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Wild Animals/What should I major in


Dear Jonathan,

I am a freshman in college and already know what I want to do, but I'm not sure what I should major in. Exactly what I want to do is protect endanger species particularly wild cats. I want to work in the field studying them. There are so many things I could major in; Biology, Zoology, Ecology, environmental Ecology and Biology. I just don't know which would be the right one to help me reach my goal which is studying big cats in the wild. Do you think you could help me? What do you think is the best option for me? And what is the profession called that I am describing, is it a zoologist? Thank you for your help!

Dear Ann

Thank you for your questions and for your desire to save endangered species. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

First of all, I have had several similar questions since I started on AllExperts and the majority of people wanted to work with tigers and other big cats. This suggests that there is a lot of interest in this area and possibly a lot of competition. It may be better to develop skills to aid the conservation of various animal species, including big cats but not excluding others. Many of London Zoo's keepers used to specialise in certain houses several years ago, but now they develop a variety of skills by working with a range of species. This can help them with future careers. The future is very uncertain in the UK at the moment and I believe that flexibility and the abilty to transfer skills into new work environments will help people develop their careers. That doesn't mean that you won't work with big cats, but it does mean that you may need to move sideways at first and show that you have the abilities needed to work with big cats.

It may be worthwhile doing volunteer work for a local zoo. There are several zoos in Tennessee. I have listed colections with big cats. Here you will be able to find out more about the cats and you may be able to get help with advice about courses. Tiger Haven ( sounds like a good place to help you with your studies. Knoxville Zoo ( has Bengal and Malayan tigers and African lions. Memphis Zoo ( has African lions, African leopards, Bengal and Sumatran tigers, cheetahs, jaguars, pumas and snow leopards. Nashville Zoo ( has Bengal tigers, clouded leopards and pumas.

Out of the options you have given me, I suggest that majoring in Ecology and Conservation is best if you want to conserve species and natural habitats. I know someobody who works in the Institute of Zoology who has worked with black rhinos in Zimbabwe and Kenya, as well as Indian rhinos, hispid hares and pygmy hogs in Assam. He has also been involved in helping educate children by linking the development of schools alongside wildlife habitats. This may be something to think about. There are many third world charities, where you can help local people while also protecting habitats. Survival International helps tribal people live in forests and other habitats and this also protects habitats for wildlife.

Several years ago, I had a talk with a member of staff at Jersey Zoo. He said that officials negotiated with leaders in various countries. I agree that it is better with leaders, even if you are fundamentally opposed to their ideologies, rather than to try and save animals while the government is opposed to your actions. It is also good to work with local people. I have had talks with people who are encouraging local people to talk with others to encourage conservation and this may be more successful than trying to show that somebody from another country knows more about their animals than they do. While you may know more about big cats than some of the people who have big cats nearby, it may come across as arrogant, especially as places like the USA and UK have destroyed much of their natural habitats, which has led to the extinction of many species. Courses in relevant languages may be useful as well, as English is not the first language in many countries. I was criticised for not having done a course in French before I visited Madagascar for 3 weeks. Please note that if you achieve your goal, there may not be an interpreter available.        

I also suggest that you look at any courses or skills that will lead to ways to make money to pay for your future life. You may get enough money from working in conservation, but it may be better to get a paid job in another area and use excess money to pay for conservation work with organisations like Earthwatch(, where you can spend your vacations helping endangered animals.

I hope this helps.

Good luck for the future.


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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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