Zoo keeper
Agricultural, Natural, Animal Care

Zoo keepers care for animals in zoos, safari parks, bird gardens and aquaria. They clean enclosures and cages, provide food and water to the animals, monitor health and look after sick and injured animals. Zoo keepers work with the public, for example, answering questions, and are responsible for the safety of animals and people. They take part in research, conservation and breeding projects.

Work Activities

Zoo keepers have practical duties such as mucking out and cleaning animal houses, and internal and external areas of enclosures. They prepare food for the animals, and provide them with fresh water and clean bedding.

Zoo keepers also have to provide the animals with an environment that is stimulating, meets their behavioural needs and encourages a range of natural behaviours. This is known as environmental enrichment. Sometimes, zoo keepers will design and make devices that add to environmental enrichment.

They need to keep careful records of the animals' health, diet and behaviour. They note changes that might be clues to illness, injury or pregnancy, bringing these to a vet's attention. They help vets to treat animals and follow their instructions for looking after them.

In some jobs, keepers have contact with the public. For example, they answer visitors' questions, and give talks and presentations. They are always responsible for the safety of animals and the public. They need to enforce policies and health and safety procedures, for example, quarantine restrictions for newly arrived animals, and preventing visitors from feeding the animals.

In some zoos, keepers have the opportunity to take part in research projects. This could involve animal observations and collecting data, giving presentations and going to meetings and conferences. Zoo keepers can take part in conservation work or monitor breeding animals as a part of a national or global breeding programme.

In safari parks, the keeper's work can include extra tasks, such as patrolling by vehicle to make sure visitors are safe.

The work can be physically challenging as zoo keepers have to work outside in all types of weather and be prepared to get dirty.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of zoo keepers are zoological societies, trusts, local authorities and commercial organisations. These run zoos, safari and wildlife parks, bird gardens and aquariums, throughout the UK.

Zoo keepers can have the opportunity to work in other countries on conservation, education and animal welfare projects.

Qualifications

To become a zoo keeper, there are no set entry requirements. However, most zoos will look for at least 5 GCSEs (A*-C) or equivalent. Some zoos ask for English, Maths and a science subject (preferably Biology). Some zoo keepers have higher-level qualifications such as A levels, foundation degrees, HNDs or degrees in areas like animal management, biology or zoology.

To get onto an Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you will usually need at least five GCSEs/ National 4/5s, grades A* - C, including English and Maths.

Zoos usually look favourably on applicants who have college qualifications in animal care/management, or City & Guilds Land Based Services Awards, Certificates and Diplomas in Work-based Animal Care (levels 1-3).

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