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WILD ABOUT WORK
News Source: The Sunday Mail (19th September 2007)
by Hannah Martin
Click image to enlarge
Long queue for job as a tiger-handler

 

MORE than 500 Queenslanders have applied for the state's wildest job - as a tiger-handler at Australia Zoo.

The zoo's big-cat supervisor, Giles Clark, said many hopefuls who applied for the position had no relevant experience.

"Everyone from school leavers to people going through a mid-life crisis, looking for a career change, applied for the job," Mr Clark said.

He thought people were attracted to the "wow-factor" that came with the job title.

"But when people ask me what I do, I say I'm a zoo-keeper. I mean, it sounds like you’re big-noting yourself to say you're a tiger-handler and half the people you tell don’t believe you anyway," he said.

Mr Clark, a Briton who gained his first experience with big cats by volunteering as a teenager at an English zoo, warned applicants that working with tigers was not all fun and games.

"There's always a less glamorous side to these things and this job's less glamorous side includes general cleaning duties, preparing their food, scrubbing cages and picking up poo. But it’s still very rewarding," he said.

Mr Clark has worked at Australia Zoo at Beerwah in the Sunshine Coast hinterland since the first tiger cubs arrive in 2003 and has handled big cats at parks and zoos around the world for more than 15 years.

Australia Zoo's tiger numbers have grown to eight with three newly-arrived eight-week-old Bengal cubs from a private zoo in NSW.

They join two adult bengals and three Sumartran tigers.

Mr Clark said the handlers formed unique bonds with the animals and got to play with 160kg, at times "over-zealous, juvenile tigers". And tigers, just like human teenagers, tended to push the boundaries.

"We take them for walks, like you would a dog on a leash, and we play with them.

"But you never forget they are wild animals," he said.

"They’re not tame and they're not pets; they demand constant respect."

He said the coveted job would go to the applicant with the right mix of qualifications and personality.

And although only one person will score the dream job, Mr Clark said everyone could contribute to tiger conservation efforts.

"They are truly the most majestic animal in the world, but they are endangered and the tiger needs everybody’s help to survive," he said.

Staff at Australia Zoo worked out they need to raise $5 a day for each tiger in the world, in order for conservation efforts to succeed.

As a result they developed the Tiger 511 project and are encouraging people to donate to the cause – to help save the tiger.

Visit www.australiazoo.com.au for more details.


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