Belfast woman Carolyn Hope gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, 'taking your work home with you'. The back room of the house she shares with husband Andrew, children Ryan and Cayla and the two family dogs is currently home to a baby crowned lemur called Amber.
Previous residents over the years have included penguins, various species of birds and other primates.
"We've grown very fond of Amber, even though she has taken to throwing food around the room," laughs Carolyn, who works as a keeper at Belfast Zoo. "But I'm keen to get her back with her parents.
"Sometimes for different reasons, it's necessary to hand-rear a baby animal for a while - as short a time as possible - and although it's a wonderful experience it can be very tiring.
"Baby animals often need feeds every two hours. Birds don't really eat at night, so we get to sleep, but with a primate, you have to do it 24/7.
"Andrew and I take turns and the kids have just got used to it," she laughs.
Carolyn (45) has worked as a keeper since 1999. It's where she met Andrew, who works as a curator at the zoo. The couple have been together 21 years.
At the minute, Carolyn looks after 43 penguins, three sea lions, 42 flamingos and a Moloch gibbon called Hilo, eight Colombian spider monkeys and three female Blesbok antelopes.
"I've worked with many different species over the years and you're not supposed to have favourites, but mine is definitely the penguins," she says.
"They are such characters and they all have individual personalities. They can be quite funny, but also quite frustrating at times.
"Before I worked with penguins, I wouldn't have said that they were animals that I particularly wanted to work with, but now I've really got attached to them."
So what's a typical day in the life of a zookeeper?
"Basically the husbandry of the animals. Feeding them two to three times a day, checking their health status (for the penguins and sea lions, checking their mouths and flippers) and cleaning their enclosures - there's an awful lot of cleaning," she laughs.
"We also do a lot of what we call 'enrichment', especially with the primates, where you have to keep them mentally stimulated.
"We don't physically interact or play with the animals ourselves, we give them something to do or play with themselves or in their group. And you can't do the same thing all the time. You have to think outside the box and come up with new things.
"It can be as simple as changing the shape of their food, or giving them boxes to play with. It has to be different for every primate because what works for one, won't work for another.
"One of our primates will play in a ball pit, but another will try and eat the balls. You have to keep changing their activities all the time. They keep us on our toes.
"But it's very satisfying to see the animals enjoying an activity.
"You also have to check that the enclosures are all safe and secure. And you sometimes have to work with the vet, not just when an animal is ill, but a lot of them, especially the birds, would get yearly vaccines.
"So your daily routine has to be planned around things such as that and also if an animal is due to give birth, things have to be switched around.
"Animals usually have their babies at night when we aren't there, but we always know when the time is coming and we make sure the mother is comfy and feels safe. They do better and get less stressed without an audience.
"Then in the morning, you can't get in to work quick enough to see the new baby."
Before Carolyn began her career at the zoo she worked as a dental nurse - a job, she says, has come in quite handy at times.
"The zoo has a full-time vet and there is a specialist animal dentist that comes over regularly from England and I sometimes get to work with him.
"We have a really old gorilla called Delilah who is 57 and one of her teeth had fallen out. I was able to lift it and examine it and see exactly what part of her mouth it had come from.
"I had always wanted to work with animals, but back then there weren't any animal-related courses in colleges.
"I had been working as a dental nurse and saw an advertisement for maternity cover for one of the zookeepers. I applied for the nine-month placement and after that I registered with an agency that the zoo use.
"I was back providing cover within a week and then a keeper left and I got her post. While I was working, I completed a two-year animal management correspondence course - a course which you can now do at a number of further and higher education colleges."
Although Carolyn says it is very important not to humanise the animals, she admits that the keepers and their charges do get attached to one another.
"They really do. The penguins especially," she says. "Before Covid, visitors could come to the zoo and have an animal experiences where a maximum of two people could come into the enclosure with me.
"If I go into the enclosure with another person, they follow me about, not the other person.
"I do have a few favourite penguins. There is one female in particular that whether she's hungry or not, she'll come and just stand beside me."
Even though they are wild animals it must be heart-breaking when one passes away?
"It's devastating and it's horrible, says Carolyn. "But when you work with animals, you can't make it about yourself.
"If one of the penguins die, I still have a lot of other penguins that I have to look after. You do a sort of protection mechanism on yourself and you get on with it.
"You'll have a tearful moment later on when you go home, but when you're in work, the other animals need you.
"It does seem quite harsh and there are some that really do pull on the heartstrings. It's hard to not cry, especially if it's an animal that had a great personality and with which you had a bond that no one else had witnessed.
"I also get sad when animals have to move to other zoos. I know it's for the greater good, and it's part of the breeding programme and what we're about, but you do get upset when they move on.
"We used to have a pack of primates called lion-tailed macaques who were great fun and the whole group went to another zoo and I really missed them.
"But Belfast Zoo is about preserving species and zoos have to work together as part of a breeding programme.
"In the wild, when animals grow up, they would leave their family group and go off to find a mate and start their own group. Zoos work together to allow that to happen and to maintain bloodlines.
"It's hard to let go when you work with the animals, but it's the best thing for them."
How have the animals fared during the pandemic, have they been missing people?
"The primates have definitely missed people. Hilo, the Moloch gibbon, is 34-years-old. He is a wee sweetheart and is one of the visitors' favourites.
"He just loves watching people and he is definitely missing the visitors.
"I've had to really up my game with the enrichment activities to keep him stimulated.
"The likes of the flamingos aren't really bothered whether there are people there or not," she laughs. "It's definitely more the primates.
"And I really miss the public as well," adds Carolyn.
"I loved doing 'keeper talks' where I would talk to a group of visitors about the animals and about the zoo. You get such good feedback and sometimes you can educate and change opinions about what we do.
"Zoos can play a huge educational role in informing people about different species. When we do our talks, we can tell people why we have these animals - some can be extremely vulnerable, some may be in danger of becoming extinct."
When asked what's the best thing about her job? Unsurprisingly Carolyn says 'the animals'. But is there a 'worst thing'?
"Oh the weather," she laughs. "I have to be out there rain, hail or shine. I have three coats and I often go through all of them in the one day. Get soaked, dry off, change coat. Get soaked, dry off, change coat. Get soaked, dry off, change coat…
"But I love my job, so our Northern Ireland weather is a small price to pay."
What I have learned
1: Compassion - You have to have a lot of compassion when you work with animals. And although, you can't put human terms on animals, I have seen them display compassion - especially primates. If one has a cut or is unwell, the others will come over to check it's all right. And if one of their group passes away, they can miss them.
2: Patience - Working with animals isn't straightforward. They won't necessarily do what you expect them or want them to do. They do things on their own terms.
3: Responsibility - The animals that you look after need you and depend on you for their care. There's nobody else.
4: Professionalism - When talking to the visitors, I have to be professional and make sure I get the right information and message across.
5: Be open minded - Take it on board what other people say. Working in the zoo, you are part of a team, so you have to be open to new ideas and ideas that may be very different from your own.