Name: Paul Meek
Department: Maintenance team
Volunteering start date: January 2019
What do you do in your day-to-day life?
Day-to-day I work on Major Infrastructure Programmes within Project Controls for a company called Jacobs, keeping an eye on performance from a cost point of view on the Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme. Previously I worked on the Thames Tideway Tunnel for 5 years, and prior to that, 5 years on the London Olympics completing all the finance reports, until I moved to a games time role, working with the Transport team and driving a BMW most of the time 😊
What made you apply to volunteer at The Big Cat Sanctuary?
I had wanted to get involved in volunteering in situ, such as Africa to work with elephants or with big cats but this was always going to be tricky when you have responsibilities and can’t just up sticks. I loved watching the Big Cat Diaries and saw the TV series with Giles on the tigers and then the series with Maya, learning about volunteering at the BCS through my wife, and as they say, the rest is history.
What expertise do you bring to the sanctuary?
I am pro-active, always wanting to keep busy, my listening ability and my can-do attitude helps me to overcome any shortfall in my maintenance skills J. Unfortunately, my project controls and accountancy qualification have not yet been tested as yet.
Which resident Big Cat Sanctuary cat is your favourite cat and why?
Tough question. I have many which I like to see on my wandering moments. Willow gets lots of my attention and its great listening to her purr. New-ish boy Neron also has a place in my heart, starting to show his cheeky side, rolling around for attention and stalking my fellow maintenance colleagues. I have spent quite some time with Kasanga and he has been great to watch, often seen regally chilling in the sun. Probably the Snow Leopards are my favourite though with smooth looks, and they make a handsome couple, plus their extra strong, long and bushy tail which is mesmerising to watch when hunting in the wild.
What do you enjoy most about your time at The Big Cat Sanctuary?
I love just spending time at The Big Cat Sanctuary, it’s a friendly team, very positive and it’s clear that the people love what they do. It’s great to know you are part of the team and the big project.
When walking around I sometimes have to pinch myself to believe it’s real, it really puts a spring in my step. I love learning the different personalities of the big cats, the chatty ones, those which simply ignore you, but listening to the lion’s converse from far away, or watching Maya stalk those she loves are special moments.
What do you enjoy most about being a volunteer?
It’s great to know you are doing your bit for conservation, however small your contribution may be.
Having the opportunity to get up close to these magnificent animals is special.
Knowing that you are helping some of the aging cats achieve a decent quality of life.
Tell us your most memorable experience at The Big Cat Sanctuary.
Probably it was day one, standing in front of the Snow Leopards with my future colleagues, and watching conservation in action, a little strange but not many people can say, I have seen snow leopards mating from 3 feet away!
Tell us something we wouldn’t otherwise know about you.
My favourite number is 7, after my boyhood footballing hero Kenny Dalglish.
What is your favourite animal and why?
Another extremely tough question. I have so many. Tigers are extra special to me, I always remember my Grandad saying that they were his favourite and seeing his Tiger picture on the wall.
If it swam, then Great White Sharks, menacing and the story of nightmares, but I would love to swim with them. If it had wings, then the wonderful Golden Eagle!
What would be your advice to someone who was thinking about volunteering their time?
Volunteering is not only very rewarding for self-esteem, it provides purpose and is fulfilling in the know you are giving your time to a very worthwhile cause, plus it provides the opportunity to learn new skills and make new friends. I would recommend it whole heartedly, yes it can be tiring, make sure you don’t over commit, and make sure you have a rest day. Don’t burn the candle at both ends, although cats and big cats could be a great reason to do so!