Zoo and Safari Park Careers

With over one hundred million people visiting zoos every year, zoo workers have an excellent opportunity to educate large numbers of people about the need for the conservation of wildlife and the importance of respecting animals. This responsibility assures a varied, interesting and rewarding career. Relevant training will improve your prospects in this sector.

giraffes eat grass

Here is a bit more information about a few zoo and safari park careers:

Zoo and Safari Park Careers

  • Registrar Zoo Careers

    is in charge of maintaining thorough records about an animal collection. Details such as births, deaths, animal transfer/loan dates, data on offspring from breeding programmes etc, all needs to be carefully recorded.

    A career working in a zoo or safari park requires commitment and hard work and it is worth considering working as a volunteer or pursuing an internship first, as both of these opportunities will provide you with valuable practical experience.

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  • Veterinary team and Veterinary Nursing Assistant

    is responsible for the health of all the animals and for maintaining health records, treating disease, immunisation and dealing with an emergencies that arise.

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  • Curators and Zoo Curator Careers

    in larger zoos, there may be a variety of curator career roles including zoo curators, curator of exhibits, curator of horticulture and curator of education.

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  • Habitat designer and Zoo horticulturist Careers

    is a fast growing career as increasingly zoos strive to improve the environment for the animals in their care.

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  • Zoologists Zoo Careers

    are involved in the study of animals scientifically and are employed in various wildlife and zoo roles.

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  • Wildlife Ranger Wildlife Careers

    some aspects of the Wildlife Ranger’s role are similar to that of a Zoo keeper, but the work is based in a safari park instead of in a zoo.

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  • Zookeepers and Zookeeping

    What is a Zookeeper?
    Zookeepers are responsible for the everyday care and welfare of a diverse range of animals housed in zoos and safari parks. These can range from mammals, birds and reptiles to amphibians, fish and invertebrates. Their key role is to ensure that these animals are physically and mentally healthy. 

    The work of a Zookeeper can involve some or all of the following:

    Cleaning and maintenance:

    • Mucking out.
    • Cleaning and filling feed and water equipment.
    • Enclosure enrichment. 
    • Enclosure health and safety.
    • Maintenance jobs such as repairing fences. 
    • Ordering food and bedding.
    • Design, build and repair enclosure environments.

    Feeding:

    • Weigh, chop and mix ingredients.
    • Provide ‘live food’ such as locusts and mealworms, or ‘dead feed’ such as rats or mice.
    • Provide fresh water.

    Healthcare:

    • Observing animals for any signs of injury or illness.
    • Caring for sick or injured animals.
    • Routine health checks and maintain healthcare records.
    • Administer medications as required.
    • Assist with breeding programmes and raising young animals.
    • Planning and implementing creative enrichment ideas.

    Education:

    • Keeping detailed records of an animal’s activity or behaviour for research projects.
    • Educating members of the public about animals and conservation.
    • Answering visitors’ questions.
    • Giving short talks or presentations. 
    • Training animals either for a demonstration or to make feeding, medicating and monitoring easy and safe.

    Where do Zookeepers work?
    Zookeepers work in zoos or safari parks. In Britain, there are about 350 zoos, safari parks, bird gardens and aquaria open to the public which employ approximately 3,000 people in full-time positions.

    They may work outside or indoors, depending on the animals they care for and often working conditions may be wet, cold, dirty, muddy, hot or humid. Animals housed in zoos need care around the clock which means that working hours are unpredictable and varied. 


    What soft skills do you need to become a Zookeeper?
    To consider a career as a Zookeeper, several soft skills are required to become successful. Zookeepers need to be: 

    • Enthusiastic about animals and their welfare.
    • Physically fit and hardworking.
    • Interested in animal biology.
    • Patient with both the public and animals.
    • Prepared for tough physical work.
    • Prepared for the messy and unpleasant aspects of the job.
    • Equipped with a basic knowledge of DIY and gardening skills (particularly in smaller establishments).
    • Excellent observation.
    • Confident in approaching and handling animals of all sizes.
    • Great at communicating with visitors of all ages.


