From education to employment

Keeper and aquarist



K1: Current legislation, including health and safety and Animal Welfare Act, zoo licencing act, EU Zoos directive Back to Duty

K2: Work place policies and procedures, such as working safely with higher risk animals and higher risk environments, working at height, working with chemicals, working with tools, manual handling, risk assessment, fire safety, relevant PPE, managing health and wellbeing Back to Duty

K3: The 5 welfare needs of animals: a. its need for a suitable environmentb. its need for a suitable diet (and water)c. Its need to exhibit normal behaviour patternsd. any need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals in appropriate social groupingse. its need to be protected from fear, pain, suffering, injury and disease Back to Duty

K4: Key stakeholders for their area of work, including their organisation structure, organisation mission, regional, national and international associations as appropriate, e.g. BIAZA, EAZA, WAZA, AZA, ZAA Back to Duty

K5: Information needs of internal/external audiences, including what information is appropriate and the factors that need to be taken into consideration, such as communicating animal births/deaths to a range of audiences, and methods of communication and the appropriate communication methods for specific audiences, i.e. internal/external, such as presentations, demonstrations, scientific publications, media releases, social media posts, staff meetings, reports Back to Duty

K6: The principles of basic zoology including the classification of taxa, anatomy, physiology, genetics, adaptations, evolution, ecology, behavioural ecology Back to Duty

K7: The increasingly significant role zoos play globally in conserving species and their habitats, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) One Plan conservation approach Back to Duty

K8: The changing roles of zoos in relation to conservation, research, education, visitor experience, promotion of positive behaviour change in the public, welfare management, enclosure design Back to Duty

K9: Common ethical concerns of the public and the corresponding ethical position taken by their organisation including their organisation’s protocols Back to Duty

K10: The assessment of conservation status of species and habitats including IUCN red listing, IUCN green listing, the Alliance for Zero Extinction, ZSL’s Edge programme, Biodiversity Action Plan (BAPS) Back to Duty

K11: The natural history of the animals in their care and how they are best managed and exhibited to suit their species-specific needs. This is to include their environmental parameters (e.g. temperature, humidity, pH and UV), behavioural needs including habitat type and feeding behaviour, their social needs (e.g. group dynamic) and psychological needs (e.g. quiet environments) Back to Duty

K12: The principles of animal movement and transportation legislation, including handling, restraint, capture and monitoring of animals and the challenges around these such as safety concerns for higher risk and wild species Back to Duty

K13: Population management and its effectiveness including; determination of a range of wild species, same sex groups, breed and cull, and contraception, introduction, the importance of genetic diversity and the consequences of hybridisation and inbreeding e.g. seahorse breed and cull, new fish introduction into a tank Back to Duty

K14: Means of identifying individual animals through transponders, photos, ear tags, leg bands, individual markings, sex determination etc e, g, elasmobranchs for sex determination, individual markings on some fish Back to Duty

K15: Nutritional requirements of a range of wild species across all life stages and how diets are safely stored, formulated, prepared, and delivered including weight management, supplementation and food hygiene e.g. artemia to fry (brine shrimp/mysis) to adult seahorses Back to Duty

K16: Welfare assessment using appropriate welfare assessment tools such as signs of ill health and injury, behaviour monitoring, body condition scoring, specimen collection, faecal scoring, food intake e.g. gill/skin scrapes from fish and the preparation/storage of the slides Back to Duty

K17: Basic veterinary procedures, such as the storage and administration of veterinary medicine, wound management, minor procedures as appropriate Back to Duty

K18: The principles of animal training, such as classical versus operant conditioning, cuing, bridging, reinforcing Back to Duty

K19: How and why to record and retrieve information and write reports using a range of systems relevant to zoo keeping within their organisation, such as diaries, ZIMS, Tracks, PMX, Excel, following instruction to retrieve data or update information and following procedures designed to keep data secure Back to Duty

K20: The principles of enclosure/tank design including the needs of each stakeholder group (e.g. visitor needs: viewing windows, accessible paths, etc.), the needs of the animals (e.g. places to hide) (bio)hazards connected to the enclosure design, enclosure components and furnishings e.g. aquariums and keeper/aquarist access to the LSS Back to Duty

K21: The key risk factors associated with zoonosis and common zoonotic diseases and their management e.g. fish TB Back to Duty

K22: Factors affecting zoo bio security for wild species under their care and appropriate control measures to maintain bio security e.g. net dips Back to Duty

K23: Organisational protocols for dealing with emergencies (e.g. animal escape, unintentional human-animal contact, fire, human medical emergency) and understand their role within this Back to Duty

K24: The principles of housekeeping including cleaning, enclosure/tank management, Life Support Systems maintenance, products used and their associated hazards, frequency of cleaning based on situation, species and individual considering factors such as scent marking or removal of body fluids e.g. fish safe cleaning products Back to Duty

