Training new keepers

An apprenticeship scheme is providing on-site zoo keeper training for four new recruits.

We’ve joined forces with KEITS to deliver the programme, which is enabling the young apprentices to learn to care for some of the world’s rarest exotic animals.

Through hands-on experience, the scheme is guiding the students through day-to-day aspects of zoo life, including dietary requirements, breeding and conservation to educating members of the public.

Our apprentices, who all answered an advertisement on the zoo’s website, have been placed on each of our animal sections, where they work a five-day week alongside ungulates, farm animals, birds and primates as part of a level two diploma in work based animal care.

Assistant Curator and mentor, Jay Haywood, pictured above with three of our students, said: “All four are doing really well and have quickly settled in to zoo life.

“Zoo keeping can be quite different to initial expectations, but they’re working really hard and are proving great additions to our team.”

As part of their year-long course, the apprentices are set specific assignments which they have to complete as part of their course.

Jay added: “Many of our keepers started on the same path, so there’s always someone around to help.

“It’s a really beneficial course and hopefully puts them in great stead for a job in the field afterwards.”

Meet our apprentices:

Courtney Jones, aged 19, from Coseley.

“I’ve always wanted to work with animals and I have a variety of snakes and tarantulas in my bedroom.

“I also have 16 horses and I’ve always been around animals and this is an opportunity that I wasn’t going to get again.

“I love working here, especially interacting with the lemurs in Lemur Wood, I know them all by name.

“I would love to carry on zoo keeping and get the chance to work with big cats or the bigger primates such as the orangs.”

Harry Upton, aged 20, from Halesowen.

“I’ve always loved animals and had lots of pets and I’ve looked after my nan’s pygmy goat for many years, which is why I think I’ve been placed on the farm!

“I’m loving every moment working here, especially getting the chance to work with the three camels is amazing.

“I want to carry on zoo keeping in the future and I’d love to work with big mammals, such as rhinos and hippos.”

Harry has been supported by Black Country Impact. 

Jessica Edwards, aged 22, from Bedworth.

“Working with animals has always been a passion since I’ve been small.

“I’ve tried to get as much varied experience as possible over the last few years, including working at an animal rehab centre in Canada, I spent time on safari in South Africa, worked with elephants in Thailand and experienced a veterinary environment.

“I’ve never done anything around zoo keeping, but I saw this advertised and I had to apply.

“It’s really good, although it’s hard work and I’m discovering muscles I didn’t know I had, but it’s so rewarding too. I definitely want to continue in this field.”

Mary Taylor, aged 16, from Stourbridge.

“I saw the advert and it was something I’ve always wanted to do and applying was the best decision I’ve ever made.

“I volunteered for a mobile zoo, which hosted animal parties, so I used to handling exotic animals and I’ve had safari park experience.

“I absolutely love working here and I love talking to people about animals and conservation, so it’s allowing me to combine my two passions, working with animals and educating visitors.

“I definitely want to continue as a zookeeper and would love to work with different species.”