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34Network She I Autumn/Winter 2012They say never work with animals or children yet Sue Coleman does both. "I wouldn't be without either. I've always been interested in the natural world and I love being able to teach children about animals and watch their fascination when they see them. It never ceases to amaze me." she said.She can pinpoint the moment in her life that her passion for the living world was sparked."I was only about three or four years old and I remember looking into a fish tank and that was it. I was fascinated and ever since then I have been interested in all living things.""I felt very privileged to be able to study animals at such close quarters." said Sue. It also gave her the opportunity to bring an eclectic procession of waifs and strays home for 24 hour care. moved to New Jersey for three years before returning to North Wales where Sue had her first taste of zoo life when she worked as a volunteer at the age of 13. Then at 18 her family moved to South Africa where she went to university and gained her degree in biochemistry before returning home, aged 24, to work as a biochemist at Liverpool University. She then came back over the border to Wales to work at Robertson's Research where she met her husband Steve. They were transferred to Houston Texas with their work for five years and then returned once again to Wales where they started a family. Sue gave up working to look after their two boys Timothy and David but when they were old enough to go to school she went full circle by returning to the Welsh Mountain Zoo as a volunteer and then into the job there as Education Officer. Her passion was not the easiest thing to cope with for her mother who had a pathological fear of anything that flies.As a child Sue recalls her mother running along the road screaming when a jackdaw tried to land on her head. Her phobia was not helped when Sue's father came home from work one day with a bat which he had rescued from an old building where he had been working. "We tried not to let my mother know because she had a phobia about bats and all went well until later in the evening we heard terrible screaming coming from upstairs. We rushed upstairs and there was my mother looking at the bat hanging from the curtains in her bedroom. We didn't realise the bat had been in hibernation and had woken up when we brought it into the house." said Sue.My FAMILY and Andrea Williams finds out how one woman has managed to make a harmonious mix working with animals and children We had a baby crocodile with rickets in the bath"I was only about three or four years old and I remember looking into a fish tank and that was it. I was fascinated and ever since then I have been interested in all living things.""We had a baby crocodile with rickets in the bath once and an owl in the front room and my brother had a pet boa constrictor," recalls Sue. In fact there are few animals that you can mention, which I did, that Sue had not had at some stage. Sue was also able to see more exotic animals during periods of her life when she lived abroad. When she was four her family

www.networkshe.com35she never ceases to be amazed at children's concepts of the animal world.In addition there is the Zoo itself which Sue can use as her extended classroom. However there are plans to build a bigger Education and Training Centre at the Welsh Mountain Zoo which is now a registered charity to cope with the increasing number of visits.Sue has a wealth of animal stories to rival David Attenborough. Her house is a small Zoo in itself with tarantulas, cockroaches, frogs, lizards, turtles and snakes along with the more traditional animals like gerbils and mice. In fact when I questioned her she was hard pushed to remember exactly how many animals she does have at home (stick insects for example can have hundreds of babies).On the plus side her sons found they could have any sort of pet they wanted so long as they looked after them properly. Sue started them off with stick insects saying if you can look after a stick insect the principles are the same for looking after any other animal. Once when one of the boys went to school he felt something in his shoe. When he took it off to empty it, out crawled a giant hissing cockroach which resulted in a worried call from his teacher. Not to mention the time that the iguana escaped and ended up on the roof but that's another story..on her hand which I did and then incredibly she asked me if I would put it on her head! She was really brave because when she first arrived she couldn't even bear to look at a picture of a spider." said Sue.Schools come from far and wide to the Education Centre at the Zoo and for many children it is the first time they have seen some animals close up. "I remember one child who saw the chinchilla and asked if it was an elephant! He mistook it because it was grey with big ears which he associated with an elephant. He had no idea how big an elephant was because he'd only ever seen one on television," explained Sue who added that Yet her mother's fears did not deter but encouraged Sue, as part of her work at the zoo, helping some people overcome their animal phobias.One visit to Sue's office makes you realise how well equipped she is to do this. Strip lighting is replaced by a large stuffed albatross suspended from the ceiling. While the usual filing cabinets have made way for a myriad of cages which house everything from tarantulas and snakes to rats and other small rodents. Not a place for the faint hearted but ideal resources for those trying to overcome their fears.Snakes and spiders top the list. Sue usually begins by getting people to look at a picture of the animal before gradually introducing the real thing or more gradually such as touching a shed snake skin."One lady had a fear of spiders so I got her first to look at a tarantula skin. When she felt comfortable with that I showed her the real thing. She then asked if I would put it and other ANIMALSOne child saw the chinchilla and asked if it was an elephant