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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Do you want a career working with animals?  


Our popular course in Zoo Keeping provides you with an introduction to the major aspects of working in zoos, wildlife parks, safari parks etc.

 You will learn about:
  • Animal Welfare
  • Animal Care
  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Forms of Enrichment to enhance wellbeing
  • Captive Breeding
  • Enclosure Design
  • Research, Education and Conservation in Zoos. 

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Do you want to work in a zoo or safari park?

Do you want to work with animals?  
Do you want to make sure that animals in zoological parks are healthy and happy?
This course is a terrific introduction to working in zoos, safari parks, aquariums or fauna sanctuaries.  You will cover many aspects of zoo work such as:  
  • Animal Welfare
  • Animal Care
  • Diet and Nutritional requirements
  • Animal Enrichment
  • Captive Breeding
  • Enclosure Design 
  • Research and Conservation
  • Educating the Public
ACS Student comment:  "I'm getting positive comments with notes on things I missed, so I think that is helpful. I'm learning a lot about zoo keeping and am able to see its value as I go about my volunteer zoo work. I'm loving the course. Thanks for the opportunity." Jo-Anna Apelt, Australia - Zoo Keeping course.




There are 9 lessons in this course:
1. The Nature and Scope of Zoos
  • What is a Zoo?
  • The Evolution of Zoos
  • Change in Zoo Design
  • Modern Zoos, Fauna Sanctuaries and Safari Parks
  • Legislation and Codes of Practice
  • Animal Welfare
  • Record Keeping
  • Identification Tags
  • Animal Taxonomy
  • Phylums and Classes
  • The Function of Zoos - Conservation, Research and Education

2. Occupational Health and Safety in Zoos
  • Workplace Health & Safety
  • Legislation
  • Health and Safety Management in Zoos
  • Training
  • Workplace Health and Safety Practices
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Moving Animals within the Zoo
  • Restraining Animals
  • Carrying out Veterinary Procedures
  • Managing Visitor-Animal Contact

3. Captive Husbandry – Nutrition and Feeding
  • Nutrition - Natural Diet
  • Feeding Behaviour
  • The Effect of Poor Nutrition
  • Water Requirements of Animals
  • Essential Dietary Components - Carbohydrates, Protein, Fats and Lipids
  • Vitamins and Minerals - In food and Supplementing captive diets
  • Food Storage and Preparation
  • Presentation of Food
  • Monitoring Feeding
  • Feeding Enrichment
  • Primates and Feeding Enrichment
4. Captive Husbandry - Health
  • Monitoring Health - The Healthy Animal, Recognising Ill Health and Diagnosing Diseases
  • Maintaining Health and Hygiene
  • Diseases - Metabolic Diseases, Parasites, Diseases Common to Zoo Animals, Controlling the Spread of Diseases
  • Quarantine and Vaccinations
  • Record Keeping

5. Captive Husbandry - Reproduction
  • The Need for Captive Breeding
  • Goals of Captive Breeding
  • Captive Breeding Issues
  • Inbreeding in Captive Populations - the Genetic Effects and Results of Inbreeding
  • Captive Breeding Programs - Issues and Constraints
  • Monitoring Reproductive Status - External Signs and Indicators, Invasive Monitoring
  • Assisted Reproduction - Artificial Insemination and IVF
  • Stud Books
  • Birth Control in Zoo Animals

6. Captive Husbandry - Behaviour and Enrichment
  • Ethology
  • What Motivates Behaviour?
  • Kinds of Behaviour - Reactive, Active and Cognitive
  • Learned Behaviour - Classical Conditioning, Operant Conditioning, Imprinting and Habituation
  • The Flight or Fight Response
  • Abnormal Behaviours - eg. Stereotypes
  • Welfare Indicators
  • Physical and Social Influences on Behaviour
  • Behaviour Management
  • Environmental Enrichment - Food, Physical, Cognitive, Social and Sensory

7. Human-Animal Interactions
  • Human - Animal Interactions in Zoos
  • Keeper - Animal Interactions
  • Husbandry Routines - Daily, Weekly and Monthly
  • Dealing with Dangerous Animals
  • Handling Animals
  • Fear of Humans
  • Managing Visitor - Animal Interactions

8. Enclosure Design and Maintenance
  • Optimum Enclosure Design
  • Walk Through Enclosures - eg. Butterfly Houses and Aviaries
  • Natural Replication
  • Routine Maintenance
  • Providing Stimulating Environments - Physical, Feeding, Sensory and Social Enrichment

9. Problem-based Learning Project – Environmental Enrichment
  • Environmental Enrichment Research Project
  • Introduction and Definition of Problem-based Learning
  • Problem Definition
  • People Involved
  • Resources
  • Guidelines
  • Discussion
  • Final Report 

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

  • Describe the nature and scope of zoos as a source of education and conservation.
  • Develop appropriate procedures for managing occupational health and safety in a zoo, with a view to minimising risk to staff, animals and visitors.
  • Describe the nutritional requirements and feeding preferences of animals within zoos.
  • Determine health management measures for different captive zoo animals.
  • Describe breeding management in zoos.
  • Determine appropriate ways to manage a range of different wild animals in zoos.
  • Explain procedures and techniques for human-animal interactions in zoos.
  • Identify and describe the qualities of good enclosure design.
  • Develop an environmental enrichment program for a captive animal.

