08 April 2021
Maxine Jenkins is the mum with the coolest job in town. Like parents everywhere she’s working hard to make a better future for her kids… but some of those ‘kids’ are a little furrier than others…
Maxine’s on the frontline with the Brooklands Zoo team fighting to preserve exotic species, rehabilitate injured wildlife and educate our future generations. Originally she was training to become a vet, but watching ‘the Zoo’ on TV prompted a change to a Certificate in Animal Management (Wild Animals) at Unitec and she arrived in New Plymouth via Auckland Zoo.
To be fair, it’s mischievous to suggest that the meerkats, agouti, capuchins, and cotton-top tamarins in her care are like kids, or even pets.
“We always have to remember they’re not our animals, we’re here to protect the breeding programme,” she says.
“Although we do form attachments, we’re always aware that at any time they could be transferred to another breeding programme to do their part to help species preservation. And a successful breed is your success.”
It can be difficult letting go, but being part of an international network, it’s easy to check up and get updates. Inevitably some animals leave more of an impression than others – literally in the case of Inca the cotton-top tamarin, who’s been immortalised as a tattoo on Maxine’s leg.
“She was the first critically endangered species born while I’ve been here. She’s such a strong independent lady for her size.”
Maxine has seen the plight of cotton-top tamarins first hand. In the wild they’re only found in two places in Colombia where she once travelled to work with the Proyecto Titi conservation initiative.
She draws on that experience every day helping support the zoo’s exotic species.
“The quality of our work is the quality of our animals’ lives. If you’re feeling off they’ve still got to be given everything that they need to be in a positive state.”
Brooklands Zoo has been operating free to the public since 1965 and is one of our most popular attractions, drawing more than 113,000 visitors each year.
Brooklands Zoo is ZAA Welfare Accredited and the team is continuously building on a strong reputation for high-quality education, and each year they host interns from Unitec Institute of Technology for work experience. The Zoo has a proven record in helping endangered species, and collaborates with New Plymouth Vet group and DOC to rehabilitate native wildlife.
NB: (ZAA is the Zoo and Aquarium Association)