As a way of giving our fans and followers a peek behind the scenes of the inner most workings of Tanganyika Wildlife Park, we have begun interviewing a zookeeper each month. This month, we will be meeting Thomas Joyce and talking to him about his experience being a Tanganyika zookeeper.
How long have you worked at Tanganyika? I started June 4th of 2012 so… three year and some change.
What animals do you care for? Well, I started with penguins. In Boston I worked with about a hundred penguins at the New England Aquarium during college. Then I got hired on out here to work with our penguins. I did penguins three days a week and the rest of the time they had me do projects in the cat’s routine. A keeper left a couple of months after I started and they needed someone to do the kangaroo routine five days a week, so I did that for a little bit. Then October of 2012 is when they started training me on the carnivore routines.
Who is your favorite animal here? That’s like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. I guess just to pick one I would have to say Stella, one of our binturongs. I made a connection with her and it’s a connection that has been a bond that has been developing day in and day out. I see her and get to pet on her and scratch on her five days a week.
If you weren’t a zoo keeper what would you be? In an ideal world without dealing with salary, and benefits, and paying the bills, I would enjoy being a dog trainer for hunting dogs like water fowl retrievers and upland pointers.
What is your favorite Tanganyika memory? After three years you start to get quite a few of them. Especially working here. It was getting to bottle feed a baby amur leopard up in the nursery. First baby that I had ever bottle fed like that. Just this little tiny thing. I just remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, these are the rarest cats in the world, I have one in my lap drinking a bottle out of my hands.” So that was kind of cool.
Which Tanganyika event do you most look forward to? I’d say Twilight Tour. Just the size and the scope of it all. It’s also a good bonding time for the keepers.
How old were you when you knew you wanted to become a zoo keeper? Probably sometime in grade school or middle school. I came to that decision because I didn’t like working with people. I remember taking a zoology course in high school and getting to dissect a shark and loving it. That doesn’t really carry over to what I do now, but I knew that was going to be my general career path. Went to college with the intent of being a zookeeper and I ended up getting an environmental sciences degree.
Which animal do you feel you are most like? I don’t know. I’m not a serval. I’d say a honey badger. I’m thinking of Sport, one of our honey badgers. He just trots along all day not really getting too worked up about anything and I’m pretty even keeled and pretty laid back. Just going about my day.
Thank you to Thomas for all the work and care he has put into the animals he cares for here at Tanganyika. It was great to sit down with you and learn what makes you passionate about your job!
UPDATE: Hey everyone! I just wanted to let you all know that Thomas no longer works at Tanganyika Wildlife Park. He was awesome and still is, but now he works for Animal Control of Wichita and we wish him all the best on his newest adventure! We hope to see him around every now and again. You don’t meet people like Thomas everyday and we hope that we can get keepers as great as him in the future!
See you later man!