Meet the Man Who Lives at the Zoo

Darren McGarry, now the Head of Living Collections, has lived in a small house in the grounds of Edinburgh Zoo for 27 years. Working for the Zoo for 29 years, Darren joined the team when he was a 16 year old trainee.

‘The Man Who Lives in the Zoo’ is an event aimed at the whole family and provides a unique insight into Darren’s life and unusual home in the Zoo. The event will be a fun-filled day featuring stories and children’s books about Darren’s life which were created by the Illustration and Animation students at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), as well as talks from Darren himself. The children’s books have all brought to life Darren’s unique home and life in the form of imaginative stories and vivid and colourful illustrations. On Saturday, a select number of the arts students will present their books to the audience and will read their stories aloud, accompanied by vibrant illustrations and animations of Darren, his home and the animals he has the pleasure to work with.

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Pandas couldn’t been missed in one of the stories about Darren. Credits: RZSS Edinburgh Zoo

Over eight months the College’s more than 30 ECA Illustration and Animation students created a wide range of children’s stories about Darren’s life. The students have all spent time with Darren, getting to know him and listening to entertaining tales of his life at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, which they have all interpreted in their own unique styles. Each book created by the students is entirely different, making use of various techniques and illustration styles. The students let their imaginations run wild whilst working on the books; one story depicts Darren as a king whilst other stories depict him as a Viking or a modern-day Francis of Assisi.

The students from Edinburgh College of Art, have worked side by side to complete a book about Darren’s life at the Zoo and will be reading their original creations, accompanied with short animations of the books, as well as short films at the event on Saturday. The event provides a unique and informative insight into the living collections at the Zoo and also explains the mission of conservation in a fun, creative way children will enjoy. Eight of the art students will feature their final books at the event this Saturday, where they will read their stories aloud and share with the audience what inspired them whilst they were creating their artworks.

The Man who lives in the Zoo. Credits: RZSS Edinburgh Zoo
The Man who lives in the Zoo. Credits: RZSS Edinburgh Zoo

In order to create their books, the students from Edinburgh College of Art were given special behind-the-scenes access to RZSS Edinburgh Zoo and even had a sleepover to experience all the Zoo’s night sounds. The students pitched their ideas for their books to Darren and Kathy Sorley, RZSS’ Thinker in Residence, who then offered constructive critique and shortlisted six stories before picking their two favourites. The two students who won the challenge, were given the chance to be zookeepers for the day with Darren. The public will be able to vote for their favourite book over the summer, and the winning book will be put forward for publication.

Darren first fell in love with the Zoo as a child when he visited it with his family, and first considered working at the Zoo when a career officer visited his school. He then started working at the Zoo through a government youth programme at the age of 16, before securing a position as a full-time hoofstock keeper. He has worked his way up and through all the different animal sections, including birds and primates, and became Animal Collection Manager, Head of Animals in 2011.  Darren is now the Head of Living Collections and is responsible for all the species kept in the collection at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo; this includes husbandry, health management, nutrition and veterinary services. He has an incredibly exciting job which is different every day. As part of his job, Darren visited the Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Centre in China where he studied panda breeding behaviour and, to the envy of most people, even cuddled a panda.

Meet the main character of the different stories: Darren McGarry. Credits: RZSS Edinburgh Zoo
Meet the main character of the different stories: Darren McGarry. Credits: RZSS Edinburgh Zoo

The Man Who Lives at the Zoo event is open to adults and children of all ages. There will be stories of Darren’s life as told by the art students as well as talks from Darren himself. Visitors will also have a chance to meet Darren and ask him questions about living at the Zoo. The event is free with Zoo entry and there is no need to book as all the events are drop-in sessions.

Sommige persberichten gepubliceerd door ZooTripper werden mede mogelijk gemaakt door in samenwerking met ZOO Logisch. / Some news releases published by ZooTripper are in cooperation with ZOO Logisch.