11 January 2014

How to be a zookeeper

Everything you need to know about becoming a zookeeper

How to be a zookeeper

A day out at the zoo? Yes please. Getting to go to the zoo every day as your job… amazing! We met Zookeeper Evelyn and asked her how you get to do an awesome job like hers…

Hello Evelyn! What is your job?

I'm a Senior Keeper on the Bird section at Bristol Zoo Gardens.

What does that entail?

I look after all the birds at Bristol Zoo. I monitor breeding, training and enrichment (giving them things to do to encourage natural behaviours that they’d do in the wild) and clean out their enclosures. Yes… poo!

What’s a typical day like?

I normally look after the birds in the ‘Forest of Birds’ (our tropical bird house) and the Lorikeet walkthrough. My mornings are spent feeding the birds, as well as cleaning the sheds and public areas. My afternoons are spent improving enclosures and making enrichment, before giving the birds their evening meal.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Working with animals! Of course they’re wild birds, so it’s not like having a pet, but it’s still very fun and rewarding. Every Spring most of my birds will start breeding… there’s never a dull moment!

What’s the worst thing about your job?

When an animal dies… especially during breeding season. Losing any bird is heart breaking.

How did you get into zookeeping?

I started volunteering as a keeper at London Zoo, working two days a week for no pay. But the experience was vital when London Zoo took me on as a seasonal summer keeper on the bird section. Since then, I have completed a two-year course in Zoo Animal Management run by ABWAK.

What did you do at school/ university?

I have A Levels in Biology and Chemistry, and a BSc in Animal Behaviour Science.

Did you do any other work experience?

I worked at my local riding school. Showing that I was physically capable to do the work of a zookeeper was essential.

What advice would you give to anyone who was interested in doing what you do?

Be prepared to deal with a lot of poo! And persevere - it can take longer than you’d think to get paid as a zookeeper.

What’s the biggest misconception about your job?

That we spend most of our time cuddling the animals!

If I wasn’t doing this I’d love to be a...

Forensic scientist. I love solving problems, and apparently spend too much time watching CSI!

And who doesn’t?

Thank you Evelyn!

If you’re interested in doing a job like Evelyn’s she recommends contacting your local zoo or go to zoo’s website for details about volunteering. ABWAK and BIAZA both have information about careers with wild animals.

Whatever after also recommend a visit to ZSL London Zoo – a great website and a great day out!


Evelyn was interviewed by Isla Gray

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