Scotland’s most spectacular traineeship

15/09/2017 in Highland Wildlife Park

Red pandas at Highland Wildlife Park

With recent government figures showing that one in three graduates struggle to find jobs suited to their skills, having good qualifications is an asset, but it is essential to set yourself apart from the crowd

Competition for jobs in zoos is fierce and most zoos are looking for candidates with zoo experience which makes it hard to break into the profession. That is why, when the very rare chance to join RZSS Highland Wildlife Park’s keeping team opened up recently, the decision was made to work with an appropriate animal management college to identify a new graduate that has stood out and give them the opportunity they have been trying to secure. Jennifer Icely joined the team this week and has already been busy learning the ropes.

Douglas Richardson, Head of Living Collections at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, said: “The job of zoo keeper has evolved into a profession with a large number of young people all chasing the few opportunities that arise.  When I was looking for my first opportunity over 40 years ago, the competition was tough then but it is even more difficult now, hence our desire to give a deserving novice a foot in the door.

“Jennifer joins us with good background knowledge and this nine month contract will give her the paid, hands-on experience in a reputable collection that she will need to stand out from the crowd. We hope that by giving her the opportunity to come and learn from our expert team, she will develop a long-term career in the sector.”

Jennifer Icely, Trainee Keeper, said: “Trainee keeper positions don’t become available in the field very often, so I’m delighted to have been offered the chance to join the team at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park and to expand my knowledge already gained at Sparsholt College. With over 200 animals on-site and a huge variety of different species to work with, I know there’s plenty to learn but I’m excited about what the next nine months will bring.  All of the staff have been welcoming and they are all very knowledgeable and eager to share their skills”

Jennifer’s role will see her develop the skills required to care for the many rare species that call the Park home.  She will help to clean and feed  a wide range of animals, from Japanese snow monkeys to red pandas. She will be exposed to every aspect of the job and will be well placed to be considered for a permanent position in a zoo at the end of the contract.

Her time at the Park will see her slowly take on the responsibilities of an animal keeper under the team’s watchful eye, as she helps implement the individualized care each species requires to ensure she gains the experience of the practical aspects of wild animal care and husbandry.

RZSS Highland Wildlife Park is home to over 230 fascinating animals from around the world, many of which are threatened with extinction. Specialising in cold weather adapted species, the Park covers more than 200 acres, 80-plus hectares. Set in the majestic Cairngorms National Park in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, only 7 miles from Aviemore, the park was first opened in 1972 and has been under the ownership of RZSS since 1986.

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