Safari So Good for Zoo’s Tiger TamerVisitors to the amusement park Everland, located in the Gyeonggi province city of Yon- gin, can see something extraordinary at the park's zoo, Safari World: a young woman behind the wheel of a jeep steering through a bunch of tigers and lions.
What's more, the woman doesn't just navigate through the fierce beasts behind the safety of steel - she actually gets out and works to tame them.
"People who see me working at the safari seem to be amazed," said Kim Min-jung, the animal handler who's getting a lot of attention at the park these days. "Some visitors, while taking pictures of animals, try to snap shots of me as well, which makes me uncomfortable." being chosen over 10 other applicants for the position. She studied French in college, and was planning to advance to graduate school, but ditched that idea when she found an online advertisement Everland had posted seeking animal handlers.
She said she chose to apply because she has been fond of animals for as long as she can remember. Ms. Kim comes to work bright and early each day, about 7:30 a.m., and starts by inspecting each of the animal enclosures to ensure the zoo's residents are fine. She then tidies up the pastureland and gets ready for visitors. By the time that routine is finished it's usually after 10 a.m.
She climbs into her jeep and drives to the safari grounds to make sure again that all the beasts are safe and sound. Sometimes she even invites visitors to ride in the jeep with her. The hardest part of the job, she said, is hauling around the animals' food, which is packed in sacks of up to 30 kilograms.
"Even though I'm a woman there's no way of getting around that part,ls she said. Of all the animals in Ms. Kim's care, her favorite is a 9-year-old male tiger, Hogeori. Ms. Kim said she believes that Hogeori took a liking to her before she did to him. She explained that Hogeori once urinated right near her, as if marking her as his "territory," when she was delivering his afternoon meal. That began the close relationship between the beauty and the beast. "I even had a dream that Hogeori became a man and that we played together," she said.
Keeping her French scholarship on the back burner, this young animal handler plans to study wildlife so that she can continue to work, help and protect such animals.
by Sung Si-yoon