All Alphen residents know Vogelpark Avifauna. And those who visit there regularly will undoubtedly have seen Alphenaar Dennis Appels walking through the park. As a care team leader, he is right at home there. In fact, Avifauna is in his backyard. He lives with his wife and 2 children next to the bird park office.
Raised among the animals
The love of caring for animals was with Dennis from an early age. It even runs in the family. Born in Apeldoorn, he was a regular at home in, you guessed it, Apenheul. Not only because he lived nearby, but also because his parents worked there. “I practically grew up there. It was actually my second home. As a result, I learned all sorts of things about looking after animals at an early age. Eventually I also started my first part-time job in Apenheul. The fun part? My wife and I also met there, and so did my parents.”
After completing the animal care and animal management training, Dennis ended up at Avifauna. First as a zookeeper, now for some years as a team leader zookeeper. For this he also moved to Alphen aan den Rijn, a stone’s throw from the bird park. “It is also part of the job. It lasts for 24 hours, so sometimes animals also need care in the evening. So it is practical that the animal park is in my backyard.”
This article was previously published in the eleventh edition (December 2022) of Alphens.nl Magazine. Have you not received the magazine? You can pick up a copy at our office at Raadhuisstraat 211.
Contact with visitors
No day is the same for Dennis. “In the morning you clean an enclosure, 2 hours later you sit around the table with the director to discuss the design of a new area, and in the afternoon you are again busy with animal transport.” But Dennis’ work certainly does not only take place behind the scenes. “As caretakers, we also walk through the park. Visitors can therefore simply approach and ask questions. Such unexpected moments of contact are very valuable for visitors. If you can also give them an inside tip, for example by pointing them to a place where a young bird has just hatched, it will make an impression. Especially on children.”
Balance between humans and animals
In 2022, Avifauna opened the Argentine Cerrado, a project that Dennis has also been closely involved in. “I experience the entire process from A to Z. So in the design phase I think together with the animals, but also during the construction itself. We choose to cooperate with local companies, but this often requires an extra explanation. They don’t build animal shelters every day.” He adds with a smile: “Just explain that they’re going to deliberately build something crooked, and they’ll look at you strangely.”
Avifauna is not a shelter, but a zoo. And that brings a lot of visitors. “As an animal care team, I am constantly looking for the balance between creating a comfortable environment for the animals and offering the visitors the optimal experience. Take, for example, the anteater in the Argentine Cerrado. This animal sleeps a lot and we want to respect that, so we are looking at how we can create a place to sleep where visitors can see the anteater at the same time. A fantastic solution for people and animals.”
Moment of happiness
Dennis’ favorite place in Avifauna? He doesn’t have that. “I can’t choose. For me it’s Avifauna as a total picture that I enjoy. From the new habitat that has become beautiful and the colony of flamingos when they are all noisy, to the tropical hall after closing time. While all the birds around you are noisy , you have a moment to yourself. If you ask me a beautiful moment of happiness? This is it.”