Sunday 28 September

Sunday 28 September, 8.00pm

New Zealand is a country of Animal Lovers. With nearly 800,000 dogs and 1.5 million cats, we have one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world. TVNZ Family is delighted to bring New Zealanders a new family television series, hosted by Sarah Ulmer and Jeremy Maguire, for people passionate about animals – Animal Academy.

Willowbank Wildlife Park Head Ranger Jeremy Maguire has always had an affinity for animals. “I started off with guinea pigs, rabbits and goldfish and graduated to a dog called Finn – a terrier,” he says. “Finn is still around at 11 years old, and he’s best friends with my own dog Fyffe. I have a few tropical fish – which are dwindling in numbers. But, of course, I have a massive collection of animals at work. My animals are more varied than anyone’s!”
He admits that he has pretty much landed his dream job when he got the role at Willowbank Wildlife Park. “I guess I knew what I was going to be when I saw the ad for it in the paper. I’ve always enjoyed being with animals and watched all the animal TV shows. I did the Parks and Recreation degree at Lincoln University, so I was always going to do something outdoorsy. As soon as I saw the ad for Willowbank Park Warden in the paper, I knew that that was what I wanted to do.”

Over the years, his work with animals has taken him to many amazing places, including the Galapagos Islands. “I went over there as part of a team assembled from people in New Zealand to live capture donkeys. Unfortunately, we didn’t catch any donkeys because the tranquilisers didn’t work! The donkeys just hee-hawed back into the forest!

Jeremy has also been to the Chathams to live capture weka to start a breeding programme. “We were more successful with that expedition than with the Galapagos Islands! We caught 13 weka, which was our quota. We’ve had some success with that programme too – we’ve hatched about seven chicks so far.”

So with so many to choose from, what is his favourite animal? “Fyffe is pretty special because he’s my dog. I really like Charlie the chimpanzee at Willowbank, and I like pigs too. Pigs are underrated!”

Jeremy has had a ball working with co-host Sarah Ulmer and says that they have more than a love of animals in common. “I love bikes – my mountain bike and road bike. I guess I have that in common with Sarah!”

This week, Sarah Ulmer and Jeremy Maguire meet Elle and Paul who keep Pukekos as pets; master dog groomer Shelia Morris brings out the brushes; and resident vet Deborah performs the complicated procedure of a dog speying. Plus, Jeremy swims with New Zealand’s own rare Hector’s dolphins.

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