Hi my name is Jess and I’m one of the year 10 work experience students for Newquay Zoo’s marketing and events team this year. Today I’ve met up with Rebecca, a Voluntary Worker Training Placement keeper, to find out a little bit more about her.

What made you want to get into this area of work?

Well, I’ve always loved animals and wanted to work with them. I went on work experience when I was 14 at a zoo close to me. It was actually a zoo that I’d been going to throughout my childhood – since the age of about five! I remember pointing to one of the keepers when I first visited and saying “I’m going to do that!”.  I guess it stuck with me and I just didn’t turn back.

What does your job entail?

I work with the carnivores. I can’t do anything dangerous - I mainly feed the animals and pick up the poo, which actually isn’t that bad. It’s quite satisfying making the enclosures all squeaky clean.

What experience with animals have you got?

A lot! In total, I’d say about two years of practical experience in zoos. In about - I’ve got to count them all up, now - seven zoos!

What do you think keeps you the busiest in the zoo?

Probably the morning and afternoon rounds - this is where we go around the section, feeding, observing, and cleaning out the enclosures.

In terms of animals, probably the otters take up most of my time, as they’re so messy! Cleaning their enclosure is quite a job, especially as we have a free running stream through it. We find lots of debris that gets washed through, including children’s tea cups, plastic bottles, crisp packets, even a bin lid!

What do you think is the most demanding part about your job?

I would have to say the otters. We get asked about the otters quite a lot, as they tend to chew on little stones to sharpen their teeth and strengthen their jaws for opening mussel shells. This is a natural behaviour but it does sometimes cause concern among guests.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned since working at Newquay Zoo?

Everything to do with Owston’s civets. There are only 17 in captivity globally - six of them are here at Newquay Zoo. Everything is pretty new, as not much is known about them as a species. It’s all about observing them and their behaviours – including the baby that was born here recently.

Have you worked on projects abroad?

I haven’t, but I’d love to! I would probably go to Borneo to work with the Bornean sun bears. I’d recommend watching the documentary that Judi Dench made and you’ll see why I want to work with them!

What is your favourite animal, if you had to pick one? And why?

All of them, but my favourite to work with would be bears, they have such fun personalities! Imagine dogs, but a bit bigger and more dangerous!

Is there something that young people with an interest in animals and conservation can be getting involved in?

I’d recommend volunteering in zoos. Experience is key. Get as much experience under your belt as possible, as it makes you look more attractive to employers. The more experience you get with different species, the more you’re going to learn about different animals, and the different fields of work you can get into.

Working with animals covers such a vast number of things, and it’s all about finding what’s best for you and narrowing it down to what you really want to do, and what you’re really interested in. Find what you’re passionate about and make your difference in the world. You need to be 18 or over to volunteer with Newquay Zoo.

Find out more about volunteering opportunities here.

What can people get involved in during the summer?

Beach cleans are great. They don’t sound exciting, but they’re such a crucial activity. It looks good on a CV and it’s helping our wildlife. There’s one organized by Newquay Zoo in September, you can find out more here.

Fundraising is also a great route to go down, find a project you’re really interested in and raise money for that cause. It can be anything from cake sales to skydiving. 

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