The day I almost became a zookeeper


 

Flashback to October 2010, one week before the trip that was (partly) going to be responsible for my move to Japan.

Right before that trip, we made a shorter one to the Loire Valley and among several things, we went to visit Beauval Zooparc, one of the best zoos in the world (I mean it). To give you an idea, we arrived there at opening time, thinking to spend a couple of hours visiting and then move on to a Loire castle or something, but instead we spent the entire day there until closing time, being seriously tempted to return the following day.

One of the animals we saw that day was this one:

 

This is an alligator in case you wonder.

 

At this point of the story, there are two things you need to know about me.

First: I love alligators. I know it may seem strange, but I’ve been fascinated by them since the first time I saw one, in the wild and pretty close, shortly after moving to Florida in 2000. As I left the US in 2005, when I saw that one in Beauval, it was the first time I saw an alligator since.

Second: at the time, I had quit my previous job and left Paris a couple of months earlier. I was back in my hometown, unemployed and starting to think about what to do next after a two month long vacation. And while it was nowhere as bad as it may sound (I was unemployed by choice – at least at first – had no rent to pay, etc), that was not a situation that could last for too much longer.

So, I’m there in the “reptile house” in front of those two wonderful alligators and soon their caretaker comes to feed them:

 

[iframe width=”640″ height=”360″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZlfjCFZBjtY” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen]

 

I started conversation, asking about them, telling him of my history with alligators. And soon enough we start talking about him, his love for reptiles and animals in general and how he got this job.
And I don’t remember how the conversation turned that way, but after he underlined that while the more scientific and medical jobs in the zoo are obviously held by specialists, the caretakers like him just need to actually care for the animals and show that they’re able to do their job (mostly feeding and cleaning). They show and learn how in a three month internship that anybody can apply to. These internships usually take place in the least busy months of the year, in winter.
At that moment, my choice was pretty much made. I had found my new career path!

 

Alligator in Beauval - 1

 

The following week I attended the first Setouchi Triennale (called Setouchi International Art Festival at the time) which made me decide to move to Takamatsu. Because of that and the very unappealing prospect to live north of the 45th parallel again, I never did that internship, stayed in my home area for one more fun but broke year and then moved to Japan and never became a zookeeper at Beauval zoo.

Sometimes I wonder “what if?”

 

Alligator in Beauval - 3

He could have become my good buddy

 

 


About David Billa

David was born and raised in the French South West. After a few years in the US and a few more in Paris, he finally settled down in Japan. He blogs here about his various experiences and travels, with an emphasis on his home country, France.

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