A Zoo Keeper is responsible for the care and welfare of captive animals at zoos or similar attractions that are open to the public. A zoo keeper will often specialise in one section of a zoo or one type of animal as this helps to increase knowledge and understanding of the animals in their care.
In day to day work you may; prepare feed for animals, feed animals, clean out enclosures, health check animals, check enclosures for damage and wear, monitor environmental conditions within enclosures, provide enrichment to animals, keep daily records, give educational talks and presentations to visitors.
Key Skills Required:
- Ability to work well in a team
- Confidence in animal handling
- Good observation skills
- High level of fitness
- Excellent communication skills
- Ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- Customer services skills
- Confidence to give presentations and talks
Key Points to Know:
- You may be required to work long and unsociable hours
- Most of your work will be outdoors (in all weathers) and is physically demanding
- Flexibility around days off is often required
- A driving license may also be advantageous, particularly when working in large zoos.
To be a Zoo Keeper you will need to:
Have a minimum of 5 GCSEs at A*- C including Maths and English. It is very important to gain as much practical animal experience as you can. You can gain experience through volunteering and work experience placements. There may also be apprenticeship programmes that can earn you both experience and a qualification through.
Zoos tend to be very keen on hands-on experience so obtaining experience through the above routes will be very beneficial for your application.
College courses such as a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Animal Management, a BTEC Level 5 Higher National Diploma and Certificate in animal management or a NPTC Advanced National Certificate in animal care are advantageous.
Although it is not essential, many Zoo Keepers also have a degree. A degree in Zoology, biology, or a relevant animal/ science subject may put you ahead of competition.
You may also want to become a member of the Association of British and Irish Wild Animal Keepers (ABWAK). A 1 year professional membership is £30.
Estimated average salary: £12,000 – £25,000 annually.
As a Zoo Keeper, you can anticipate employment in a variety of roles including:
- Safari Parks
- Private animal collections
Being a Zoo Keeper is a very competitive field, many zoos run volunteer programs so it is highly recommended you take advantage of this to gain hands-on experience and get your foot in the door. The work of a Zoo Keeper can be dirty, cold and tiring so you need to have a love of animals and a passion for animal welfare. It is not just about the care of animals either, being a Zoo Keeper is also about educating the public through talks and presentations. You may have the opportunity to progress to Sector/ Team Leader or Head Keeper over time.