K25: Basic horticultural principles in relation to wild animal collections and species, e.g. care of enclosure plants, knowledge of edible browse species, knowledge of toxic plants and their management e.g. using aquaponic systems to help filter the water Back to Duty

K26: Strategies for compliant and sustainable waste management and recycling Back to Duty

K27: The importance of zoo or aquarium research and the types of research undertaken in zoos/aquariums (e.g. behavioural observation, genetic, nutritional, records based) Back to Duty

K28: The principles of research design and data analysis in a zoo setting including hypothesis creation, ethical approval processes within their organisation, common behavioural observation sampling techniques and how to present findings appropriately e.g. from descriptive statistics, listing methods of dissemination of results etc. Back to Duty


S1: Work effectively in a safe and healthy working environment following current/relevant health and safety legislation and work place policies such as working safely with wild/higher risk animals and higher risk environments, working at height, working with chemicals, working with tools, manual handling, risk assessment, fire safety, relevant PPE Back to Duty

S2: Demonstrate how the 5 welfare needs of an animal can be used as a basis to provide the animal with opportunities to display positive welfare, including providing a suitable environment and diet (including water), housing the animal in appropriate social groupings and protecting it from fear, pain, suffering, injury and disease and providing an environment where normal behaviour can be displayed Back to Duty

S3: Prioritise more critical and less critical activities and tasks using scheduling techniques that enable them to meet deadlines and allow for unexpected tasks, such as an animal medical emergency, daily animal husbandry, visitor safety and staff absence Back to Duty

S4: Communicate information clearly and within a timely manner with internal audiences such as colleagues, vets, managers and contractors, concisely, accurately and in ways that promote understanding – verbally as well as in writing (e.g. daily reports, diaries) adjusting and prioritising information and being mindful of the impact Back to Duty

S5: Communicate effectively with external audiences such as the scientific community, general public/ visitors and media in a range of contexts including presentations, public speaking, visitor engagement, conservation education activities, customer service and delivering keeper experiences in order to educate about animal life histories and conservation issues, promoting awareness of the role of zoos in conservation and encouraging sustainable behaviour change Back to Duty

S6: Actively listen, process and prioritise information, confirm understanding and react according to level of risk e.g. lost child procedure, animal escape, instruction from senior staff Back to Duty

S7: Devise and deliver a talk/presentation using a range of appropriate resources such as audio/visual equipment, PowerPoint slides, physical props Back to Duty

S8: Deal appropriately with difficult issues (e.g. visitor/internal conflicts and complaints) following workplace policies and procedures Back to Duty

S9: Accurately record, retrieve and monitor information and write reports using a range of systems relevant to zoo/aquarium keeping within your organisation, such as diaries, ZIMS, Tracks, Excel following instruction to retrieve data or update information and follow workplace procedures designed to keep data secure Back to Duty

S10: Use information from reliable sources using scientific nomenclature of taxa for a variety of purposes such as gathering information to share with the public and/or science community, researching information to underpin enclosure/tank design and husbandry plans including use of recognised assessment tools to identify species or habitat conservation status Back to Duty

S11: Observe, describe and interpret animal behaviour (innate, learned, abnormal), including species specific behaviours for species in their care, taking response action where appropriate, including reporting to the supervisor or recording in animal records system Back to Duty

S12: Develop, implement and evaluate (including safety evaluation) appropriate sensory and cognitive enrichment in accordance with enclosure/tank design and species-specific needs e.g. simulating hunting behaviours in big cats, stingrays and sharks Back to Duty

S13: Identify individual animals through transponders, photos, ear tags, leg bands, individual markings, sex determination Back to Duty

S14: Create a plan using the principles of population management in line with the organisation collection plan, such as the introductory meeting of a species, taking into consideration individual suitability (e.g. health status, age, social hierarchy, reproductive status), practical set up, potential issues and solutions e.g. introducing a males and females for breeding or forming single sex groups/mixed species Back to Duty

S15: Interpret diet sheets and safely store, prepare and present diets in a manner which promotes species-specific natural behaviours, also considering individual needs (e.g. geriatric, disabled, etc.) Back to Duty

S16: Evaluate diets and propose modifications e.g. to minimise the amount of uneaten food and contingent wastage, promote physical and psychological health and welfare meeting nutritional needs Back to Duty

S17: Correctly follow procedures for waste management and disposal including hazardous materials, biosecurity risks, legally regulated materials Back to Duty

S18: Identify which equipment, methods of approach, capture, handling, restraint and loading are best for specific situations and species, create plans for and make informed decisions to facilitate this e.g. fish species that are net sensitive or elasmobranchs that are trained to go in to a stretcher. Back to Duty

S19: Show confidence in assisting with the capture and restraint of wild and high-risk species Back to Duty

