Speak to us a little about your background.
I am in my third and final year of a +3 Bachelor’s degree in Agronomy with a concentration in animal keeping technology at the Haute École in Hainaut. While we of course touch on zoo keeping as a career choice, it’s not quite the equivalent of the degree you see here. The curriculum in our third year requires us to undertake an internship for a minimum of 12 weeks.
So what brought you to the Ecomuseum Zoo?
I felt strongly that i needed to complete my internship outside of Belgium in order to discover new approaches, new mentalities and new ways of working; I wanted to see if the animal approach was similar or different. Throughout my studies we often discussed the differences between the northern and southern countries and this awoke in me a desire to travel. Canada has always been a dream for me and of course without the language barrier Québec was the principle attraction. I submitted my profile to almost all the zoological institutions in Québec and the Ecomuseum Zoo was gracious to give me a chance!
What do you think you learned here?
I had been lucky enough to have learned from other internships in Belgium before arriving here and I noticed that certain work methods and perspectives are different here. The understanding of “animal well-being”, which is of course primordial, is very different, just as were the responsibilities entrusted to me from one internship to another. I truly appreciated the responsibilities I was given here, where I was able to be very autonomous while being sufficiently managed and supported. As soon as my first week, I already was assigned a few tasks; it made me feel like part of the team. I must add however that the Ecomuseum Zoo team is truly gifted in communication and sharing their passion!
Speak to us about the special project you had to undertake within the internship period.
I am required to write a 50 page report on a subject related to my internship. This report will be presented to a jury upon my return to Belgium. I have chosen to address the shared living arrangements between the Woodland Caribou and the Arctic Fox. I wanted to explore the ease of providing enrichments to each species while ensuring the other did not have access.
For the Arctic Fox I prepared wooden boxes, something secure that they could not ingest, in large enough numbers to discourage disputes among the individuals! They seemed to truly appreciate and spent much time on and around them. For the Woodland Caribou, I created two kinds of posts with holes and spaces to insert vegetables. A feeding was also constructed specifically at a height hopefully accessible only to the Caribou. One Fox succeeded in attaining the feeder to have a look, but only after the Caribou had eaten. I still counted it as a success … but what a challenge!
What attracts you so to working with animals?
I’ve always loved being around animals, it’s quite a stroke of luck. Even simple observation is mesmerizing to me! I’ve always known my career would have me surrounded with animals, to share with them on a daily basis, etc. I can’t imagine anything different.
Do you have a favorite here at the zoo?
Oh my gosh, that’s so hard! I’ve fallen in love with so many … The American Porcupines, the Flying Squirrels just to name two. Also, I’d never had the opportunity to work with birds of prey and I’ve found them to be fascinating. They truly are quite different and have special temperaments. It was a wonderful discovery, so maybe them! Oh but there’s also the Arctic Foxes … It’s really difficult to pick a favorite! But if I must choose one, it would have to be Nahima the Opossum … what a remarkable creature!