A really wild career

Published: 09 Sep 2015

For my Christmas, my husband bought me quite a surprising gift – a meerkat experience at the Blair Drummond Safari Park.

For almost an hour I got to sit in the shed that these tiny animals call their home and feed them and generally just observe them. It’s pretty hands-on stuff – mostly the meerkats hands on your stuff. They are not shy, one even started trying to pull my shoelaces off while another dived its head into my pocket.

It was really exciting being so close to these little creatures, so far away from their homeland in South Africa.

While we were hanging out with the meerkats our chaperon for the day told us lots of interesting facts about them but also about her job at the safari park. Also enjoying the experience was a little girl who said she really wanted to work at a zoo when she was older. “It’s my dream job”, she said.

Meerkats

It’s probably a dream job for many people who love animals. So for those who would love the chance to become a zookeeper, here is what you need to get the job:

Like many job really, zoos look for someone who can demonstrate commitment to something with good grades at standard grade, Higher and Advanced Higher Level. You can take a full time college course before starting work. There are courses in animal care available at National Certificate (NC), Higher National Certificate (HNC) and Higher National Diploma (HND) levels. You may need a full, clean driving licence, particularly for a wildlife or safari park.

Zoos and safari parks want someone who has a genuine interest in animals, their welfare and their conservation. You need to be fit and healthy to do this job and not afraid of some hard physical work. As you can imagine working weekends is also part of the job and those wanting to apply have to be self-disciplined and a team player. You also need to be confident and have good people and public speaking skills as you may have to speak to visitors and answer questions.

Being a zookeeper isn’t all about hanging about with the animals. You need to clean out dens and enclosures, prepare food, observe the animals and keep records, talk to visitors and work with vets if an animal becomes ill.

Working at a zoo takes a lot of commitment

Zookeeper positions are very popular and often very over subscribed so make sure you stand out from the crowd by gaining some experience working with animals by volunteering.

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