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News / City Life

Quit your job, become an... aquarist

Quit your job, become an... aquarist
Rob Greig

Graham Banton, 30, senior aquarist at the Sea Life London Aquarium and poison dart frog keeper

What the heck is a poison dart frog and can it kill you?

'The name comes from the Amazonian Indians using poison from the frog's skin on their arrowheads while hunting. The poison builds up in their skin from noxious ants they eat in the wild, but the ones we have in our collection aren't that poisonous because we feed them fruit flies and crickets.'

Are amphibians easier to work with than humans?

'It's easier to understand animals than people, but the two things go hand in hand because we're really here to educate people about them and tell them how great the animals are.'

So why did you become an aquarist?

'I've been fascinated by the ocean and the animals that are in it since I was a kid, shoving my head into rock pools on the beach. The first job I got at an aquarium was giving talks and tours, and I was lucky enough to be able to translate that into working with the animals day to day.'

Which animal do you like working with the most?

'We have a bowmouth guitarfish in the shark tank called Betty. From an evolutionary point of view, she's halfway between a shark and a ray and she's really cool-looking, really prehistoric. She's the one in the tank who, when we go diving, will come and say hello and see what we're doing.'

Do you need to be able to swim to do this?

'Only some of us are divers and obviously we have to be able to swim, but it's not an obligation, it just helps.'

Does anything alarming happen when you're diving?

'When we dive in the main oceans display, all the animals come up to feed and sometimes you get pooped on by a turtle. It's disgusting.'

So the squeamish need not apply?

'You need a strong stomach for the smell. That's one of the big things, it's quite fishy. My girlfriend says I smell bad - but to be honest, I can't even smell it any more.'

Hours: 40 per week

Starting salary: £17,000 pa

Qualifications: A marine biology degree is a good start

Or, why not become a toymaker?

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