How to become a Zookeeper

Are you interested in becoming a Zookeeper? Have you ever wondered how our keepers got here? We have been asking our keepers about their career paths and what they look for when hiring a new member of the team.

What does a zookeeper role involve?

Zoos often have a large variety of animals all of which have different requirements. As such different animals teams will specialise in different animals, you might find yourself working with mammals, birds, reptiles or fish. In some cases an animals care will be so specific that you may find yourself specialising in one particular animal e.g. Elephants.

Animals need round the clock care and attention and do not take holidays so working as a Zookeeper requires a big commitment. You can expect to work a shift pattern including early mornings and weekend work, with occasional call-outs in emergencies. 

Day-to-day tasks may include:

  • Preparing and providing daily food and nutrition
  • Cleaning and maintaining the animal enclosures
  • Monitoring the animals' environment e.g. temperature, humidity
  • Creating and providing enrichment for the animals
  • Performing regular weight and health checks and recording data
  • Working with a Vet to provide medication and treatment when necessary
  • Ordering new food and equipment
  • Giving educational talks to the public
  • Helping to run fundraising events for conservation

Relevant Degrees include:

  • Zoology
  • Biology
  • Animal Management
  • Zoo Management
  • Conservation

Other qualifications 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)

Our keepers also look for relevant work experience so try to gain a work placement or volunteer your time with a local zoo, farm, animal shelter or stables.

Other requirements:

  • Most job roles and apprenticeships will have a minimum starting age of 18
  • The zoo may require you to hold a driving license
  • Team player
  • Positive mental attitude
  • Good physical health
  • Solid handshake

Salary:

A keepers salary will range depending on experience. Although zoo keepers do not tend to get into this job for the money.

Perks of the role:

  • Working closely with animals you get to know their personalities
  • You might get the chance to see a baby giraffe being born
  • You get to watch the animals enjoy the environment and enrichment you create
  • It's possible to travel the globe working in different zoos
  • No two days are the same as you can't predict an animal's behaviour
  • You'll be working out and about rather than in an office
  • You’ll be working towards conservation goals

Challenges:

  • Long days and weekend work
  • Animals can get ill and they might have to be put down
  • The job can be physically demanding walking long distances and lifting heavy objects
  • There is still paperwork to be filled out
  • It probably won't make you a millionaire

Being a Zookeeper can be a demanding but very rewarding job. However if it's not quite right for you other similar roles include:

  • Veterinarian or Vet Nurse
  • Zoologist
  • Animal technician 
  • Animal Care Worker

 

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