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Mewes Memories: surveying camel poo at the zoo

Holidays from Vet School are a time to gain practical experience.

In the summer after my second year, I had been incredibly fortunate to land some weeks observing the care of the animals at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire. Better still, I was offered onsite accommodation.

I shared the student digs with several others, and the garden with several peacocks. Our little house was carefully fenced in, to keep out any animal that might have escaped. But the peacocks were able to just pop over this fence.

Why you should never sleep next to a peacock

If you’ve never slept with a peacock nearby, take my word for it: don’t!
Some people complain about cocks crowing at dawn – not a musical noise, but nothing compared to the torture of listening to a peacock greeting the sun.

They have an incredibly loud call that sounds more like a rusty wheel being forced to rotate without benefit of lubrication. Talk about grating! And as it was summer, this meant starting every day already sleep deprived.

Looking at camel dung all day

One of the other students similarly affected was Roz, who was doing a Biology degree. Whilst I was racing about the zoo, following the incredible vet and saving lives, she had a different role. She was conducting a survey of camel dung!

Like me, she was a volunteer, but she had to spend all day watching the camels grazing in their paddock. As soon as one lifted its tail, she had to bag it and label it carefully, so that each sample was identifiable to the individual producing it.

I blame the sleep deprivation, but when she first explained this to me I couldn’t stop laughing!

One Sunday when I was off duty, I offered to give her a hand. It was hot, and the flies were out in great clouds round the gently ruminating giants.

I have to admit I only lasted a very short time. How Roz stuck it for weeks on end remained a mystery to me, and I never did find out if she discovered anything interesting.

I do hope so – she really deserved to.

The staff at The Mewes Vets have battled through peacock’s calls and camel dung to ensure you receive the best possible service. To book your appointment, get in touch on 01444 456886.

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