Well, three days to be precise, as I only work Mon -Weds when I'm there now.
As it is the week running up to Easter and therefore one of the busiest times of year for the zoo, my priority was to replace all the jaded looking identification signs on the animal enclosures.
So first thing Monday I was out with my notebook, walking the 12 acre site making a note of all faded, damaged or missing ID signs - which took about 2 hours to do. This walkabout also means that I can update myself on the animals and what's happening in the zoo grounds in general. As always there are new additions such as baby meerkats and a baby howler monkey, an Easter trail and a merry-go-round for the kids, an 'exhibition' of installation art in various positions around the grounds, and then there's the catching up with the various animal characters. Seeing how much a 'toddler' gorilla and red-ruffed lemur have grown, my old favourites - the Asiatic lions grooming each other in the sun, the red pandas up their tree (later in the year they are hidden by the foliage) and the fruit bats stretching their wings in the sun. The last time I was working in the zoo was just prior to Christmas when the skies were grey and the zoo gardens look bare as they were prepared for winter. Now the garden beds are full of colour and the grounds look alive and buzzing again. What a great time of year to come back!
Onto the matter of replacing signs........ When I first started at the zoo, over 11 years ago, all new and replacement ID signs were hand painted. The animal information and map was printed in a set format onto A4 paper from a computer and I painted straight onto this. Then it was trimmed and laminated to protect it from moisture and dirt. In time the zoo acquired a colour photocopier which had been donated and this was then used to copy the illustrations so that the originals could then be kept on file and I didn't have to keep painting replacements. The ID sign was printed from the computer and the photocopied illustration was cut to size and stuck onto it before being laminated. Eventually after a good few years of service the photocopier gave up the ghost and by this time the Graphics Dept, in which I work, had a good colour printer. Since then we have been steadily scanning in my originals and creating a file for each ID sign on the computer so that now replacements are even easier to do.
So Monday afternoon to Wednesday lunchtime I was printing off ID signs, trimming, laminating, trimming again and then applying double-sided tape to the back of each one. Then in the afternoon I was tearing off old signs and sticking up the new ones, all 97 of them. Quite a mammoth task but with the help of a work colleague the job got done in the nick of time.
So, no painting this week for me at the zoo, but I expected that, as on my return after my 3 months off, the routine is to make sure the ID signs are looking good. Next week I have a few more to finish off before I can start on the species that are awaiting illustrations and ID signs. At the moment there's a rattlesnake, a hornbill and a mantis and some new coral fish and anemones waiting for my attention.