uShaka Sea World’s Gabrielle Harris is PAAZA Animal Keeper of the Year 2016

Gabby is the epitome of an excellent animal keeper. She is passionate about her animals and has dedicated her life to their care and display. Her passion for animals is equalled by her passion for conservation communication, a goal she works towards daily through presentations at uShaka Sea World. She is indeed a worthy recipient of the 2016 PAAZA Keeper of the Year award.

Gabby with Gambit and her 2016 PAAZA Keeper of the Year award

As the daughter of a veterinarian practising in Nelspruit, Gabby was born into the animal world and grew up surrounded by nature and animals of all shapes and sizes. After finishing school she completed her BA at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and started working at Sea World in 1990.

Gabby is the most experienced marine mammal trainer in South Africa and oversaw the move of the animals from the old Sea World venue to the new uShaka Marine World facility – a task which took incredible patience and nerves of steel.

Gabby currently holds the position of curator of animal behaviour and guest experience at uShaka Sea World. The aim of uShaka Sea World is to inspire people to care for the oceans and Gabby is ideally placed to inspire our visitors to care for our ocean environment.

Not only does Gabby inspire visitors from all over Southern Africa and beyond our borders, but she is an inspiration to her colleagues and friends. “I did not know what being in a relationship with an animal meant until I watched Gabby working with the dolphins,” said her long-time colleague Arenea Becker.

Gabby and Arenea with Gambit

Over the years Gabby has also mentored and encouraged many mammal behaviourists, some of whom have gone on to have successful careers around the world. She was one of the founder members of Animal Keepers of Africa (AKA) and it is largely thanks to her energy and commitment that this group is still running. She is passionate about animal behaviour management and is committed to sharing this through training courses and the AKA.

Gabby was also the originator of Penguin Promises – a campaign that is currently running both nationally and internationally under the auspices of PAAZA and SAAMBR.

Not only has Gabby been inspirational in South Africa but she has consulted internationally and is well respected throughout the world for her knowledge of animal behaviour. 

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