Emma Morgan trained as a jillaroo and worked with hoofstock and native animals before discovering her calling as a primate keeper at Alma Park Zoo.
At Alma Park Zoo, Emma tends to the spider monkeys, lemurs, baboons, red pandas, and several very active families of marmosets.
In March 2013, Sharnee Rawson interviewed Emma during her daily rounds for a Brisbane News article, republished here on the Alma Park Zoo website.
“Common Marmosets are more curious and a bit snugly, whereas other primates can just see you as a play thing” says Emma.
“The Cotton-Top Tamarins, the smaller monkeys, are the worst for holding grudges. If you grab one, all of them will jump on you and protect their family with their lives. It can take up to six months for them to trust you again”
Emma’s morning rounds include feeding Nima the Red Panda who rests his paw on her shoulder while nibbling on an apple.
The shy panda is a popular drawcard with the Red Panda Encounter frequently being booked out. “Valentines Day is always a bit crazy” Emma says “and we have had quite few proposals inside the enclosure”
Lemur Island – another popular site, is next on her morning rounds schedule. The gentle long-limbed lemurs are slower than the tiny marmosets.
Rather than biting, these old world primates will slap when upset and they frequently lash out at water dragons that share their island.
“Lemurs are a primate, not a monkey. There are no threats on Madagascar Island, so they are not very intelligent because they have not needed to adapt”.
It is not all cuddles says Emma, who usually works up to 10 hours a day, in rain, hail or shine and regularly braves animal bites or wasp stings when collecting bamboo for the Red Pandas. However, she finds the work enjoyable and challenging.
“You have to be creative and work on ways to enrich the lives of the animals, keeping them occupied and happy with their families. Primates are much more of a challenge to work with than the native Australian animals. Primates are so smart and it only takes them a minute to wreck anything you give them. I give them bamboo tubes with sections cut out and peanut butter hidden in different holes so that they need to use rocks to bash them open”
Emma’s personal favourite at Alma is Layla the Baboon. “You do find that you just click with certain animals. Layla is like a person, she is so clever”
Story by: Sharnee Rawson – Brisbane News – www.brisbanenews.com.au