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. This time, we are introducing you to an employee who recently celebrated a truly remarkable milestone: Executive Secretary Maura Taeymans marked her 50th(!) year of service at our park on Friday, May 19, 2023!
“In 1973, when I joined the permanent staff, we often used to hand-rear young animals that had been rejected by their parents,” says Maura Taeymans (67). “Tigers, lions, gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans —it was quite common back then. Changing a nappy for a young orangutan, by the way, is no picnic with all those long hairs,” she adds with a laugh.
“I started as a weekend and holiday worker in catering, but on my second day, I was asked to help in the shop because someone had called in sick and later to operate the ticket office for a bit. At that time, part of the Van Hooff family’s home was also the park’s office during the day, including the ticket office. I’ve gotten to know four generations of the Van Hooff family in my career.” Maura has held various roles over the years. She handled personnel administration, accounting, and procurement for the shops but also worked in catering, at the reception, and as an executive secretary.
"One day, Antoon van Hooff called me to hand over orangutan Sabientje to Prince Bernhard and André van Duin. The World Wide Fund for Nature was celebrating its 25th anniversary, and a photo of the gentlemen with Sabientje was to be taken. Or that time when veterinarian Piet de Jong asked if I could assist with the operation of a marabou, one of those large stork-like birds. I was asked to hold its wings and spread them out.” With a cheerful twinkle, she reminisces about those special moments in her colourful career at the zoo. “It was a time of pitching in and pulling together to get a job done. A very special team spirit, which may also be characteristic of a true family business.”
Maura has personally witnessed 50 years of Burgers’ Zoo’s 110-year history. Many significant events were part of that journey. “On the evening before the official opening of the Bush in 1988, I sat on the terrace with Antoon van Hooff, watching the dress rehearsal of the opening ceremony. We could never have imagined it would be such a resounding success; the number of visitors doubled in just one year.”
As of June 1, 2023, she has finally begun to enjoy her well-deserved retirement. “Of course, I will still visit the park regularly as a visitor, and if Burgers’ Zoo needs me, they can always count on me. But I have excellent successors and plan to enjoy the extra free time.”
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