ACS Student comment: "I'm getting positive comments with notes on things I missed, so I think that is helpful. I'm learning a lot about zoo keeping and am able to see its value as I go about my volunteer zoo work. I'm loving the course. Thanks for the opportunity." Jo-Anna Apelt - Zoo Keeping course.

Feeding Animals in Zoos

Food storage and presentation should be undertaken in conjunction with strict guidelines. Food-borne illnesses readily occur when food is not stored properly. There are pathogenic hazards such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi that can cause illness in both humans and animals. Five things need to be considered to ensure food is stored safely. These are:

  • Temperature
  • Pest control
  • Package integrity
  • Storage integrity
  • Time limit (shelf-life)

All food should be kept in appropriate containers to ensure that the nutritional value of the food is retained for as long as needed. Fridges and freezers need to be kept at appropriate temperatures for storing fish, meat and vegetables. Dry food such as grain and pellets need to be kept free of moisture in containers that are appropriately labelled and checked regularly.

Hay for herbivores should also be kept off the ground to avoid mildew and other contaminants. Live vertebrate food should not be given to carnivorous or omnivorous animals. Live insects should be kept for frogs. Animals that are used as food should be euthenased humanely. They should also be frozen and thawed thoroughly before being fed to animals such as reptiles and birds of prey.

Food preparation should be carried out in accordance with relevant federal, state or local regulations (eg. AZA Accredited Standards). Meat must always be processed following relevant health standards.

Presentation Matters

As species vary in their feeding habits, the way in which food is presented is very important. For example, herbivores will generally graze throughout the day requiring permanent pasture or access to fresh greens on a daily basis. Carnivores on the other hand will feed more intermittently and may like to work for their food. As mentioned previously, animals in the wild forage for food, many zoos try to replicate this behaviour as a form of enrichment for larger animals. If food presentation becomes monotonous stereotypical behaviours may arise. This monotony can be broken by replicating natural feeding behaviour of the animal.

It is also important that food is made available to all individuals in an enclosure. This can be ensured by spacing feeding points out within the enclosure to minimise competition, provide separate feeding stations for new individuals that may not be integrated into the group and time feeding to ensure all animals have access to food. It may also be necessary to isolate certain animals (such as snakes) during feeding as there can be accidental injury or ingestion of other animals during this time. Feeding behaviour of species that require intervention should be carefully observed.

As mentioned above there are ethical issues with feeding live food to carnivorous animals. It can also be quite dangerous for the predator, such as snakes that can injure themselves inside a small enclosure when trying to catch prey. In the wild, when snakes are ready to feed they are in hunting mode, probably laying in wait and camouflaged. In an enclosure setting, the snake is not prepared and the live mouse or rat can startle the snake by running towards it. This can lead to injuries. If the snake does not catch the prey straight away, it can sometimes become the victim, with the mouse or rat biting at the snake that cannot escape.

The reality of working with animals

There are many courses out there to study animals. The reality is... to get a job working with animals you will need experience! Give yourself the best chance you can to fulfil your dream by combining our course with valuable work experience. 

Places that you may be able to volunteer include:

  • Zoos
  • Wildlife parks
  • Veterinary clinics
  • Animal Rehabilitation Centres
  • Animal Welfare Centres
  • Animal Boarding Centres
  • Ecotourism companies



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Meet some of our academics

Dr. Gareth PearceGraduated from the University of Nottingham in 1982 with a B.Sc.(Hons) in Animal Science. Between 82 and 85 worked as Research Assistant and Demonstator in Animal Science at the University of Leeds. Over more than 30 years he has furthered his studies, obtaining eight significant university qualifications including degrees in Veterinary Science, Wildlife Conservation and Animal Behaviour. Gareth has significant teaching experience around the world as a faculty member at eight different universities including Associate Professor at Murdoch University and Director of Studies in Veterinary Science at Cambridge University. He has over 100 prestigious research papers published, and enjoys an outstanding international reputation in the fields of animal and veterinary science.

Check out our eBooks

Animal PsychologyExplore how animals think and comare how this differs between different animals (and humans)
BirdsIdeal for Ornithology students or the budding bird enthusiast, this ebook offers an ideal foundation on birds. Learn to identify birds from around the world with over 130 colour photographs and 117 pages of fascinating bird facts.
Marine AnimalsWith colour photos splashed throughout, this Marine Animals e-book is designed to provide a guide for some of the more common animals found in marine ecosystems around the world. Learn about the creatures hidden by the other 70% of the earth's surface. Explore more...
Animal HealthUnderstand animal health issues, diseases and how identify and manage illnesses and injuries. Animals can become sick for many different reasons -diseases caused by infections, injuries, poisoning, genetic disorders, poor nutrition and other things.