Working with animals is a massively satisfying career path for a lot of people, and where better to ply your trade than at a zoo? Whether you want to tend to animals in a traditional zoo such as London Zoo or a wildlife park like Knowsley Safari Park, you’ll have to meet the same criteria. We’ve put together a guide to some of the questions you should have before a career in zookeeping.
The right kind of person
You have to care about animals, that’s a given, but there’s more to it. Patience, social skills and confidence are needed. All of these skills will be vital when you’re working in a public setting: you’ll often by among guests, dealing with questions and queries, while administering your duties to the animals in your care. Balancing all of this over a shift will require confidence, a true passion for your work, and the fitness to do it.
The right qualifications
Possibly more important than your grades is being able to demonstrate an interest in animals and conservation. Volunteering in a zoo is an ideal way to build invaluable experience, demonstrate your passion, and build contacts. Good grades (A-C), especially in English and Science, are what most employers will look for but there are no hard and fast academic requirements for zookeeper work.
How you’ll be trained
After you’ve got the job, you’ll have to complete a series of qualifications if you don’t already have them. They include:
- Level 2/3 Certificate/Diploma in Work-based Animal Care
- Level 3 Certificate/Diploma in Animal Management
- Level 3 Extended Diploma in Animal Management
- Level 4 (NVQ) Animal Care and Management (Zoos and Wildlife Parks)
Once you’ve earned these qualifications you may aspire to further courses in zoo management if there are opportunities to move into a management role.
Typical daily tasks for a zookeeper include:
- Preparing, feeding and monitoring the food intake of animals
- Caring for animals’ environments. This includes water, bedding, safety, temperature, humidity and signs of wear and damage
- Answering questions and queries from guests of your park or zoo
- Maintaining detailed health records of animals in your care and searching for any sign of sickness, injury or distress
- Keeping track of any supplies which need to be replenished and place orders
- Assisting vets in administering medical care to animals.
The hours and conditions
As animals need care seven days a week, you’ll be on a rota for your shifts, which includes weekends, and senior zookeeper staff might also have to be on-call in some situations. Wildlife parks and zoos are generally outdoors, so you’ll have to be able to work in all conditions.
Entry pay for a zookeeper can be between £10,000 and £16,000, with experienced zookeepers earning up to £24,000 a year.
Are you training to be a zookeeper, or already working as one? Let us know how it’s going in the comments!