The profession of animal carer
What does an animal carer do in an aquarium like Nausicaa?
Caring for animals involves a wide range of very diverse tasks. A professional animal carer must therefore have a wide range of different skills …and in this job there’s never a dull moment!
In fact, the carer’s job is to make sure conditions are optimal both for visitors and for the animals on display. They ensure that both the animals and visitors are looked after: that the animals get the best possible living conditions, and that visitors enjoy the best possible viewing conditions, as well as the most captivating details of the lives of the animals.
To do all this, a carer must have a wide range of different skills, must be patient and determined, and above all, must love their job.
Feeding and caring for the animals
Carers monitor the health of the animals on display but also the health of the animals kept in the reserves or in quarantine.
They are also responsible for feeding, which involves evaluating the dietary needs of the animals, monitoring their food intake, weighing them (measuring, sorting and recording) and varying their meals.
The job also involves growing plankton to feed to newborn animals and jellyfish. A carer also provides immediate health care: they administer treatment, calculate dosages and put in place a preventative care plan in coordination with Nausicaa’s head of Aquariology and under the supervision of the aquarium’s veterinary surgeon.
For more specialised or difficult health care problems, the aquarium consults specialist veterinary surgeons and/or scientists, who are sometimes to be found on the other side of the world. The veterinary surgeon supervises any medical care decisons and medicine orders.
Training California sea lions
For some animals, such as sea lions, the carer uses particular techniques to teach them new behaviours, which are designed to either help with medical training or stimulate their physical and mental capabilities.
Maintenance and animal rearing
The carer ensures that the aquariums function correctly and monitors water quality. They clean the display tanks (exhibit side of the glass, surfaces, decoration, etc.). They do most day-to-day jobs: setting up the aquarium and maintaining small-scale aquarium equipment for example. In the larger tanks, work may need to be carried out underwater.
Carers also go fishing to collect certain types of animals from the natural environment and they also deal with suppliers. It is important, in both these cases, that fishing techniques used respect the environment..
To avoid the need to take animals from the natural environment, Nausicaa has developed methods for rearing animals in its reserves. It grows coral, rears tropical fish, jellyfish, plankton and penguins for example.
A typical day for carer at Nausicaa
A typical day begins at 7 am, and the task is to get the aquarium’s displays ready before the public opening at 9.30 am. Early meetings provide the opportunity to discuss latest developments and what needs to be done to prepare the displays. A schedule of work is prepared for the week, so that everyone knows what they have to do.
At 9.30, the team takes a working coffee break and the work for the rest of the day is planned. Typical tasks include: preparing feed and feeding the animals, animal presentations and displays, upkeep of the reserve areas, if necessary, providing medical attention to sick animals, (under the supervision of the aquarium’s veterinary surgeon), logging work done and of course monitoring the animals, which is a key task, but one for which there is often little time.
While we do have fixed working hours it is sometimes necessary to spend additional time with the animals, taking care of them or repairing a faulty aquarium system. The animals take priority because they are the heart of the aquarium. They are why the people come to Nausicaa.