Alumni Erin WernerDiploma of Animal Technology

Keeper at Full Flight

What was the most positive aspect of your course?
I really enjoyed the hands-on aspects of Animal Technology especially the surgical and nutrition classes, including work placement. The course work was very well targeted to our needs and I feel like I still use a lot of skills I learnt at Box Hill in my everyday work with animals.

Why did you decide to get into the field of animal care and conservation?
I have always been an animal person and thoroughly believe that we will only be able to conserve what we understand. I want to show everyone how wonderful our animals are in the hope that we will be able to conserve as much of their habitat and resources they require as we can.

Describe where you went after you graduated in terms of employment, and how you got to your current position from graduating?
Before graduating I was volunteering in my current position at Full Flight and upon graduating I was fortunate enough to be offered full time work. After spending about four months nagging my now boss (calling and emailing him most days) to give me some voluntary work, he gave in.

What is Full Flight? What’s the main role of this organisation?
Full Fight is a conservation, education and breeding centre specialising in raptors (birds of prey) based at the Flemington racecourse. We are mainly based in education as we believe that close contact with our amazing animals is the best way to inspire people to make the changes both big and small to insure that the habitat and the animals’ future is secure in Australia. We also operate a specialist raptor rehabilitation centre.

Describe what your role is at Full Flight.
At Full Flight my role is that of a keeper and educator. I do the normal day to day maintenance, feeding and upkeep of the birds and animals, train them for shows, displays and to ensure that they can be handled and checked with minimal stress. I also present educational shows for schools and groups and well as entertainment and for agricultural shows, photography days and environmental festivals.

What’s the most interesting thing about what you do?
I get to discover amazing things about our native animals and meet really interesting people. Almost everyone I meet has a story of how they have seen a bird of prey and how that experience has in most cases been very powerful for then. It is a great feeling to get them very close to one of our birds and to share a bit of information about these amazing animals.

What was your involvement at the Australian Open Tennis? What was the best part about working at an event like this?
Full Flight has been involved at the Australian Open Tennis for three years. The best part about working at the Australian Open is engaging with children and tourists. I get to meet a wide range of people at the Open including tennis players like Rafael Nadal and Patrick Rafter and I get to share our birds with a very large number of people.

Why is it important to run public interest programs about conservation at major events like this? Why is it important that people learn about conserving wildlife?
Major events like the Australian Open allow us to talk to a large number of people about conservation. This is important as we are all interconnected and we may think that one species may not matter but it will have an effect on all other species in that ecosystem. A large part of conservation is not the individual species or animal, but acting to conserve as much of the biodiversity of out great country as we can as ultimately we rely on it to survive. For example the same system and habitat that is under threat, that supports the Australian Sooty Owl (Tyto Tenebricosa) gives us clean air and drinking water.

Are you involved with any other events? If so, which ones?
We are involved in many events including, Frankston Pets Day Out, the Stringybark Festival, Abbey Medieval Festival and a large array of school fetes, agricultural shows and private corporate events. We also do a bit of film work for commercials and documentaries including the recently aired ‘After the Fires’ on the ABC and David Attenborough Eagles in the BBC ‘Predators’ series.

Do you have further plans for further study?
I am currently involved in further study I have completed a post graduate certificate in ornithology and have just started my graduate degree in Ornathology at Charles Sturt University. It is nice to know I am not the only bird freak around. There is a whole class of us including a large group of ‘raptorfiles’ (bird of prey nuts).

What do you like to do outside of work?
Outside of work I spent a bit of time involved in animal rehabilitation, studying at university (got to love distance education) hanging out with my friends and family, travelling and drinking way too much coffee.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to get involved in animal care/conservation as a career?
Work experience! Most places look for experience which means that you have to be passionate about what you do, and willing to spend the time getting to know the animals and learning about their care and conservation. Almost every keeper I know has done large amounts of work experience/volunteer work at zoos and conservation organisations. Most major zoos are now looking for university degrees in Biology and Zoology as well.