    How much does a Zookeeper earn?
    Zookeeper positions are highly sought after and unfortunately, the salary reflects this. Many Zookeepers consider it a vocation, working for the love of animals rather than the salary. The average annual salary of a zookeeper starts at £14,000. In larger zoos, there are prospects of promotion to Senior Keeper and on to Head Keeper where the salary will increase accordingly to around £25,000.


    How do to become a qualified Zookeeper?
    Zookeeping is a popular career choice but vacancies are limited making competition for these jobs tough. In some establishments, it may be possible to start as a trainee or an apprentice at 16 but usually, employers set a minimum age of 18. It’s worth exploring the qualification options available to give yourself the best possible advantage in the job market.  

    If you would like to find out more about working in Zoos while you are considering this career path then a short taster course such as the Zoo Career Kickstarter will help to introduce you to working within the zoo sector. 

    Gaining experience alongside a qualification is especially useful if you’re considering a career in Zookeeping as there is strong competition for jobs. Experience can be gained by taking part in a volunteer programme or on a course with practical elements. 

    Once you have decided on your career path, a qualification like the Ofqual regulated Level 3 Diploma in Zookeeping will ensure that you have a good chance of being shortlisted for jobs in zoos and safari parks.  Crucially, the qualification includes one week of practical training at either: Dartmoor Zoo, Blackpool Zoo, Colchester Zoo, Jimmy’s Farm and Wildlife Park or West Midlands Safari Park, which will give you vital experience in working with animals from all over the world. 

    The qualification explores animal welfare and provides thorough basic knowledge and understanding of how to look after a wide range of animals (including endangered species) in captivity and how to conserve them for the future. All of which will prepare you for a role in Zookeeping.

    There are many related qualifications that will improve your knowledge of the varied species you could be working with and will enhance your job prospects, these may vary in relevance depending if you are already employed in a Zoo and are looking to build on your knowledge base or if you are looking to start out in a career in Zookeeping. Achieving a qualification such as the Level 3 Award in Zoo Animal Nutrition can be a great addition to your CV. 

    For all related courses, training and qualification please visit the Zoology & Zookeeping course page.

    How do you access Zoological Society of London (ZSL) membership?
    When you study a wildlife, zoology or conservation course with Animal Courses Direct, you will be eligible to apply for ZSL Fellowship. 

    zsl log

    The world’s first zoo, the Zoological Society of London, was established in 1826 in Regents Park. Over two centuries, ZSL has worked to protect wildlife and has been supported and informed by collaborations with Fellows including Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, and Sir David Attenborough.
    ZSL and the Fellows community continue to be inspired by wildlife and to explore global conservation informed by world-respected science.
    Fellows receive:
    Exclusive news about ZSL’s Zoos and projects both in the UK and around the world.
    Borrowing rights in the extensive ZSL library of rare zoological texts.
    Invitations to meet scientists from ZSL and other organisations at events.
    Unlimited entry to both ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade for you and a family guest.
    Where can I get a job as a Zookeeper?
As mentioned previously, Zookeeping is a highly popular and competitive career choice with only around 3,000 full-time positions available in the UK.
    Many Zookeepers start with temporary seasonal contracts over the summer when more staff are needed as visitor numbers increase. Sometimes these short contracts can be extended into permanent positions. Some Zookeepers start in other zoo positions, such as working in cafes or shops on site. There are opportunities to work abroad and some zoos participate in keeper exchange programmes such as in Australia, New Zealand or the USA.
    To look for job vacancies you can check the job listings on websites of individual organisations or approach zoos and safari parks directly with your CV.
    The following Zoo Associations often list current vacancies:
    British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria (BIAZA)
    Association of British Wild Animal Keepers (ABWAK)
    European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA)
    BIAZA also has a directory of zoo collections offering volunteer and work placements.
    You can seek employment by registering with our Animal Job Board for the latest vacancies around the world.
    Book a call with one of our career advisors and they will take you through training and career options within the animal industry.

     

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Please contact us for more information about zoo careers.

Already qualified? Then please visit our Job Board for the latest jobs in zoos and safari parks.