S20: Identify the most appropriate methods of successfully transporting animals, considering: species, level of risk, duration, animal welfare considerations, health and safety, legislation e.g. maintaining the temperature of the water for an overnight transport Back to Duty

S21: Train animals’ using positive reinforcement-based techniques in various situations (e.g. target training with a single animal) and apply these techniques in the animal’s routine, monitoring and recording the results and giving feedback to the responsible supervisor Back to Duty

S22: Identify, assess severity of and report potential health issues in animals in a timely manner. Monitor changes in health of animals and report their findings to a supervisor or veterinarian e.g. signs of ill health or injury, behaviour monitoring, body condition scoring, faecal scoring, food intake Back to Duty

S23: Correctly collect, document and store suitable samples as part of veterinary health monitoring e.g. hair, faeces, urine, gill Back to Duty

S24: Administer treatment following instruction from a veterinarian/competent staff member (e.g. administration of medication to an individual/group, parasite treatments, nail/hoof trimming) e.g. salt treatment, Aquatet etc. Back to Duty

S25: Assess the strengths and weaknesses of different enclosure designs from the point of view of each stakeholder group (e.g. animals, keepers, vet team, visitors, educators, researchers) and propose improvements, if required Back to Duty

S26: Select optimal enclosure substrates and furnishings and maintain them within the enclosure/tank e.g. clean appropriately, monitor condition and replace as appropriate e.g. coral chip and a siphon schedule Back to Duty

S27: Identify potential and existing physical and bio hazards within an enclosure and associated areas, responding and participating in alterations/solutions where possible, reporting more complex issues to the relevant staff, all within a timely manner Back to Duty

S28: Use, maintain and store a range of tools correctly, including electrical tools, appropriate to the workplace Back to Duty

S29: Monitor and take responsibility of the health and safety of the visitors and welfare of the animals in enhanced animal contact situations, especially with higher risk and wild species, such as visitor encounter, keeper for a day experiences, walkthrough enclosures, animal handling sessions, taking action when required to minimise risks and stress Back to Duty

S30: Comply with and support other staff in complying with emergency protocols e.g., animal escape drills, fire etc. Back to Duty

S31: Carry out safe housekeeping regimes including the safe use and disposal of products used, cleaning of enclosures/tanks, public areas, Life Support Systems maintenance, and their associated hazards, frequency of cleaning based on situation, species and individual considering factors such as sent marking or removal of body fluids to required standard, according to species specific standard Back to Duty

S32: Design and implement research projects; including a small number of variables or indicators, using tried and tested research methods e.g. single animal case studies of behaviour challenges Back to Duty

S33: Analyse results and summarise findings using reporting tools including descriptive statistics, listing methods of dissemination of results including where relevant research might be published and considering the implications of findings for practices within their organisation Back to Duty


B1: Be safety conscious and maintain safe working practices, which must be adhered to at all times with constant situational awareness and adaptability to ensure safety of the animal(s), themselves and others, including proactively assessing risks and mitigating these immediately. Back to Duty

B2: Have a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn. Be respectful, punctual, reliable, trustworthy and diligent and prepared to work irregular hours, in all weathers. Take a pride in their work, showing commitment and loyalty, whilst conducting themselves in a professional manner, both in terms of their presentation and conduct. Have a responsible attitude towards themselves, others and the animal(s) in their care, showing respect, empathy, patience and tolerance in all situations, including working with methods that reduce any risk of physical injury and emotional stress to animal(s), themselves or others. Back to Duty

B3: Professional and ethical responsibilities and the values of their work place Back to Duty

B4: An awareness of the limits of your own authority, expertise, training, competence and experience Back to Duty

B5: Respect and empathy for animals Back to Duty

B6: Being aware of how to use social media responsibly Back to Duty

B7: Be respectful of the legal duty of care under animal health and welfare legislation and codes of practice and other relevant legislation affecting the keeping of animals Back to Duty

B8: Have a positive approach to working within a team and have the ability to work both individually and as part of a team as required, understanding their role and changing priorities when the situation dictates to meet organisational objectives. Be willing to develop productive working relationships with colleagues and stakeholders Back to Duty

B9: Respecting the values of the work place Back to Duty

B10: Being open to new ideas, willing to develop skills and new ways of working and being committed to ongoing professional development Back to Duty

B11: Knowing when to ask for advice or guidance when unsure and learning from these experiences. Self-reflection in taking responsibility for own actions and mistakes, reporting them immediately, and identifying lessons learnt Back to Duty

B12: Using initiative and maximising productivity and efficiency Back to Duty

B13: Being flexible with respect to changing demands, priorities, schedules, working hours, weather conditions Back to Duty

B14: Being aware of the surroundings and noticing and responding to problems that may adversely affect public perception (e.g. litter-picking) Back to Duty

B15: Being customer focused, polite and friendly Back to Duty

Related Articles