Amy Torr grew up on a dairy farm and always wanted to work with animals, but didn’t know what that would look like. She started studying vet nursing while she had a grounds job at Auckland Zoo. Her intention was to stay in vet nursing, but by the time she finished her course, the time she’d spent Auckland Zoo had moved her passion to exotic animals, and she wanted to be a zookeeper.
She did the Captive Wild Animals course at Unitec, which led to a zoo placement at Hamilton, and, after another year at Auckland Zoo working with grounds and browse, in her own words, “Hamilton Zoo threw me a bone”, and she was offered a zookeeping position, and has been here ever since.
She has spent time in South America, working in Peru with primates and travelling on the Galapagos islands. Last year she went back to Bolivia to volunteer at El Parque - Ambue Ari, which specialises in cats that have been rescued from the illegal pet trade.
While at Auckland Zoo she volunteered on her days off with primates and carnivores, but ended up on the ungulate team here at Hamilton and has never looked back.
WHAT'S THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?
Being able to work with our rhinos. They’re quite challenging and have such massive personalities. I like working with giant herbivores in a herd dynamic. Especially considering these animals have been a huge conservation success, having gone from less than 50 individuals to over 20,000.
WHO'S YOUR FAVOURITE ANIMAL?
Moesha, one of our Southern White rhinos. She’s quite highly strung, I suppose. Very unpredictable. But I feel like we’ve got a good bond going on. Personally I think I’m her favourite. She’s a two-ton female, so that itself is quite unique.
IF YOU HAD TO GET A TATTOO OF AN ANIMAL, WHICH WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
A pig. Because Gavin is just the highlight of my zookeeping career. This pig – we started at Hamilton Zoo at the same time. He arrived when he was like 20 kilos, so we kind of grew up together, you know. Now he’s 100 kilos. Can’t go wrong with Gavin.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE ANIMAL STORY?
Being involved in moving Jamila up to Auckland Zoo. The time and effort that went into crate training, and how we were all kind of learning. And then, not only the move to be successful, but for her to end up pregnant up there as well, which contributes to our regional breeding programme. That was cool. That’s why we do this every day.
IF YOU COULD GET PEOPLE TO REALLY PAY ATTENTION TO ONCE CONSERVATION MESSAGE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
There are so many destructive industries, it’s hard to focus on one. I would encourage educating yourself and being aware of your personal impact on the earth. This can be anything from your diet to where your clothing comes from. I think Maya Angelou put it best –
“Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better”