I Don’t Have Any Human Friend —A Week In The Life Of A Zookeeper

May 4, 2021

A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.


The subject of today’s “A Week In The Life” is Mr. Emeka, a Zookeeper. He talks to us about being friends with animals, some of the hazards that come with his job and his plans to open his own zoo.

MONDAY:

I arrive at work around 7:30 a.m. today. The first thing I do is sign in my name in the attendance register. Even though the workers union has told us to stop signing attendance, we still use a register in the zoo. This is to allow us to know the number of people at work at any given time, especially since we’re short-staffed.  At 15 minutes to 8 a.m., some of my colleagues begin to troop in, and we make small talk before the zoo officially opens at 8:00 a.m. 

A few minutes later, our supervisor comes in, and we all rush to our duty posts. 

The zoo is divided into different sections — primates, carnivores, reptiles, etc. — and I manage the carnivore section. However, I’m also helping a colleague out in the reptile section today. 

One of the first tasks of my day is cleaning the cage of the softshell tortoise. This involves turning the tortoise upside down, taking it out of its water habitat and changing the water. But it doesn’t go as planned. Every time I try to turn the tortoise, it tries to bite me. And after remembering the PTSD from the last time it bit me, I don’t struggle too hard. I let it be. 

The snakes are relatively easier to handle once I release chicks to entertain them. When they are done feeding, they’ll remain still and then I can come back to clean their cage. 

After going round and ensuring that all is in order in the reptile section, I move on to the carnivore section. Here we have the lions, spotted hyena, civet cat, jackals. My other colleague has fed the animals and most of them are resting. The spotted hyena is running up and down so I move to its cage to play with it; I rub its nose and it tries to lick my hands with its tongue. I take special care to hold its neck so as to ensure that I’m not in danger of being bitten.

As much as we take care of the animals, it’s also important that we take safety precautions because sometimes accidents happen on the job. Just last year, a baboon bit a colleague on his laps and yansh, and we had to rush him to the hospital. Another time, an ostrich bit another colleague who ended up fainting. Someone else’s fingers got bitten by a horse. These are all the happenings of a regular workday. 

Despite all of these, I love the job. I equate it to a soldier’s job because it’s like facing war, and when you’re at war, no matter what you meet, you have to see it through. You don’t look back. 

TUESDAY:

I love animals. I really do. In fact, I don’t have any human friend that I can sit to gist with for 5 minutes. I prefer animals to human beings because not only are they more reliable, but you can also predict their behaviour. You know what to expect from an animal, but with human beings, you’re always guessing. In the past, I tamed a civet cat and was taking it around like a dog. I’ve also tamed a python that I was waking up and sleeping with in my house. I used to take that python everywhere with me too. It’s sad that I had to sell both the python and cat to a zoo in Lagos. 

Zookeeper

If you ask me to pick a favourite animal, I’ll say crocodile. I don’t have any reason why. I just like how easy going the crocodile is. 

Zookeeper



If you ask me what I’ve learnt from spending time with animals, I’ll tell you this: stop killing animals. The best way to prevent wild animals from harming you is to stop eating meat. Mostly because they can smell the meat from other animals on you. As a rule of thumb, my diet consists of only fish and snail. All these are part of the reasons why the animals don’t harm me. 

Today is a good day because there are visitors who have come to see the animals. I’m excited because I get to show off my skills of “talking” to the animals and seeing the visitor’s faces widen when the animals respond. I can’t wait to show them my cool call and response trick with the lions. This is going to be so much fun. 

WEDNESDAY:

I’m not happy today. As much as I enjoy playing and caring for animals, I can’t help but think about how we’re risking our lives every day. We don’t have protective gear, we don’t have dart guns in case of animal escape and we don’t even have proper capturing equipment. My director is trying his best, and I can see his commitment to the zoo — he gave us borehole water for the first time in years — but he needs help. The zoo needs help both in form of donations for the upkeep of animals and even additional staff members. It’s just too much. I’ve been attacked by a spitting cobra before, and I couldn’t open my eyes for 9 months. After several hospital visits, I eventually turned to traditional medicine of a sacred leaf mixed with breast milk before I could finally open my eyes. 

We’ve also had a situation where erosion washed off male and female crocodiles from the zoo into a nearby river, and we couldn’t retrieve them. A couple of years down the line, they reproduced and infested the whole river with their offsprings. 

