Martha, the park keeper

“When they asked me as a child what I wanted to do when I grew up, I always answered, ‘work with animals’. I have been lucky because for eleven years now I have been doing precisely that!”. Martha Hirber, originally from the province of Alto Adige, is an animal keeper for the Spormaggiore Wild Fauna Park. Her job is looking after animals, which includes feeding them, cleaning out their living areas, and administering any treatments prescribed by the veterinarian.

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“When I arrive in the morning the first thing I do is prepare the feeding troughs for the animals with the exact quantities of fodder for each one. Then I go to the farm to clean up and distribute water, hay, and fodder for the animals that live there. I deal with the carnivores last, visiting the refrigeration unit to prepare the right amounts of meat for each of them before visiting all the enclosures. By now all the animals recognize my footfall and know that food is on the way, so they are happy to see me.”

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After all these years Martha also knows the animals very well and exactly how they will behave each day when she arrives. “I know for sure that, of the three lynxes, the male, who is also the oldest, will arrive first. With our ten wolves it is always the same three who run to meet me as soon as I enter the enclosure with food.” Martha also knows how fussy the roe deer is with his food. “He eats very little and only wants to be given his favourite things. I have to trick him with grass and twigs so that he gets all the nutrients he needs!”

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Cleo and Cora, the two brown bears, are the only animals that Martha does not look after. “My colleague, Luigi, has been caring for them for a long time before I arrived, and it would have been too traumatic for them to change. Luigi is also very attached to them. You inevitably form affectionate bonds with the animals you look after!” Proof of this is that Martha was recently overjoyed to see that Bella, the Park’s newly arrived otter, left droppings inside her enclosure. “This means she is settling in and starting to mark her territory! The introduction of new animals must always be conducted with caution, observing how they adapt day by day to the new environment. This is why we always try to schedule new arrivals for the autumn, when the park is closed to the public.”

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The Spormaggiore Wild Fauna Park was founded in 1994, originally with the intention of providing a better habitat for the bears who were already in captivity within the province. The Park has greatly evolved since then and today it plays an important didactic, scientific, and conservation role. Very clearly it is a facility managed by people who love animals. “You cannot imagine our joy when the first wolf cubs were born in the Park four years ago. Eight tiny cubs, gorgeous to look at. It was a great celebration for us all.” Today the cubs have grown up and each day they wait anxiously to hear Martha’s approaching footfall, knowing that she is bringing them something tasty to eat.

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