Team manager of carnivores Amy Wallace talks about her high risk job at Longleat Safari Park
When talking to Longleat’s Team Manager of Carnivores, Amy Waller, the Wizard of Oz lyrics ‘Lions and tigers and bears – oh my!’ spring to mind.
This year Amy celebrates her 10th anniversary at Longleat Safari Park (opens in new tab) in Wiltshire!
What’s on TV (opens in new tab) talked to the experienced zookeeper about how she came to have this unusual job and why she’s still not used to seeing herself on BBC1’s Animal Park with Kate Humble (opens in new tab) and Ben Fogle (opens in new tab)…
Zookeeper isn’t an every day job – how did it happen? "I’ve always had a passion for animals. I grew up five minutes away from Longleat and used to hear the lions roaring from our house, it’s probably when my interest started. But I never thought it was something I could do as a career! Instead I did a degree in landscape architecture. When I finished university I came home and needed a job, so I applied for summer work at Longleat – and I’ve been here ever since!"
So you worked your way up? "Yes, it started as a seasonal job 10 years ago! I’ve worked my way up and am now team manager of the carnivores. All my experience has been working on the job. I absolutely love it! Later in this series of Animal Park you’ll see I was lucky enough to go to Kenya and learn more about lions. It’s incredible I was paid to go to Africa as part of my job!"
Is your job as dangerous as it sounds? "We work with all the big carnivores at Longleat – tigers, lions, cheetahs and wolves. It can be dangerous, but we’ve rigorous training and protocols in place so it’s actually a really safe environment.
"Complacency is the worst thing when you’re working with wild animals. The very first thing I tell new staff is that they’re working with category one, wild animals. If you do something wrong it could be the last thing you do. My dad has nightmares about the tigers now and then. When he worries I remind him it’s a safe place to work."
Who are the star attractions of the summer season? "Definitely the cheetah cubs Winston and Poppy. They were born last September and are now ready to handle the traffic and wider spaces. Their mum, Wilma, is so protective she jumped on a car bonnet during a practice run without the public.
"Letting them out around the public was stressful. On the first day Winston suddenly saw what he thought was another cheetah and started standing up. He didn’t realise it was his own reflection in a car door! It was so funny and cute! I’m more relaxed now, but they still keep us on our toes – you can never tell with wild animals!"
Do you enjoy appearing on Animal Park? "Although seeing myself on camera is a bit cringe-worthy, it’s also really cool to see how special the job is. My family and friends love Animal Park, but I tend to think things like ‘my hair looks wrong!’"
Animal Park Summer Season screens on BBC1 from Monday-Friday, July 31-August 3 at 9.15am
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With twenty years of experience as an entertainment journalist, Elaine writes for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and (opens in new tab)www.whattowatch.com (opens in new tab) covering a variety of programs from gardening and wildlife to documentaries and drama.
As well as active involvement in the WTW family’s social media accounts, she has been known to get chatty on the red carpet and wander into the odd podcast.
After a day of previewing TV, writing about TV and interviewing TV stars, Elaine likes nothing than to relax… by watching TV.
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