THOMAS CHIPPERFEILD - Lion and tiger trainer


“Like every kid I wanted to do loads of different things but I wanted to be and animal trainer more than anything else. My parents were animal trainers both wild and domestic. 

I began working with wild animals when I took over from my dad in my teenage year. I trained for a very long time and when I was 18 I started working in the ring with the big cats

My average day involves getting up, having a bite to eat - cleaning out the animals, changing their water and  letting them into their enclosures. All in all it takes just under an hour. The animals stay out for the day get fed outside. Towards the end of the day the animals get put away to bed where it nice and warm in their night dens. Then the cycle starts all over again. 

Everything I do has to revolve around my animals - they have to come first. I don’t really have a set routine for myself because it all has to work around the animals needs at any give time. If i get the chance I will go out to pick up some shopping or do other essential things but nearly all the time now I am stuck with the animals. 

Working with animals always has a high degree of stress and worry because you have a lot of sentient things is your care as your responsibility. They have to come first regardless. Asides from being our bread and butter they are members of the family. The worst thing that can happen - but always does - is you lose an animal. It is a natural part of this life because humans live so long compared to every other species. 

The best thing about my job is working with beings that are so honest - you always know where you are with animals, they don’t really operate under false pretences. It is an extraordinary and fulfilling thing to build a bridge between the world we live in and the world animals live in. 

I grew up in Ireland and worked there my whole life so a career highlight was returning to the Uk and working in England in front of a live audience. Another highlight would be starting to work with the animals for the media including television shows.

It is very difficult to communicate with people who disagree with what I do because their viewpoint is purely ideological and there is no rational basis for it. The science is on our side with regards to animal welfare. Anytime that you try and strike up conversation with people with an opposing point of view it is not acknowledged because it breaks their world view. 

To be able to understand what I do and why I do it is a very difficult thing for anyone that doesn’t do it. It has to be experienced to be understood. There is not much I can say apart from there is no more fulfilling way of life as far as I am concerned. 

I imagine myself continuing doing this in the future, maybe working with more species. I would also like to get involved with zoos down the line.”

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