My name is Dave and I started working in The National Reptile Zoo in February 2014.
When I got the news that I had managed to become part of the Reptile Zoo family I could hardly speak to accept the offer. I was over the moon. I lived in Dublin so I decided to up and move myself down to the home of the cats (and snakes)! It was a big move for me as I wasn’t familiar with Kilkenny and knew no one down there. I started in the zoo on the 6th February and was immediately learning new skills! The first of which being to hold a Tarantula. Being afraid of spiders at the time, I can’t say that this was the most thrilling of first tasks for me but I soon learned to appreciate and respect them just as much as any other animal. It wouldn’t cost me a thought to pick up a Tarantula now – although I’m still working on house spiders!!!
I was soon made the Education Officer. Having a background working with children both in Ireland and America this was a welcome title as I felt that I could do a lot of good work through this position. I was also able to use my degree in Zoology to help educate students (and teachers) all around the country about the wonders of reptiles. I also got to travel all over and meet some amazing people in this roll. Below is a picture of me and some kids with our Burmese Python Blue Steel. I remember the students were asking 100 questions a minute about all the different animals and it was amazing to see their reactions to the animal itself and their amazement at some of the answers they were receiving.
It wasn’t just schools I got to visit but shopping centres, libraries, pet shops, businesses and many more interesting places through our Zoo to You Programme. I even got to dress up on occasion. Applying all the fake blood and ripping old uniforms up in Blanchardstown Shopping Centre for Hallowe’en was great fun and people’s reactions were priceless when they saw the site (or state) of me with Biscuit our 4 metre Green Anaconda.
As with most good things though, my time in the reptile zoo name to an end in 2015 when I decided that Dublin was just too inviting to live in and I decided to move back up home. With 18 months of amazing experiences under my belt I thought it was time for the next chapter in my life and applied for a masters in teaching to become a secondary school teacher. My time without the zoo in my life was short lived though as I was back in a few weeks helping out again. For the summer I have managed to find myself working for the zoo, but in Drogheda this time. We have a Lost World Exhibit open in Funtasia Waterpark and I’m right back in the thick of it once more and loving it.
I can safely say that working in The National Reptile Zoo has changed my life. It gave me opportunities I never thought I would have. I have learned so much through the work I have done for the zoo such as the inner workings of how a business operates, how to run a class with a 3 metre Burmese Python wrapped around you and of course untold amount of information about reptiles!
I loved my time in the zoo. It has given me direction in life to follow my new career path and the skills to do it. I have met so many (weird and) wonderful people who are a part of my life and who I chat with on a weekly, if not daily, basis (regardless if I want to or not!)
If anyone is interested in learning more about how to get involved in this kind of work or would just like to know more about reptiles in general (or anything I have talked about) you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.