Best route for Animal Conservation/Welfare

(14 Posts)
Verbena37 Mon 07-Jan-19 20:49:05

Dd is year 12 and thinking she wants to do Applied Zoology type course at uni.
She has been saying she wants to work in zoo’s; on the welfare/conservation side. Originally she said zookeeper but now not so sure about that.

She is doing biology, psychology and geography (all widely accepted for zoology) at A Level but she could have done Level 3 Animal Management in 2 yrs...but wanted to keep it open/not restrict herself by doing A Levels.

She ideally wants to work sanctuaries/rescue centres I think but she is a bit wish washy on it all.

She hates studying and doesn’t find essay writing etc particularly fun.

Any advice/options as to possible routes in to this type of courses at uni or otherwise.

Thanks in advance.

OP’s posts: |
Verbena37 Mon 07-Jan-19 20:50:50

Oh and she would rather earn less money than work at a desk every day. When I explain that most jobs involve paperwork of some description, she has a veritable melt down!

So it’s got to be a practical/non management type career/job.

OP’s posts: |
Puzzledmum Tue 08-Jan-19 00:17:23

My DD is also very interested in conservation/ animal welfare etc. She has applied to study Biology at uni this year. There is a very good course in the Royal Vet college - Wild animal biology- check it out if you wish. The grades they ask for are not high and the course is superb. My DD goes and volunteers abroad too. She was in South Africa last year working on rehabilitating lions back into the wild and this summer will go to Costa Rica. I definitely recommend the volunteering abroad!

Verbena37 Tue 08-Jan-19 06:37:13

Hi Puzzled mum,
So was your dd only 16 when she volunteered in SA last year? Not sure we’d be keen for dd to go there alone, knowing how dangerous it can be. Can I ask what charity she volunteered through?

I’ll take a look at the Royal Vet College....I had wrongly assumed they only did veterinary courses.

OP’s posts: |
HoHoHolittlepea Tue 08-Jan-19 06:42:06

Lots and lots of volunteering, in this area its good to build links who can keep ypu informed of jobs in the network. Joining plaves like WWT or RSPBC to get involved with their events and conservation might help.

Verbena37 Tue 08-Jan-19 06:55:05

I will take a look thanks.

Looked at RVC course....not sure if it’s too sciency for her...think she is looking at more ‘applied’ courses.

OP’s posts: |
Chelonia Tue 08-Jan-19 08:31:54

Myself and DP have zoo careers. If she is interested in working in zoos then she either goes into the practical animal care side (zookeeping) or joins the research/ science side. Most zookeepers I know have at least BSc or even Masters degrees under their belt. Regardless they will usually be required to complete the DMZAA (Diploma in Management of Zoo and Aquatic Animals) which teaches practical aspects and considerations of animal care, such as enclosure design and nutrition. This is a course you can really only complete once you are actually working / volunteering at a zoo due to the assignment nature.
If she wants to do more of the research and conservation side then most of the staff are at least Masters if not PhD level and is far more desk based.
I'd advise her to do some hard graft volunteering at a zoo to establish if this is for her. Zookeeping is not for the fainthearted, it is physically demanding / destroying ("zookeeper's back") and emotionally taxing. Not a job you clock out of at 5pm, I've never left on time and often have to scream at DP on the phone to get him to come home. Most nights we lie awake worrying about this animal or that one or just pondering how to get a drain to unblock!! You'd also probably earn more in a lot of retail jobs! Starting salary for a junior keeper is about £15 grand a year. FIFTEEN. You won't get much above £22 grand even as a very senior keeper. And they can get away with offering such low wages because there are so many people who want to do the job. Which brings me to my next point, there is a LOT of competition, even just for volunteer positions. Your DD really needs to know what it is she wants to do, but it's hard because she doesn't have the knowledge of how a zoo actually works and the job roles within it. If she can't get a volunteer role at a zoo even try for a summer job on the ice cream kiosks at a zoo - showing her face counts for a lot and she may be able to observe the day to day running of the place which may give her a feel for it... Doing a basic animal management course at a local college is a good start too, especially if they hold an exotics collection including birds and reptiles. The upshot is, its not easy to get into zoos. I spent over 10 years travelling and working on conservation projects and she won't get paid for that unless she has a Masters and takes on a management role.
So: she needs to figure out what exactly she wants to do but I think that will be difficult. If possible I'd suggest studying animal management at one of the better animal colleges (my friend lectures at Sparsholt and they go on class trips to Africa on safari!!) and she will gain more insight, connections and gives her time to pinpoint what she wants to do. As an aside, I can recommend Veterinary Nursing as a career that can take you into travel / conservation field work / research but also qualify you for a job at the local dog and cat practice when you want a settled home life!


OnlineAlienator Tue 08-Jan-19 08:43:39

Chelonia has good advice, i've worked with animals most of my life and the only people who could remotely be happy in a zoo are those who have THE clearest, 100% dedication to their species, either on the practical or research side. I almost ended up in a zoo job on the strength of experience but tbh althpugh it woulfd have been 'cool' in some ways im actually glad i didnt get it now. The zoo will always come first, your life outside it will suffer financially and because you dont have the time for it.

It doesnt sound like your DD has developed that absolute unerring love of flamingoes for example, it may come but i'd personally be wary of chasing too hard down that niche path and being unable to break out if it later, and believe me, you do get pigeonholed. I'm early 30s and struggling for a year now to get out of the field if animal care/research and into something with decent pay.

I would recommend volunteering to find her place, perhaps hold off on uni and getting a job to scope out a career in the field. Entry level roles are not hard to find (not zoos - kennels, catteries, farms, stables)

Verbena37 Tue 08-Jan-19 10:24:16

Thank you so much ladies.
I’ve copied over your posts to her.
It does sound hard and she and I both know it won’t be easy.