I know my director is trying and we can all see his commitment to the betterment of the zoo. I’m just praying every day that almighty Jesus will send a helper to him. A helper that will help us and also help the animals, then I can be happy again. 

THURSDAY:

During a tour at work, some visitors were curious about the cost of some of the animals. After a lot of pleading, I broke it down to them like this:

Baby baboon is between ₦100,000 – ₦150,000. 

Chimpanzee is between ₦400,000 – ₦1,000,000.

Gorilla is up to millions of naira. Like ₦6M upwards. 

Giraffe, depending on height, goes between  ₦1,000,000 – ₦6,000,000.

A hippopotamus is between ₦600,000 — ₦3,000,000 depending on size.

Small-sized python is between ₦50,000 – ₦60,000. Medium size python is between ₦100,000 – ₦200,000. Big ones go for as much as ₦600,000 -1,000,000.

Lions start from ₦5M and above. 

I laughed at their shock at the prices. It’s always a good day for me when people come around to see the animals, and I want to have this feeling forever. A lot of why I’m working hard is so that I can start my own mini-zoo back home in my village when I retire. 


I have big goals, but I’m also learning to take things one step at a time and enjoy the process. Some days all I can do is focus on what’s directly in front of me. And as of now, at this moment, that’s Animal Planet, where I get to observe my favourite people in the world in their natural state. For this small joy, I’m super grateful. 


Check back every Tuesday by 9 am for more “A Week In The Life ” goodness, and if you would like to be featured or you know anyone who fits the profile, fill this form.

Zikoko Donation Banner

Help Zikoko keep making the content you love

More than ever, people are turning to Zikoko for stories that matter and content they love. But still, we, like many media organisations, are feeling the financial heat of these times. If you find us valuable, please make a contribution to help keep Zikoko zikoko-ing.

Thank you for your support.

We are also cool with Crypto.

Donation Close
Zikoko Logo

Complete Your Commitment

Donation confirm

Your Contribution is confirmed! Amount

Hassan Yahaya

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

August 6, 2020

Every now and then, your phone buzzes and you see a bank alert. In this moment, your mind races through a ton of possibilities. Is it credit alert? Debit? What do they want? Why are they messaging me if its not credit alert? Here are 5 stages your mind runs through when you receive messages […]

Watch

Now on Zikoko

September 16, 2021

International advocacy organization, Global Citizen, has revealed the local hosts TV personalities Ebuka Obi-Uchendu and Nancy Isime for the Global Citizen Live event in Lagos, Nigeria. Pan-African broadcast partners are AIM Group, MultiChoice and The SABC. Performances from Lagos will be given by Tiwa Savage, Davido, Femi Kuti and Made Kuti, among others. Burna Boy […]

Recommended Quizzes

April 3, 2020

While the rest of the world loves to treat our continent like a country, there are actually 54 African countries. So, in a bid to test your knowledge (and educate you), we’ve created a quiz to see how many of their capitals you can correctly name. Go ahead:

December 5, 2019

We already tried to guess how much you have in your account and your current net worth, and we think we did a pretty great job (keep any complaints to yourself). Now, we’re going to try and guess your monthly salary based on your relationship with money. Oya, take the quiz: 11 Timed Quizzes For […]

November 15, 2019

There are two types of people in Nigeria right now: those who are proud Marlians, and those who are still in denial about stanning the divisive star. So, for those who proudly wear the Marlian tag, we made a quiz to test how well you really know Naira Marley. If you get more than 6 […]

More from Hustle

Black boy using laptop on a chair
August 21, 2021

Nigeria is hard and everybody is looking for how to make money to ease things, including students. Here’s a list of online jobs for Nigerian students.  1. Digital Marketing  Digital Marketing is one of the jobs with a low barrier to entry. All you have to do is take a course online. It’s flexible too, […]

August 17, 2021

A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week. The subject of today’s “A Week In The Life” is a club hostess and […]

August 16, 2021

Have you ever bought anything online before? Many people have. Some of us have had amazing experiences but many more people have had really bad experiences. I have worked as an online marketing expert for over 10 years and yet, I have been scammed by an online business. I haven’t been scammed in a long […]

August 10, 2021

A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week. The subject of today’s “A Week In The Life” is Enoch Adegoke. He’s a […]

Watch

Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.
X