My wild day as a zookeeper

David Kershaw at Blackpool Zoo
David Kershaw at Blackpool Zoo

David Kershaw embarks on his latest summer adventure this week by taking part in feeding time at Blackpool Zoo.

It’s not every day you get a kiss from a slimey, blubbery creature with whiskers.

David Kershaw at Blackpool Zoo

David Kershaw at Blackpool Zoo

Well, unless your my mum, that is.

But this time I got the pleasure in the fourth instalment of my summer activity adventure in the form of a sneaky kiss from a sealion called Anya.

This week’s adventure has done little to quell my suspicions that my blubber-bellied step dad is using these tasks in a bid to get rid of me by getting me to take on some of the most extreme adventures the area has to offer.

Readers of this column will remember I have already walked with sharks, jumped from 40ft trees and taken on the world’s biggest roller coaster slide. And I’ve survived them all!

So this week, I’ve been sent to tackle Blackpool Zoo. You may think that sounds tamer but my whisker-twisting step dad isn’t content with me being on the public side of the barriers; so I’ve been sent inside the enclosures for a real adventure.

The zoo, which is set in 32 acres of stunning park land, now offers a number of experience packages allowing visitors to get up close and personal with some of the animals. First up, after getting acquainted with some if the zoo’s other residents, I headed to the giraffe enclosure for my first mini-experience.

It was feeding time but a skinny kid from Lancashire was not on the menu.

Instead I got the one in a lifetime chance to feed the long-necked giants myself, stuffing their faces with a salad of thorny branches and leaves. It was like watching my step dad stuff his face with a giant bag of Doritos. Only the giraffes have the decency to close their mouths while they eat. After meeting the giraffes we had some time to look around some more before our next behind the scenes adventure.

There is plenty to see. The zoo is home to more than 1,000 mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates from Aardvarks to Zebra. The new wolf ridge attraction is a popular addition but old favourites like the elephants, lions and penguins really pull in the crowds.

There are also loads of talks, feeding times and displays throughout the day from gorillas and pelicans to lemurs and tortoises.

My baby sister, who loves all animals, but has never seen anything more exotic than a labrador, was enamoured by all the weird and wonderful creatures on show.

Luckily, despite her best efforts, she wasn’t able to stroke the lion which she thought was our very own Marilyn the house cat back at home.

So instead we took her to the children’s farm where she was able to meet snorting piggies and cuddly giant rabbits, and many more farm yard cuties.

One of my favourite moments was in the giant Amazonia enclosure, which looks like something from Jurassic Park.

You go in the enclosure and run around with exotic birds and cheeky monkeys that leap from branches over head. Be careful though, they have been known to pinch the odd sarnie out of people’s bags.

Before we knew it, it was time to head over to the active oceans arena, European largest sea lion enclosure for the final experience of the day.

After the final display of the day, where we watched sealions Anya and Gina entertain the crowds, I got a one in a lifetime chance to go inside and meet the stars of the show.

Anya perched herself on her stand as I stroked her leathery skin.

She even tried to sneak a kiss, her spikey whiskers rubbing on my face, as we posed for pictures.

She was so cute and her breath didn’t even smell, which is not something I can say for my step dad.

It was amazing getting a chance to meet one of the world’s greatest animals so close, and something I may never get the chance I do again. I thoroughly recommend it. It may not be as fear-inducing as some of my previous adventures but it is definitely as memorable.

After four fun- filled hours in the sun, it was time to go. But before we did, one last beast needed his evening feed.

The lesser-spotted, pot-bellied step dad needed a burger and chips from the zoo cafe. It was only right we fed him too, so long as he let me get a slushy drink for the ride home.

l Blackpool Zoo is open 10am to 5.45pm daily. Admission is £15.50 for adults, £11 for children three to 15. Under 3s go free. Family tickets, concessions and online discounts available.

Mini sealion and giraffe experiences are £10 for adults and £5 for children. For a range of other experiences or for more details see www.blackpoolzoo.org.uk or call 01253 830830