A zoo is an exciting organisation. A wide variety of animals and plants need to be well cared for, and a safe and pleasant working environment is important for employees. Not everyone working at the zoo deals with the living collection; we also have the business side and retail and hospitality, for example. Burgers’ Zoo’s animal and plant collection may be colourful and diverse, but the range of professions at the zoo is just as varied. In this article, we get acquainted with the duties of a technical department staff member, Gerard Odijk.
Together with his colleagues André Kouwenhoven and Clemens Bisselink, Gerard Odijk (62) performs all the engineering-related tasks for the technical department. After completing his Lower Technical School (LTS) and Middle-Level Applied Education (MAVO), Gerard earned his contractor’s diploma during his military service and worked for an SME contractor for a remarkable 37 years. In that role, he worked for private clients and frequently on construction sites. “In the past, as a carpenter, you naturally became quite versatile on construction sites; you learned other tasks by helping out and getting involved. Nowadays, you see more and more specialised professionals,” Gerard explains. Gerard has enthusiastically been dedicated to his work at Burgers’ Zoo for over 6.5 years.
“The best part of my work here is the wide variety of tasks. We encounter interesting challenges where we often must provide customised solutions and be creative. The knowledge of my colleague Clemens, with his years of experience as a zookeeper, is crucial. He can reason from the perspective of the animals and predict how they will react to certain designs.”
“Recently, I received a tree trunk and the task to turn it into a naturally designed lamppost. Or consider the new version of Paul van Loon’s Treehouse: a very special, out-of-the-ordinary task. It’s very rewarding to see children now enjoying it and enthusiastically pointing at that little house. And when, for example, we had to build an underwater platform in the Mangrove, we had to carefully choose the type of wood and the best materials for coating it, which don’t harm the animals.”
“The freedom you get and the variety of work. I also find it wonderful to see how inquisitive many species are when we are working in their enclosures. Like recently with the cheetahs where we placed houses, or with the Malayan bears when working in their indoor enclosure.”
“I find it very important that people respect each other, appreciate each other’s qualities and skills, and operate as a team. That’s why I also place great importance on the positive atmosphere within the Technical Department,” concludes Gerard.
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