Zookeeper Devon Nicholls (27), a “fully-fledged bird nerd” and an essential worker at Auckland Zoo during New Zealand’s Covid-19 Alert Level 4 response, is finding life under lockdown, both at work and home, has its challenges, but is very chirpy about the silver linings…
Before you take us into lockdown, can you tell why and how you came to work at Auckland Zoo?
For as young as I can remember, I had a love and fascination for animals, being in nature, and conservation. As a kid I was always searching through rockpools and bird spotting and watched Animal Planet religiously. I had cats, guinea pigs, and budgies growing up and would regularly turn our backyard into a zoo with my soft toys, geographically sorting them into enclosures, and giving them shelter and food - using my mum’s baking dishes as water trays and pools, which I’m not sure she was so happy about! My closest bit of nature was Maungawhau (Mt Eden) – a place I still love. I also loved the beach and being out on the water, which in Auckland we’re so lucky to be surrounded by, and it’s still my zen place.
Growing up, Auckland Zoo was my local. I watched The Zoo show and idolised the keepers and their passion for wildlife and conservation, and it was always my dream to work here. Following a science degree, in 2012, I started as a volunteer guide and then as assistant keeper. After studying for the Captive Wild Animal Management certificate in 2014, I was lucky enough to get causal work on the Birds section. As a casual keeper, I also spent some time on the Carnivore and Primate sections, but then I got a permanent role on the Birds section in 2016 – and now I’m a fully-fledged bird nerd! Plus, I have the pleasure of working with some of those keepers I absolutely idolised as a kid.