Environment

Taronga zookeeper moves to the South Coast for a sea 'monkey' change

Kibabu was unimpressed when Lou Grossfeldt turned up at his new home at Mogo Zoo.

They had parted ways when the 200-kilogram silverback gorilla and his group retired from big city zoo life at Sydney's Taronga Zoo and moved to the South Coast.

"Now they're here and I've arrived so they've sort of looked at me and thought, 'Hmmm, you're back, that was a bit weird'," Ms Grossfeldt said.

"I'd be giving you my interpretation of it but it's like, 'You know, you left me, well I'm down here now and what are you doing, I've moved on'. It's like a bad marriage that's reappeared."

For 23 years, Ms Grossfeldt worked with the primates at Taronga Zoo, intrigued by the intelligence and diversity of their behaviour. "It's very rewarding career but it can become a way of life as well. Animals don't work to a time or a routine," she said.

Moving to Mogo Zoo was about doing something different, although the "lifestyle has been a bonus", Ms Grossfeldt said. The zoo has a range of species she hasn't worked with for a while, and she says the collection is impressive for a small zoo.

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The differences between the two zoos is stark; one, a publicly funded institution with views of Sydney Harbour, the other a small, privately owned business in the South Coast hinterland.

At Mogo, Ms Grossfeldt has been able to continue her conservation work overseas as vice-president of the Borneo Orangutan Survival; making two trips to Indonesia and planning another for February.

Last year, Ms Grossfeldt wrote a book, Our Primate Family, documenting her work with primates.

It covered, among other topics, how Australians might contribute to conservation efforts at home.

She gives the example of recycling, and "really investigating" the products you buy, avoiding taking photographs with primates in hotels overseas, and supporting your local zoo.

Importantly, she says, conservation begins at home.

"[Australians] are seasoned travellers, we are very comfortable in travelling and as a result of that we probably come much more exposed to issues facing the international animals, the exotic species."

Local, but less glamorous species, like the Australian sugar gliders, were also consistently at threat from loss of habitat, she said.

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