Wild Animals/future career.

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Question
Dear Jonathan Wright,
I currently am still a high school student, but I am thinking deeply about a specific career path. As I assume you get these questions a lot, I am sure you might be able to answer my question.
I enjoy large animals, such as big cats, bears, and several different dog packs. I am not sure where or when I need to start, only being a freshman I'm not sure how much I can do now. I would like to work hands on, maybe in an animal rescue or a sanctuary where I can really bond with the animals and learn all about them and their behaviors.
I was thinking about trying to have a small start at the Santa Fe College zoo, but I don't think they will let someone as young as me to work with them.If you know where I might be able to start my career and dream of interacting with the wild ones that would be wonderful.
Thank you for your time.
      Haily

Answer
Dear Haily

Thank you for your question. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

First of all, I think you need to be realistic about your dream. Most of the people who have asked me for advice about careers with animals have wanted to work with big cats. A few have been interested in wolves and other dogs, but I think you're the first person to have expressed an interest in working with bears. You will face a lot of competition and you may end up with a poorly paid job, although you could use it to further your career. The ex-head keeper of cats at London Zoo went on to work as a manager at the zoos in Rome and Singapore and later managed the Highland Wildlife Park. One of the ex-volunteers at London Zoo now travels to various countries to help with wildlife conservation and one of the students in the year below me at college became a conservationist, author and broadcaster, so there are possibilities for you.

I think your idea of starting at the Santa Fe college zoo is a good one. It will let you know the skills you require to work with animals and will also help you decide if it is the career for you. If you are too young, there may be ways of helping out at a local zoo and perhaps seeing if you can become a docent.

I wish you luck in any future career. If you can afford to pay for the experience, organisations such as Earthwatch run conservation courses where you can help scientists in the wild. Please note that it may be better for you financially to develop your skills for a more lucrative career and then use your vocations to work with animals. I remember one woman who worked as a secretary and was a live in au-pair, as she couldn't afford to rent or buy somewhere in London. She used the money she saved to travel around the world to look at animals.   

I hope this helps

All the best

Jonathan  

Wild Animals

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Jonathan Wright

Expertise

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.

Experience

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'.

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

Publications
Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

Education/Credentials
BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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