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Doncaster banker becomes author and zoo keeper in New Zealand

Graham Johns in New Zealand
Graham Johns in New Zealand

Former banker Graham Johns has swapped his banking career for one with birds and baboons, .

Mr Johns lived in Doncaster for most of his life, including spells at Intake, Town Moor, and Rossington, where his mother still lives.But four years ago he and wife Laura decided on a major life change, and made the move to Auckland in New Zealand.
Now the 42-year old has embarked on a very different career, and has also written a book, available on Kindle, that he hopes to see in paperback soon.
He explained: “I worked for the Yorkshire Bank from 1998-2002, just after graduating from York University, then again from 2007-2014.
“Some of that time, in 2000, was spent at Thorne branch, but most of it was in Head Office in Leeds.
“In 2014 Laura and I decided we fancied a new experience on a large scale.
“I transferred within the National Australia Bank Group, who owned Yorkshire Bank at the time, to go and work with the Bank of New Zealand.
“Sadly, this wasn’t a positive environment for me in the end, and I decided to leave in late 2015 after checking with immigration if that was okay to do. They said with a chuckle that it was fine as my visa conditions were all about Laura’s job!
“I went on to volunteer with a bird rescue, caring for sick and injured birds. I’ve had pet birds for a large portion of my life.
“It’s interesting how history repeats itself because my nan and grandad (the late Lily and Brinley Coles) used to have a nature reserve in Misterton, and did something very similar.
“Anyway, one thing led to another and I also became involved in a zoo’s fieldwork conservation programme on Rotoroa Island, and then as a keeper assistant volunteer with their birds team.
“As of February 2018, I’ve been studying a zookeeping course at Unitec in Auckland, which is vocational in nature and includes a placement at a zoo.
“I’m hoping this will lead to a job in the industry afterwards.
“As far as my writing goes, I’ve always loved reading and thought that I should have a go at writing a book.
“It took about a year from starting writing to publishing, and a large chunk of that time was spent on editing.
“It’s not easy to assign a writing genre but I finally opted for comedy and science fiction when I published it on Amazon.
“It is called ‘Baabaric’, is set in a fictional farming village of Nether-Staining on the Yorkshire-Lancashire border, and is only available at present for the Kindle or Kindle reader app..”
His new line of work with birds and animals definitely has its challenges, admitted Graham, and every creature presents new opportunities for learning.
“Working up close with baboons is certainly pretty intense...even with the safety of a barrier between you.” he explained.
“I was told that you shouldn’t look them in the eye as this is a challenge signal...but then they spend time trying to attract your attention by staring at you, even raising their eyebrows, and occasionally screaming at you.
“They are very clever with fascinatingly complex behaviours.
“They like to sit in doorways so doors have to be left open...it’s like a battle of wits in some ways.
“One day when I was working with the baboons, they’d left a piece of foliage blocking a door, which I was clearing out of the way with a broom handle.
“Suddenly an arm appeared and pulled the foliage from the space in lightning-quick speed...a bit like something you’d see in a horror movie.
“I t was so fast! Made me jump!
“I was amazed to find that tigers really are like big domestic cats up close too.”
He continued: “I’ve dealt with injured morepork, which is a native New Zealand owl, at the rescue, who like to lay on their backs with claws in the air when you try to pick them up...and even a more healthy morepork that was so friendly it decided to jump on my phone when I tried to take a photo of it!
“Trying to catch baby quail or pheasant sure is tough if they get away from you...they’re so fast!
“It’s amazing how different types of birds behave so differently at close quarters with humans...pigeons, for example, aren’t scared of us and tolerate handling really well, whereas smaller doves start flapping and try to escape the first chance they get.
“I have photographs of me feeding a Red Panda...they are so cute - that is one of the most delightful things you can ever do I think, and another is at the bird rescue with a Little Blue Penguin which was recuperating.
“I’ve never feared for personal safety when dealing with birds and animals...but it’s important that you don’t forget that these animals aren’t pets and follow all the procedures carefully.”

The Johns celebrate their new life in New Zealand

The Johns celebrate their new life in New Zealand