Zoo Keeping Course

Take our zoo keeping course to prepare to start working in a zoo or safari park with wild animals.  Zoo keeping is a varied role that involves hands-on responsibility for a variety of wild animals kept in zoos.

The Zoo Animal Care, Behaviour and Welfare Diploma course is specific training for zookeeper roles. This accredited Level 3 Diploma has been designed to enhance employment prospects working in a zoo keeping role.


In the UK there has been effective campaigning for the adoption of the EU directive for the establishment of minimum zoo standards.

This has changed the focus from zoos existing for public entertainment, to zoos focussing on conservation and animal welfare issues and has given some endangered wild species an increased chance of survival.


In the UK there has been effective campaigning for the adoption of the EU directive for the establishment of minimum zoo standards.


This has changed the focus from zoos existing for public entertainment, to zoos focussing on conservation and animal welfare issues and has given some endangered wild species an increased chance of survival.

Over one hundred million people visit zoos every year and this means that zookeepers have a great opportunity to educate vast numbers of people about the importance of wildlife conservation and respecting animals.

This responsibility assures an interesting, varied and rewarding career working with animals. 

Zoo Keeping Course Prepares You to Work with Wild Animals

Wild animals can be kept in captivity for a variety of reasons, from research purposes to entertainment or through rescue and rehabilitation of species. Many wild animals are housed in establishments known as ‘collections’, and these include bird gardens, safari parks and zoological gardens. Some wildlife species are also housed within animal charities or rehabilitation centres.

When wild animals are housed in captivity, there are certain ethical considerations which must be taken into account in order to ensure these animals are experiencing positive welfare. The ethical concerns are dependent on the species involved and the establishment in which they are housed.

Wild animals have been involved in human life for many years and wild animals in captivity can be traced back to Roman times. Wild animals were used in combat with gladiators or would face one another in duals during Roman games which took place in Coliseums. These wild animals were forced for fight to the death for the purpose of entertainment and their welfare was extremely poor.

Wild animal menageries, another term for collections, were also seen in Ancient Greece and China. Members of royalty or aristocracy would keep large numbers of wild animals in confinement in order to depict their wealth.

Wild animals were also kept captive in Medieval England, with the most famous collection being housed at the Tower of London. Species such as leopards and lions were common features of medieval collections and some species from the Tower of London collection were moved to London Zoo on its opening.

As animals were commonly used for entertainment purposes over time various charities and organisations appeared in order to try to ’protect’ these animals.

UK charities and organisations such as The Wildlife Trust, RSPB and Tiggywinkles and International groups such as Born Free, WWF and Animals Asia have been set up in order to rescue and rehabilitate wild animals.

Wild animals have long been a source of interest in the world of science, both from an animal behaviour aspect as well as a way of improving human health. Scientific behavioural testing can be a way of ensuring that animal welfare is positive for animals in captivity and it frequently occurs within zoological gardens and other animal collections.

Invasive animal testing of captive wild animals continues to decline but still occurs for some tests and generally involves the use of non-human primates. Conservation has played an important role with regards to captive wild animals and is the most significant reasoning behind keeping wild animals captive. Many animals seen today in animal collections are vulnerable or endangered in their wild habitats.

In this zoo keeping course, you will learn that animal collections often construct breeding and conservation programs in order to conserve a particular species either in captivity or in-situ (in the animals’ natural habitat). Not all animals that are part of a conservation program will be released back into the wild however.

Many species are kept for conservation purposes are considered ‘flagship’ species and will either continue to breed within collections, or their presence in collections can increase revenue which will be used for in-situ conservation work.

Wild animals in collections play an important role within educating the public, specifically children, about wild animals and their habitats. Many animal collections run education visits and wild animal charities are also heavily involved  with educating the public.

One of the main arguments for keeping wild animals in captivity is for educational purposes; many individuals would not have a chance to gain awareness about specific species if they did not visit them in captivity. Humans in the Western world have long since seen animals as useful objects, whether it is for food, labour, entertainment or companionship. When animals are housed in captivity there are certain ethical issues which may arise which may cause welfare problems.

In this zoo keeping course, you will also learn that wild animals have diverse and complex needs which are not always easily met in captive situations. These animals require appropriate feeding, housing and often need the company of other individuals of the same species. These animals also require mental stimulation through environmental enrichment. 

There are differing attitudes and opinions when considering captive wild animals. Some individuals believe that animals are here for human benefit and that captive animals should exist so we are able to learn. Other individuals may form the opposite argument and stand up for animal rights, therefore believing that animals should have the same rights as humans.

Many animal rights campaigners will argue that wild animals should not be housed in captive situations and that all wild animals should indeed be wild.

Supporters of animal rights often feel that zoos and other animal collections should not exist and that wild animals should only be housed in captivity for rehabilitation or relocation purposes. The belief is that animals should not be exploited or used for human benefit

Concerns in captivity range from a variety of factors covered in this zoo keeping course include:

Inadequate space – Some wild species would have large territories in the wild, something that can be rarely imitated in captivity for example African elephants (Loxodonta africana).

Incorrect social groups – Some animals are forced to live with members of their own species, even if this is not natural. For example, many solitary species of cat are made to live with one another or in very close proximity to each other.

Poor diet – Some collections are unaware of the specific nutrient requirements that animals need. Carnivores require meat, bone and offal in their diet so frequently require supplements to maintain health.

Surplus animals – Many animals in captivity breed freely even if they are not part of a breeding program, these animals are often unwanted and are shipped to other zoos or private collections. It is also common for animals to be culled if there are no places in captivity for them. This can be seen in species such as the African Lion (Panthera leo) where individuals need to be housed in groups from a social perspective, but are prolific breeders and cubs are often unwanted.

Sourcing of animals – Many animals are now bred in captivity but there is concern that some species are still been illegally taken from the wild.

There are of course, many different viewpoint which will be explored throughout this zoo keeping course.

Start Training for a Zoo Keeper Job or Career

Please visit our wildlife courses section for more information about the many different wildlife courses that we offer

For more information about the zoo keeping course, please contact us.

If you think you may be eligible for funding towards your studies, please visit the Course Funding section of our website for more information. 

About us, our accreditation and how to enrol on our zoo keeping course