Q&A with Molly Ruder: A Day in the Life of Watatunga Wildlife Reserve’s Operations Manager

by | Dec 7, 2023 | Watatunga Blog

Q: Can you tell us about your role as the Operations Manager at Watatunga Wildlife Reserve and your journey leading up to this position?

A: Certainly. I joined Watatunga in April this year, bringing with me experience from West Midlands Safari Park, Wild Place Project & ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. As the Operations Manager, my responsibilities encompass a wide array of tasks, including animal management, initiating transfers, collection planning, overseeing veterinary care, adherence to zoo licensing standards, conservation plan development, education and research policies, as well as overseeing tours, experiences, education, health and safety, and line managing the team.

Molly and the Sambar

Q: What does a typical day look like for you at Watatunga?

A: No two days are the same, which is what makes my role so exciting. I kickstart my day around 8 am with animal rounds across the reserve, spending about two hours checking on the residents—currently keeping a close eye on a water buffalo herd with 13 calves expected soon. After checking on the reserve I attend to the offshow animals across multiple different sites. Returning to the farm office, where I spend time writing up daily records, updating policies etc.

Molly and the Buffalo
Molly and Orja

Q: How does the rest of your day unfold?

A: Early afternoons often involve tasks like moving animals or continuing with animal records and zoo licensing paperwork. The dynamic nature of my job keeps me on my toes, and having a close-knit team ensures we’re always prepared for the unexpected. Seasons play a role in our work—spring and summer are for new arrivals, while winter sees us preparing for off-show exhibits and scripting new experiences for visitors as well as manging our breeding groups.

Molly and Karen

Q: Do you have a favourite part of your job or a particular aspect that stands out to you?

A: The best part is the diversity and unpredictability of each day. I appreciate the opportunity to work closely with rare species, such as the white-lipped deer. We are one of the few places within UK that holds this species, and it’s truly special. Another favourite of mine is the bongo; I’m excited about the potential for their success at the reserve and about the possibilities for additional Bongo at Watatunga next year.

Molly and the Sitatunga

Q: Can you share more about Watatunga’s unique approach to animal management?

A: At Watatunga, we take an unconventional approach to animal management. Instead of strictly following guidelines, we adjust our methods based on the behaviour of the animals. We like to offer them choice and control over their environments. This approach allows us to cater to the unique needs and characteristics of each resident, ensuring their well-being and creating a more natural and enriching environment.

Molly and Hattie

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