on 02-05-2017 12:22 PM
As far back as I can remember, I have always held a strong passion for wildlife. Such a heavy affinity with animals always seems natural and somewhat instinctive to the young and naive. It is only once you find yourself ridiculed by your peers for your excessive interest in the natural world that you start to realise that you are destined to live out your life as an “animal person” – and that’s OK.
My name is Mollie King, I am 24 years old and I am the owner and director of the Kent Owl Academy in Maidstone.
I have often said that animal trainers and zookeepers are born and not made. However, I may be a contradicting myself. My father, Nigel King is highly recognised and acclaimed as a performance falconer -and has been for the last 35 years. Would my love for animals have been any different if I had been born into another family? Who knows. What I do know is that my Father’s passion and dedication to birds of prey certainly set me in good stead for a future career doing what I love.
I am unable to profess to having 20+ years’ worth of experience working with birds of prey (like some who would refer to themselves as experts). However, I started volunteering at age 12, which gives me 12 years of intense practical experience. I believe that time and physical maturity are not necessarily prime factors when it comes to the extent of knowledge gained. Everyone is different. Over the years, I have worked with eagles, vultures, hawks, falcons, owls and other birds such as storks and Frogmouths. It was my personal choice to choose a career working with owls, as opposed to the inability to fly other birds.
The Kent Owl Academy was set up in the late Summer of 2016. It is home to 13 owls as well as a few other exhibits. My largest owl being a 14-year-old male European Eagle owl, my smallest being a 2016 Tengmalm’s or Boreal owl. When I opened the Academy, it was for one real purpose; Education. It astounds me how little people know about the natural world around them. Growing up in a younger generation has bestowed me with its fair share of gifts, including depression. Be that as it may, I consider the fondest of my childhood memories to be the times I was out in the marshland catching frogs, looking for wild owl pellets and watching adders basking on the downs. Childhood activities I took for granted and are now watching succumb to extinction.
My view is that the best way to educate is to make something memorable. I find my educational sessions to always be a success due to the accompaniment of a live exhibit. I visit schools, universities, colleges, private clubs and even prisons with the intent to leave having deposited a little more information into the brains of the audience. If one person remembers one thing I have said- I am doing my job. We can all take small steps to eradicate ignorance and promote a healthy intoxication with the natural world.
I run experience days for the same reason. Less for the entertainment and more for a memorable and positive stimulus to couple with a day of learning.
People love owls. The way I see it, why not encourage that love in a healthy and informed way. If shown in the right way, potential “Pet“ owl keepers can be shocked into submission with a few horror stories from previous rescues.
As well as running the centre, outreach programmes and administration, I am also currently working on a few side projects, including a book on the Tawny Frogmouth. The Frogmouth is not a relative of the owl but it is a species I find to be fascinating. I am in contact with an incredibly knowledgeable professor in Australia and she has been happy to share her remarkable research with me. I am certain the finished book will be a real success. (Whenever I can find the time to finish it!)
I am fully aware that it is nothing but luck and privilege that has allowed me to open my facility at such a young age. I intend to fully utilise my situation and turn the Kent Owl Academy into a highly respectable attraction and educational facility.
When it came to a mission statement for the centre I was going to go with ‘Conservation through education’ – However, it seemed a little too cliché. I am going with ‘Do something different’ which I feel is a little more fitting.
I welcome all of those with a passion for owls to visit the KOA and make their own decisions. I will always be there to meet fellow enthusiasts with a positive attitude and kind hospitality. The centre itself is still in its infant stages and I would hope that those in the know can see the potential shining through just as brightly as I can.
on 02-05-2017 01:31 PM
Fantastic article Mollie - with passion and drive like that, The Kent Owl Academy can be nothing but a success!
on 02-05-2017 04:19 PM
Welcome to the community @Kentowlacademy1! Owls are definitely a new one for Pioneers!
If there's anything you're looking for help with to grow your business let us know and I'm happy to point you in the right direction.
on 06-05-2017 01:32 PM
Hello Mollie and welcome to the community.
I have to say that this is a great story and it's been quite the journey for you.
My Daughter is at Uni studyng animals of all kinds and wants to work in a Zoo so I have just sent details about what your doing and a link to your website becaue I think she will like what your doing.
I wish you all the very best for the future.
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