Its a Zoo in here
Ben and Margaret are so in love with animals they now live in a zoo!
People often describe their homes as a zoo, but in my case it’s not an exaggeration. My partner Margaret, 49, and I are the proud parents to 64 animals. Having spent eight years as a seal trainer in Australia, when I returned to New Plymouth in 2000, I opened Ultrawash, a fish and aquarium business. In 2002, I met Margaret. She loved animals more than I did, which she proved by buying me a fish tank one birthday.
“Here we go,” I thought.
It was asking for trouble. Part of my job was diagnosing sick fish and unfortunately there are lots of fish that people don’t want.
Special needs, baby and diseased fish all manage to wiggle into my tank.
Amongst them are Anubis, our tropical eel who answers to his name, and Jakota, our naughty black shark. Then there’s Flappy Wappy. Flappy can’t float like normal fish do and sits on the bottom flailing his fins with excitement, hence the name.
Our brood aren’t all fish. In 2008, Margaret looked up from the newspaper.
“There’s a story about a turtle,” she said.
Turtles are notorious escape artists, and this one had wandered onto the road and been hit by a car. The vet had fashioned a fibreglass shell but she’d need ongoing care.
“Here we go,” I thought again.
Trinity was soon swimming happily in our tank. She and her pal Sharanna (another runaway turtle) turn up their noses at anything but prawns, scallops and top quality nosh.
They’re not as picky as our parrot Oscar though. I was doing a job for the Pouakai Zoo when I first met Oscar.
He was inside a cage in the freezing shop and had bald patches on his chest.
“He’s not going to last the winter,” I fretted.
“Do you want him?” the keeper offered.
So Oscar joined the family. He’s by far the most vocal member – he has over 50 phrases. When the phone rings he starts chattering.
“Answer the phone… hurry up! Fine, I’ll get it!” he screams.
Oscar’s convinced he’s human. He eats the same dinner as us and makes Margaret share her cups of tea. If she’s doing the washing, she has to give him a tea towel to fling around his cage (his version of folding). Oscar loves the radio and bops the day away. He dances when Margaret sings You Are My Sunshine. He rules the roost and even keeps our three cats on their toes.
And then there’s the new edition. Margaret came home last year looking a little guilty.
“I was out looking at lovebirds, and there was a little one whose mother had abandoned him…” she began.
“Here we go again!” I thought.