- Work with zoo animals, helping ensure they are safe, healthy and comfortable in their environment
- You'll often work shifts, including evenings, weekends and being on call
- Opportunities to specialise in work with specific animals, progress to become a head keeper, or move into research or conservation
- Prepare food and feed animals
- Clean out pens and cages
- Check for signs of distress, disease or injury
- Help to care for sick animals
- Check enclosures and cages for signs of wear or damage
- Monitor conditions like temperature and humidity
- Keep daily healthcare records
You'll usually work shifts including weekends and bank holidays. Outside your working hours, you may be on a rota for call-outs.
You could spend a lot of time outside in all weathers. This work can be physically demanding. You may need a driving licence if you're working in a large zoo or safari park.
You'll usually work with one type of animal or in a particular section of the zoo.
This role would suit someone with a love of animals, a practical nature and a strong sense of responsibility. You'll need the ability to handle animals with confidence and patience, observation skills, and communication skills.
Zoos vary in what qualifications they ask for and it can depend on what their zookeepers are going to do. Choosing biology at school is a good start, or you could complete a college course like a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Animal Management or a Level 3 Diploma in Animal Care or Animal Science. You could also do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in animal or zoo management, animal behaviour and welfare, zoology or marine zoology, animal conservation and biodiversity, veterinary science, or biology.
Alternatively you could start by doing an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship in animal care, or an animal care and welfare assistant intermediate apprenticeship. This may help you to get a job as a trainee with a zoo. Your employer would then put you through more courses on the job. You might also specialise in training zoo animals by completing an animal trainer higher apprenticeship.
You'll normally need to have some experience of working with animals for this role and to get this you could volunteer in a zoo, safari park, aquarium, conservation organisation, or animal shelter.
In larger zoos, you could progress from keeper to head keeper. With experience and a degree, you could become a curator. You could also move into education or conservation research.