the funny side.
How can we help protect our native animals from harm?
Some of the biggest threats to Australian wildlife include predation and habitat loss. One way to help is to ensure pet cats are kept indoors and that they have been desexed. Another easy way to help is by recycling what rubbish you can and anything you can’t ends up in the bin, not on our streets or in our waterways.
Finally, what is the strangest or weirdest animal fact you know?
One weird fact would have to be that Koala joeys need to eat a specialised form of faeces called Pap. It contains special gut bacteria/organisms that enables the joey to transition from milk to eucalyptus leaves, without it their body cannot digest eucalyptus leaves.