October 4th is a special date in our calendar – not only is it World Animal Day, but it’s also International Zookeeper Day, when we celebrate our animal kingdom, as well as our wonderful keepers who dedicate their lives to caring for them.
Zoo keeping is a demanding job; it’s a tough, physical and tiring occupation, which involves our team braving the elements daily to help safeguard some of the rarest animals in the world.
People may think zoo keepers cuddle animals all day long, but that isn’t the case – although granted, it’s a huge privilege to spend time with these amazing species every day.
Zoo keepers are carers, cleaners, cooks, communicators and conservationists rolled into one and our team, made up of over 40 keepers, will definitely say it’s the best job in the world!
However, it’s a difficult and much sought-after profession and we’re always keen to give a helping hand to train future generations in apprenticeship schemes run in conjunction with KEITS Training Services. This 13-month course provides on-site training and has enabled many of our past apprentices to go on to become valuable team members at animal collections around the country.
Our three newest apprentices Jared O’Neil, Esme Murphy and Becky Shore have just finished their first summer season, working alongside a good many of our experienced keepers, who have been here for more than 15 years!
In honour of International Zookeeper Day which recognises the valuable contribution zookeepers around the world make to the care and conservation of exotic animals, some of our staff explain how they began their zoo keeping journey and why they love their job so much…
Upper Primates Section Leader Pat was 16 when she started volunteering on the farm, before securing a keeping position on site.
As well as a stint working at another animal attraction, Pat’s worked her way up the rank here at DZC for 29 years and has worked alongside the majority of species, except birds, but she loves how no two days are ever the same!
The best part of the job is getting to spend her days being around animals and favourites include sloths Reggie and Flo, the orangutans and red-ruffed lemurs Hardy and Nelson, who were hand reared by Pat and hubby, Carl!
Lower Primates Senior Keeper Stacey started her zookeeping journey by completing a two-year animal care course at Rodbaston College.
She secured a two-week work experience placement here at the zoo and loved it and impressed zoo bosses as she was offered a weekend job in Lemur Wood, before gaining a full-time position on the farm 15 years ago when she was aged just 18 years-old.
For Stacey, the best part of her job is getting to work with our seven chimps, a species she’s wanted to work with since she was a little girl. She said she feels extremely privileged to work with them and gets so much enjoyment from getting to understand their individual personalities, likes and dislikes!
Keeper Ellis Robinson is marking five years as a keeper at DZC after first coming to us as an apprentice where she successfully completed an NVQ Level 2 in Customer Service through Dudley College.
She returned to complete a second apprenticeship in animal care where curators spotted her flair for zoo keeping and offered her a full-time role on our Ungulate section, where she now cares for the likes of our giraffes, tapirs and reindeer – which she says is definitely the best bit of her job!
And how are our apprentices finding keeper life…
BECKY has joined our bird section and has fallen in love with birds!
“Every day is different and I have learnt and done so many interesting things from flying owls to catching flamingos! I really enjoy flying our birds of prey, as well as learning about the natural behaviours and habitats of our many different bird species, as well as helping educate people on our conservation work. I have definitely found what I want to be doing in life.”
ESME has joined our ungulate section and meerkats are her favourite animal to work with!
“I’m really enjoying the apprenticeship. Zoo keeping is hard work, but rewarding hard work. I definitely want to go into zoo keeping and conservation, so I’m really pleased I got the opportunity to do this.”