Press Officer turns Keeper!

DZG’s new Press Officer RACHEL HICKMAN swops notepad and pen for broom and bucket as she joins our Keeper For a Day experience . . .

dzg_rachel_1_webHow many days can you say you’ve tickled a Brazilian tapir, handfed a Humboldt penguin, quenched the thirst of a Bornean orang utan and felt the rumbling roar of an Asiatic lion up close?

As DZG’s new Press Officer I write about the goings-on at the Zoo every single day, but writing about them and experiencing them for myself are two completely different things, as I discovered when I took part in a Zoo Keeper Experience.

The day, which runs from 10am until 4pm, gives members of the public the chance to go behind the scenes and find out what it’s really like to be a Zoo Keeper, shadowing staff as they go about their normal daily duties.

And it’s certainly hands-on! I was dribbled on by a rare Rothschild giraffe, I cleaned up muck from the Barbary sheep enclosure, had a Great Horned Owl land on my arm and absolutely relished every second!

Throughout the day participants spend just under two hours working on each animal section – ungulates and big cats, birds and primates – meeting, feeding and hearing about some of the world’s rarest animals which can be found right here at DZG.

dzg_rachel_1_webListening to the keepers is a huge treat in itself. Their knowledge, passion and enthusiasm for the job and animals is just incredible to witness and to see a Sumatran tiger purring with delight as her keeper tickles her under the chin is overwhelming.

Visitors come from all around the UK to take part in a DZG experience and there have also been several overseas keepers from as far away as Hong Kong and USA who have flown over especially to take part.

Due to popular demand Little Zoo Keeper experiences have also been introduced over the last few years for children aged 8-13 years, where younger animal lovers get their chance to meet some of the smaller animal collection as well as helping feed, clean and care for the animals down on the farm.

For those not wanting to take part in a whole day, there is also the opportunity to meet a specific animal during Close Encounter experiences, another new introduction following visitor requests.


From £75 two people can spend around 30 minutes feeding an animal of their choice including red pandas, lemurs or sealions, with all money raised from the encounters and Zoo Keeper experiences helping to pay for treats, toys, bedding, food and heating for the site’s animals, as well as supporting DZG’s vital conservation programmes.

DZG Marketing Manager, Julia Lockett, said: “Our Zoo Keeper Experiences are very popular as we’re getting people come from further and further afield to take part.

“We’ve even had to add an extra day in the week to accommodate all the requests.

“Our Close Encounters are proving just as popular and we’ve recently added extra availability for the ungulates section as more people are choosing to feed giraffes, big cats and red pandas and we’ve also re-introduced Meet the Orangs for primate fans.

“It’s great news in the current economic climate that visitors are so keen to support our ongoing work here at DZG.”

For more information about animal experiences and encounters visit

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