The Aspinall Foundation

Meet the Keeper - Shelley Kettle

Posted by Bryony Hatcher on 18-Jun-2019 14:49:49


How long have you worked at Port Lympne Reserve?

  • I’ve worked at Port Lympne as a rhino keeper for 15 years. Zambezi was just 2 years old when I started as a trainee rhino keeper. He was still with his mum Nakuru at the time.file3-24
What made you want to be a zookeeper?
  • From as young as my parents can remember I had a passion for nature and wildlife, they knew I would end up working with animals in some shape or form. After initially starting out in the role of trainee veterinary nurse at a local vet, it became clear to me that I longed to build a rapport with animals rather than briefly see them pass through the surgery.  So I started applying for jobs at Port Lympne, my local wildlife park that I’d had many visits to as a child.
What’s your favourite/most rewarding part of your job?
  • It’s the rapport you build with an animal, particularly a rhino that’s I find so rewarding. Black Rhinos are such sensitive animals, the know their keepers individually, and respond to us differently too. When you work hard on a relationship with a rhino and they trust you, it’s an amazing feeling. I also love working outside, watching the seasons change and being surrounded by nature. Even if snowy days are an absolute nightmare!
How long have you worked with Zambezi and what is he like?
  • I’ve worked with Zambezi on and off for those 15 years. Only not working with him when he was on a breeding holiday at Howletts. He’s a very sweet natured boy, but very much fuelled by a desire for the ladies. 
Will you miss Zambezi?
  • It only dawned on me last week that I will have to leave him behind and return home. Mainly I’ve been concentrating on having a really tight bond with him prior to the flight. I’m going to be very sad to leave him behind. But equally excited for him and his new life with lots of ladies and no winter snow! 
Will the other rhino’s miss him?
  • I’m pretty sure his first true love Nyasa may well miss him, but she has since moved on, as has Zambezi. Kisima, their daughter will be a lovely reminder of Zambezi once he’s gone.
This is the first time you have taken a rhino home to Africa – how do you feel about that?
  • I have never been to Africa, so to see a Black rhinos natural habitat is a dream come true,  add on the opportunity to fly with Zambezi and support him during his transition , is absolutely amazing. I’ve been so immensely lucky to work with the rhinos at Port Lympne, we have such a great breeding program and over the 15 years I’ve got to see the full cycle of baby rhinos being born and growing up to have young of their own. Visiting Africa and flying Zambezi is the last piece of the jigsaw.
What are you most looking forward to on your trip to Grumeti?
  • I’m most looking forward seeing Grumeti Reserve from the plane. I should imagine Africa from the air will be breath-taking. Once I know Zambezi is safe and settled I’ll look forward to hearing and seeing the sights and sounds of the reserve and taking photographs of the inhabitants .
  • Zambezi Insta-1
  • Read all about Zambezi's life changing trip Back to The Wild here.

Topics: Port Lympne Reserve, Conservation, The Aspinall Foundation, Rhino

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