This course will provide you with flexible learning experiences that will help start you on your way to a career in zoos.
To help you with your career, we strongly recommend that you try to get as much relevant work experience as possible while you are studying. This will not only make you more employable, but increase your confidence with animals and provide you with a network of contacts within the industry.
- Animal Health Care VAG100
- Animal Behaviour BAG203
- Zoo Keeping BEN208
- Animal Anatomy and Physiology
- Vertebrate Zoology
- Marine Studies I
- Aquarium Management
- Animal Feed and Nutrition
- Diagnosing Animal Diseases
- Animal Breeding
- Wildlife Conservation
- Wildlife Management
- Natural Health Care for Animals
- Ecotourism Tour Guide
What is Abnormal Behaviour in a Zoo Animal?
The term zoochosis was first coined by Bill Travers, the actor, and eventually animal rights activist; famous for starring in Born Free. It is used to describe repetitive and apparently obsessive behaviour in zoo animals, or animals in artificial environments with little stimulation. It can result in a range of abnormal behaviours, such as –
- Tongue playing – where the animal continually licks bars, gates or the wall. Often seen in giraffes and camels.
- Bar biting – repeated biting or rubbing of their mouth around the bars of an enclosure until it damages their mouth and teeth. This is often seen in bears.
- Neck twisting – where the animal unnatural twists and rolls their neck. Often seen in monkeys, llamas and giraffes.
- Pacing – where the animal walks back and forth along the same path. Often seen in big cats such as lions.
- Circling – is another form of pacing, where the animal places their feet in exactly the same position each time. This is often seen in bears and elephants.
- Vomiting – where an animal will repeatedly vomit, then eat the vomit. This is often seen in chimpanzees and gorillas.
- Coprophagia – which we have already discussed and is often seen in captive gorillas and chimpanzees.
- Rocking – where the animal rocks backwards and forwards over and over. This is a recognised symptom in human mental illness and can be displayed in some animals, such as chimpanzees.
- Swaying is another behaviour also seen in humans with mental illness and can be seen in elephants and bears.
- Over grooming is another behaviour we have discussed already where the animal will groom themselves to such an extent that they leave bald patches where there is no fur or feathers, ulcers and broken skin.
- Self-injury and self-mutilation are another demonstration of zoochosis, where the animal will inflict physical harm on themselves, such as biting or chewing their tail or leg, hitting their head against a wall, etc.
A good Zookeeper will understand such abnormal behaviour, and a great deal more about what a physically and mentally healthy animal needs in order to have a sustainably acceptable state of wellbeing. Study this course and build your foundation for becoming that type of zookeeper.
Staff at zoos and wildlife parks need to do lots of different jobs. Their primary role maqy be to maintain the health and welfare of the animals, but in smaller parks and zoos, in particular; all staff may at times need to help out with whatever is needed to keep the park functioning.
Primary tasks cand include ensuring the animals are well fed and have everything they need to be comfortable. This may also involve cleaning animal enclosures daily.
Another role of zoo keepers is to communicate with visitors; as keepers will often be the first point of contact. They may even have to guide tour groups, and give presentations or demonstrations to the public; or help with conservation and research projects.
These jobs can provides the opportunity to work with a wide range of animals anywhere in the world; not only in zoos, but also wildlife reserves, aquariums and animal centres
Working with animals can have an element of risk and it is very important to always adhere to the zoos health and safety guidelines. Challenges include offering the animals a stimulating environment and being able to run successful breeding programmes to help with the conservation of the species.
It can be difficult to get this type of job if you are relying on studies alone; and also difficult to advance a career without some formal study. If you want the best chance for a successful and sustainable career as a zoo keeper; you should work on getting experience (even volunteer work) and studying -both at the same time.
Getting voluntary work experience at any animal organisation can help, even a kennel, animal rescue organisation, farm or animal sanctuary. This then looks very good on your CV – giving you experience but also showing that you are dedicated to working with animals.