Raising a Zoo keeper

We talk to Linda, mum of Andrew Coers, Auckland Zoo’s elephant and seal team leader, about what it was like raising her animal-lovin’ son.

What were Andrew’s hobbies as a child?

He enjoyed fishing, riding his BMX, playing soccer, body boarding, his tropical fish and his geckos. Andy and his older brother were pretty good at building tree huts; and he had some great friends.

Where was Andrew brought up?

He was brought up on a 10 acre lifestyle block in Glenbrook. Andrew is one of five children; he has an older sister and brother then, 12 years later, he got a new brother, then a sister.

What things did you enjoy doing as a family?

We were very lucky as my husband’s parents had a family bach at Tairua, so we really enjoyed going there in summer. Andrew and his siblings loved the water; they would either be swimming, fishing or climbing up to the top of Paku Summit.

Did you have pets in your household?

Our first pet was a German Shepard called Sooty, he was a rescue dog from the SPCA. Over the years, we had a Rottweiler, a chocolate New Foundland, a pig called Murtle (Andrew enjoyed her, she even got to go to calf club). We also had sheep, calves, chickens, Kakariki native parrots, geese, turtles, tropical fish and Andrew even kept geckos in his bedroom (he built them a great enclosure).

Was Andrew always an animal lover?

He was always a natural with animals. The love of elephants came about when Andrew was 3 years old and he came face-to-face with Kashin on a walk at the zoo. Kashin came around the corner and he got to have a chat to her. We bought him a stuffed toy elephant later that day and that was that.

When did Andrew start working with animals?

He went to the zoo for a week’s work experience at the age of 16, then stayed on for a second week. He then worked every weekend for quite a while as a volunteer before being offered paid weekend work. Andrew used to visit the elephants in his lunch hour, getting to know the staff and the elephants. Finally, a position came up which he applied for and was accepted.

What would Andrew be doing if he wasn’t a zookeeper?

There is a good chance he would have been a builder, as he has built the house he is living in now. He was also interested in working for DOC.

Who are Andrew’s role models?

You’re not going to believe this, but when he was a lot younger, his role model was Hulk Hogan from WWF wrestling. His role model now is Monty Roberts (Horse Whisperer); the techniques Monty uses in schooling horses has influenced the way Andrew manages the elephants at the zoo. There is also Dr Prithiviraj Fernando, who is a conservationist Andrew met while in Sri Lanka. Dr Fernando has dedicated his life’s work to the conservation of elephants.

What makes Andrew so great with animals?

Andrew has always been interested in the welfare and preservation of animals; and he keeps an open mind as to learning what they need so he can keep them happy and content. He is very passionate about what he does with Burma and she has become a big part of his life.

What is most important to you in regards to raising your children?

We wanted our children to be happy and to treat people how they wanted to be treated. As far as schooling goes, all they had to do was to give it their best shot. Communication is also very important especially with boys, they need to be able to talk to their Mum and Dad.

View full article
You may be interested in