Research Opportunities

Further Education and Research

We welcome applications from further education students who want to conduct research here. 

We endeavour to support as many students as we can. However, we do prioritise projects that we believe will enrich our animals and/or support conservation efforts. If you are unsure about what topic to study and would like an informal chat about the types of projects that would benefit our animals then please get in contact.

If you have a particular project in mind, please complete the form below and submit it to Paula Takle, who will discuss your application with the relevant keepers. Please note that the submission of an application form does not guarantee that your project will be accepted. 

Research Request Form

Send your application to Paula by email at or by post at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, Clevedon Road, Wraxall, Bristol, BS48 1PG.


Past Research Studies

Past Research Studies

Allowing students to carry out their research at Noah’s Ark is a great way to further the conservation and behavioural research on the species we house and a great way to learn more about our own individuals. Some past research studies have included:

Environmental Enrichment in Ungulates: A Systematic Review and Case Study

Environmental enrichment is an important aspect to consider when keeping animals in captivity, it can be a simple addition or change to an enclosure that then positively affects the welfare of the animals and may reduce stereotypic behaviour. The study looked at enrichment in ungulates in current zoo enrichment literature and by performing a case study using an enrichment device with an ungulate species, the Lowland Tapir (Tapirus terrestris). The review found that ungulates are currently understudied in the literature and that food enrichments are generally favoured. The case study concluded that the environmental enrichment had a small but positive effect on the welfare of the tapirs. The review and case study both highlighted the need for more research on ungulate enrichment and how this might positively affect welfare. 



Factors Affecting Body Condition Score of Southern White Rhino in Captivity

Southern white rhino are classed as near threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. White rhinos are not self-sustaining their numbers in captivity, in 2005, there was estimated to be 760 individuals worldwide and now it is approximately 561 individuals. Southern white rhinos are grazers that feed on short grasses and are hindgut fermenters which allows them to digest large quantities of food. Zoos endeavour to adapt their approach on how to assess animal welfare as this can help determine the animal’s health, well-being and how they cope with their environment. Keeping rhinos in captivity can be problematic as they are subject to health problems such as obesity. Therefore, by assessing welfare, this can assist to help animal managers to make improvements which is particularly important for rhinos if their numbers are to increase. Body condition scoring (BCS) is a non-invasive point scoring method where certain regions of the body are visually assessed for body composition and body fat mass which can reflect changes in body weight, nutritional intake and fitness. It was investigated what factors affected BCS of Southern white rhino in captivity. Research was carried out with five zoos, four in the UK and one in Canada. Behavioural observations were carried out to measure the rhino’s activity levels and surveys were sent to the rhino keepers to ascertain information on the husbandry routines, age, sex, zoo and feeding practices of the rhinos. Results found no correlation with BCS and time spent active, age and pellet or forage offered. It also found no significant difference between BCS and zoo, sex and husbandry routines. Further research was suggested to see whether caloric intake, seasonal changes or husbandry routines affects BCS of southern white rhino. 

The Body condition scoring results for our Rhinos was really positive. Our Rhinos, Rhumba and Rumball were found to be of ideal condition.


Social Proximity of Bull Elephants in UK & Irish Zoos

The social behaviour of bull elephants is key to captive reproductive success. In the wild, male elephants are independent, but do mix with other males and female herds. Young males leave their maternal herd during adolescence, but both these decisions are made by keepers in captivity. This study recorded social proximity of 12 bull elephants in five UK and Irish zoos. Adult bulls spent on average 52% of unmanaged outdoor time in a social situation, and 25% within one body length of another individual. Adult bulls spent most time with adult females, but on average 22% grouped with only youngsters, suggesting the importance of bull socialisation for calf development and herd cohesion. The independent alone time of young bull elephants increased with age. Independence is individual and led by several factors. One such factor appears to be the hierarchical status of the mother. Bull elephants in paddocks with specific food locations spent a higher amount of their social time grouped within one body length. Data suggests that given choice, elephants will not group for such a high percentage of time, but may do so because of a competitive resource. Due to a small sample size, this preliminary study suggests further research comparing social behaviour to wild males.

College work placements

College work placements

If you are studying an animal-related course at college and want to get some hands on experience, why not come and volunteer at Noah's Ark? 

Find out more

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