Wild Animals/Big cats


Hi, I am very interested in Big cats and I would love to start working with them as volunteer work. I live in Manchester and would like to know if you could possibly give me a few people or places that are interested in volunteers.

Greatly appreciated!


Hallo Taylor

Thanks for your e-mail. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

Various zoos provide training for volunteer keepers. See http://www.videojug.com/interview/being-a-zoo-keeper-2 and https://nextstep.direct.gov.uk/PlanningYourCareer/JobProfiles/JobProfile0453/Pages/default.aspx for information about being a keeper. http://www.paigntonzoo.org.uk/keepers/become-a-keeper.php gives details about Paignton Zoo.

The nearest major zoo to you is probably Chester, which is one of the largest zoos in the UK. It runs a volunteer scheme (http://www.chesterzoo.org/support-us/individual-support/volunteering), but doesn’t allow the volunteers to work with the animals. One of my friends used to be a zoo volunteer there. http://www.chesterzoo.org/support-us/gifts-and-experiences/experience-days/zoo-k gives details about its Keeper for a Day scheme.

Dartmoor Zoo does a scheme (http://www.dartmoorzoo.org/gifts/shadow-a-big-cat-keeper.html) where you pay to be a big cat keeper for day if you are over 18.

Please note that volunteer keepers would probably need to work in various areas of a zoo. I have had several questions from people who want to worm with big cats - in fact I think these requests outnumber those for people who want to work with all other animals put together. This means that you would have a lot of competition for working with big cats. I would advise you to develop your skills with various animals and hope that a vacancy appears to work with big cats.

You also need to bear in mind that most zoos do not allow keepers to enter the enclosures of adult big cats, although a few zoos allow visitors to feed cats (http://www.pwpark.com/experiences). If you want to do this, I suggest you contact Howletts (http://www.aspinallfoundation.org/howletts/keepers/view/126) and Port Lympne (http://www.aspinallfoundation.org/portlympne/keepers-and-rangers/view/63)  Zoos. Please note that tigers have killed a few keepers there. Big cats can be very dangerous.

http://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/animalman.htm have lists of vacancies in zoos and http://en.allexperts.com/q/Wild-Animals-705/big-cat-keeper.htm is quite an old answer that I gave somebody who wanted paid work with big cats. http://zoowork.blogspot.com/2010/03/big-cat-keeper-tiger-handler-level-1.html gives details about the skills needed to be a tiger handler.

All the best


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Jonathan Wright


I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.


I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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