Hannah Richards

Qualification & subject:
Honours and Integrated Masters Degrees BSc (Hons) Zoology
Zookeeping internship | Shaldon Zoo

What I did on my sandwich year

I did a zookeeping internship at Shaldon Zoo in Devon, which I found on the BIAZA website. I gained so many skills required for the role of a zookeeper. I learned about the appropriate husbandry for a variety of species but I also gained in confidence in catching and restraining a variety of animals without supervision and developed my knowledge in veterinary care. The internship improved my communication and presentation skills as I had to give keeper talks to the public and my leadership skills, as I had responsibility for assigning duties to other members of staff and volunteers. You need to plan for your placement year as it’s often unpaid but the small loan provided definitely helped and I worked part-time too. That was hard work when I was working full-time at the zoo but I got used to the routine and it was definitely worth it because I made more friends and had some cash to socialise!

The highlights of my work placement year  

Having close contact with rare endangered species and spending quality time with such beautiful animals. The biggest high point was going to Monkey World Ape and Rescue Centre for a week with the head keeper. I got this opportunity because my dissertation is based on the pair formation of two bengal slow loris and the introduction was being held at Monkey World. I was there to collect behavioural data and observe the introduction process in case of any aggression. As well as doing my study, I helped in other departments by assisting the keepers with the daily husbandry of primates such as orangutans, chimpanzees and capuchins. It was amazing and I learned a lot! I was also interviewed and filmed for their famous documentary ‘Monkey Life’, which was shown on TV recently in their new series.

Where the experience is taking me

Due to my brilliant year at the zoo, I made many contacts within the industry which have already proved to be very beneficial. After my placement, I was lucky enough to go to Vietnam to volunteer in a Primate Conservation Project through a contact I made at Monkey World, who founded the project. I also went on to volunteer in the primate section at Newquay Zoo. Now I’m about to be interviewed for a job at Shaldon Zoo and it would be fantastic to have that to move into when I graduate. My dream is to be a zookeeper and eventually help with conservation projects overseas and assist with breeding programmes through ex-situ conservation.

The best thing about my course
The work placement year is a brilliant opportunity for anyone who wants a career within the animal industry and the Field Course module to South Africa was amazing. Not only did we get to see a beautiful country with amazing animals but we learned the many techniques used in the conservation of animals within a game reserve. There are lots of opportunities to get hands-on on my course due to the facilities at Hartpury, like the animal management centre and the farm. I definitely recommend getting involved with handling the animals and assisting with animal care.

Why I chose Hartpury
Definitely because of the animal facilities and the variety of modules within my course. Hartpury helped prepare me for my future career by providing me with knowledge on a variety of animals, giving me an insight into the animal industry and supporting me to secure such a fantastic placement year opportunity.