It’s so hard for them at A Level because they have to apply for a degree course which either has to be wide and non specific or very niche and then, like you say, you’re pigeon holing yourself into something you don’t know enough about.

Hamerton is our nearest zoo park (about 15mins away) so if she is keen, might chat to her about their student volunteering programme.

The proble is, she loves every species! She is swaying towards primates but loves all animals. She likes the idea of designing zoo enclosures and the welfare/enrichment side of it, but I explained that I’m pretty certain the zoo staff do all of that and that’s it not a specific. Job.

I wondered whether to see what she thinks about civil service animal health officer type work/port health but she is desperate NOT to work in the U.K. but I bet somewhere like Canada or Australia would be interesting in that kind of work.

Anyway, your comment have given her much to think about.
Can I ask, when you both research, what briefly would that consist of in relation to zoos/conservation? WOh upd a bioscience degree more be useful there?

I also thin kvet nursing would be great but having spent 2 sessions at a vets recently, and fainting, she isn’t sure she’s that keen. She doesn’t really want to do domestic/vet type stuff.

She defo seems to know what she doesn’t want to do, which is helpful.

OP’s posts: |
Puzzledmum Tue 08-Jan-19 11:22:57

Hi OP - yes, the course in RVC is reasonably scientific. They are very good on research etc. My DD has applied to top science courses at RG unis, as this is what she wants to do and RVC's course is something like an insurance choice for her. We went to a presentation about it and it sounded brilliant. They have different trips etc. Perhaps if your DD is interested she can speak to them and enquire more.
Regarding the volunteering - my DD was 17 last summer and went alone. I was also very worried, but it was well organised and she had no problems at all. SHe absolutely loved the experience. SHe went via for 2 weeks and this year she is going to Costa Rica for 5 weeks (through a different company). She is adamant that she will be doing this for a long time, as she loves it so much.

BubblesBuddy Tue 08-Jan-19 12:35:55

If dd wants to work abroad, the competition there will be equally as stiff. It’s not as if Canadians and Australians don’t want to do this work. If you feel South Africa is off limits, then lots of interesting countries will be. This all sounds unrealistic and a bit of a dream to me.

Clearly the people who are experts in a certain species design enclosures. She needs to get to that level of expertise and management. So getting the required degree is needed and take it from there.

My DDs both went to school in SA aged 13. They flew without me. The crime is overstated in terms of visitors. Most is against SA nationals but of course you avoid certain areas, don’t wander around alone and do what you are told. On a game reserve you will be totally protected. Why would you not go if it’s your dream to work with animals?

Verbena37 Tue 08-Jan-19 18:54:55

bubble thank you. I only used Canada and Aus. As examples of English speaking countries but yes, I guess competition is high everywhere.
puzzled thank you too. All good info. I will take a look at that the Mighty Roar website.

But you’re right, she doesn’t really know exactly what she wants....other than a non office job.
It’s so hard for them deciding what to do at uni.

Her passion is actually ballroom and Latin dancing and she would love nothing more than to dance for a living but competition is high and there aren’t really any degree type quals you can do unless you miss in other dance types, which she doesn’t currently do.

OP’s posts: |
Au79 Tue 08-Jan-19 22:21:13

My dd worked one full day a week as a volunteer in year 12 at a children’s farm, mainly to get work experience for vet school application. Apart from the animals, she learnt a lot about jobs in general, colleagues and dealing with the public and teaching children. It was clearly dirty cold wet exhausting and sometimes heartbreaking but it really showed her, us and evidently the vet schools that this is a sort of job that she is suited to.

Chelonia Fri 11-Jan-19 19:52:39

It's actually a really good thing that she likes all the species - I actually can't abide the kids who declare they only want to work with "charismatic mega fauna" like big cats!! All species need to have someone to be their advocate and as a junior keeper a lot of zoos will rotate you through different teams so you get a chance to experience various species and find your fit (or be put where the higher ups can see you show the most aptitude)
There are certainly entire companies who specialise in zoo enclosure design and I am currently working with one who are based in the states and fly all around the world. However if your DD thinks she can work in this field without practical experience then she is trying to run before she can walk. She will be laughed out of town - really needs practical experience being a zookeeper before she can try to design a habitat, how does she expect to know how an animal uses the enclosure? (Sorry I'm not being rude I'm just suggesting points to raise with her! If it's any consolation I was the same at this age, lofty aspirations and no idea how the real world works!) Welfare is the role of everyone who works with the animals and is externally audited by a welfare committee made up of internal and external members (zoo vets, keepers, local animal people like government vets or conservation trusts) Enrichment is given and designed by keepers usually with one person having a lead driving role in that area. There is also loads of international networking in this field and social media helps share ideas (search: The Shape of Enrichment on FB) The upshot is, she needs to go in at the ground level and work her way up and find her niche or direction naturally.
Given that she's not even come up with the idea of volunteering at a zoo herself I wonder if a practical job is something she is going to be suited to? Does she have pets? Is she happy to get mucky? In which case she may be better off going to do a biology degree while she figures herself out. However given student loans etc it may be an expensive way to do that. She could still volunteer at zoos etc while doing studies. Also be careful of volunteering abroad as most of the companies are just umbrella companies doing the setting up of placements etc and not actually involved with the projects themselves. The fees they charge are very high - I just had a look at The Mighty Roar and while I do think it looks extremely ethical and a reputable company, I can identify several projects they are supplying to and at least one project charges about a quarter the fee if you volunteer directly with them. is a Greek sea turtle project, have a look at their work, they are an extremely well established and well known project who need about 500 vols a year. Life changing experience for 18yrs and over

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