Mr Prickles, Mr Tickle and Kermit may be unlikely chums in the animal world, but they’re all part of Marie Conway’s working family.
The Pygmy hedgehog, African millipede and Australian white treefrog share their living quarters with hissing cockroaches, sugar gliders, rats, reptiles, snakes and a tarantula, while in the garden chickens, ferrets and rabbits live side by side.
If there’s one thing this motley crew have in common, it’s that they don’t mind a day out.
As a franchisee of Animals In-Tuition, Marie Conway, 28, of Westbourne Park, is a familiar face at local schools and nurseries where she runs educational workshops.
Party bookings and staff team building are also regular events which, in Marie’s experience, reveal that we become ‘scaredy cats’ with age.
She said: “Everybody and every workshop is different, I could have a nursery group who handle everything and then a reception group who are really nervous.
“Primary school children still want to hold everything, by the time they get to secondary school they have a fear instilled in them and with adults they don’t want to handle anything.”
Marie is a walking textbook of information on the animals she keeps.
“When I get a new animal I do all the research as children ask weird and wonderful questions,” said Marie. “The most popular one is ‘where’s the animal’s bum?’”
Asked if she can pick a favourite of her “work colleagues”, Marie says “all of them” but added: “sugar gliders are the cutest, ferrets the most playful, chickens the funniest. I’m still not keen on the scorpion even though he’s fascinating.”
Marie’s unusual animal facts
No headaches - Cockroaches can live for a week without their heads beause their brains are in their body
Inside out - Millipedes have their bones on the outside of their body.
Fuzzy fur - Rabbits have tails to confuse foxes. The contrast of tail colour to body fur can disorientate a fox in pursuit.
It’s like an oven in here - Chickens love to sunbathe
Neat storage space - Sugar gliders have pouches like kangaroos to carry their babies.