Keeper and Aquarist

Occupation Overview

Responsible for the everyday care and husbandry of the animals within the collection

Occupation summary

The Apprentice will be employed in zoos, wildlife parks, aquariums, private animal collections, animal reserves, and farms with a zoo licence. The role of a Zoo Keeper or Aquarist will include:


• Interpreting diet Sheets, preparing and delivering Animal feeds
• Servicing, cleaning and managing Animal environments
• Providing Species specific habitats and routines for animals in line with their natural history
• Observing and understanding Animal behaviour, Animal Health and Welfare, recording and reporting findings
• Checking enclosure and other work areas for potential or existing hazards
• Engaging with visitors and stakeholders, tailoring information to the audience

Keepers and aquarists assist and adhere to the zoological collections and industry best practice, law, protocols and procedures in relation to animal husbandry, welfare, transportation and work health and safety. They will learn about and understand the role of key stakeholders in their area of work. 

An employee in this occupation will be responsible for the everyday care and husbandry of the animals within the collection. They will understand species specific behaviour and needs and the basics of animal training. They will record and report any observed changes and concerns to senior animal keeping staff/management and learn the use of up to date recording systems like ZIMS. The Apprentice will use tools on the job which are needed for cleaning enclosures, enclosure maintenance and design and food preparation. They will be expected to complete day to day tasks using their initiative, within a specific time period. This will vary with the size of collection, in smaller organisations they will have complete autonomy on a day-to-day basis and in larger organisations they may work within a team. It is likely it may involve unsociable hours and working outside in all weather conditions.

In their daily work, an employee in this occupation interacts with volunteers, animal keepers who are less experienced and more experienced, management, veterinary staff, staff from other departments, colleagues from other zoological collections and members of the public. They will report concerns to senior animal keeping staff/management and will use tools on the job which are needed for cleaning enclosures, enclosure maintenance and design and food preparation. They will do this in a confident and polite manner. They will be expected to complete day to day tasks using their own initiative. 

Keepers and aquarists will also be required to encourage public engagement with wildlife, conservation breeding and conservation education. They will be required to research, gather and present information for educational presentations relating to the species in their area and to promote understanding with different audiences such as visitors and other internal stakeholders. This may be done through presentations and demonstrations with the animals, explaining different characteristics of the animals to visitors.

An Animal Keeper or Aquarist will have a strong work ethic and show respect and empathy for both people and animals.

Typical job titles include:

Zoo Keeper, Animal Keeper, Aquarist

Occupation duties

Duty

Duty 1 Assist with the preparation of approved diets and carry out the correct feeding procedures, according to the animal’s individual needs (e.g. geriatric, disabled, etc.)

Criteria for measuring performance

Accurately interpret daily diet sheets and prepare food in accordance with safety procedures
Prepare food in a timely manner

KSBs

K1 K2 K3 K15 K26

S1 S2 S3 S15 S16

B1 B2 B3 B5 B9

Duty 2 Clean and maintain exhibits, enclosures and other designated areas, including defects or repairs required to enclosures.

Criteria for measuring performance

Complete cleaning in a timely manner and to a high standard
Adhere to safety protocols and comply with health and safety legislation
Make recommendations where appropriate

KSBs

K1 K2 K3 K21 K22 K24 K26

S1 S2 S17 S27 S28 S31

B1 B2 B3 B5 B7 B12 B13 B14

Duty 3 Observe the behaviour, welfare, security, population management of animals and know who and when to escalate concerns and issues to, in a timely manner, to ensure the welfare of the animals and visitors.

Criteria for measuring performance

Be aware of animal behaviour
Report concerns accurately and in a timely manner
Comply with animal welfare and health and safety

KSBs

K1 K2 K3 K4 K6 K11 K16 K21 K22

S1 S2 S4 S9 S11 S12 S13 S14 S22

B1 B2 B3 B5 B7 B8 B9 B11

Duty 4 Monitor diet and environmental conditions for animals to ensure they are suitable, checking for signs of disease or distress due to environmental or other factors.

Criteria for measuring performance

Attention to detail and compliance with health and safety
Communicate accurately to report any issues/concerns

KSBs

K1 K2 K3 K11 K13 K15 K16 K19 K21 K22 K24

S1 S2 S10 S15 S16 S17 S31

B1 B2 B3 B4 B5 B7 B8 B9 B12

Duty 5 Communicate effectively and work collaboratively with colleagues, such as Vets, senior keepers and team leaders in a timely and professional manner

Criteria for measuring performance

Work collaboratively and communicate effectively with other staff
Follow formal organisational procedures in a timely manner

KSBs

K4 K5 K17 K23

S6 S8 S9

B2 B3 B4 B6 B8 B9 B10 B11 B13 B14

Duty 6 Maintain and update health and welfare records, both on paper and electronically, monitoring the natural environment of animals and their wellbeing including temperature and humidity control.

Criteria for measuring performance

Accurate record keeping with attention to detail
Records to be updated in a timely manner and according to organisational policy

KSBs

K1 K2 K3 K16 K17 K19 K21 K22 K24 K25

S4 S9 S11 S22 S23

B1

Duty 7 Support positive visitor experiences by engaging in interactive presentations with live animals, answering questions in a friendly and helpful manner.

Criteria for measuring performance

Deliver customer service in accordance with organisational guidelines
Meet customer expectations and provide efficient customer service

KSBs

K1 K2 K3 K5 K6 K7 K8 K9 K23

S1 S5 S7 S8 S10 S29 S30

B1 B2 B3 B5 B7 B14 B15

Duty 8 Comply with and promote Health and Safety and Emergency policies and procedures, including responsibility of own safety as well as that of animals, visitors and colleagues.

Criteria for measuring performance

Comply with all organisational health and safety and animal welfare procedures as well as relevant legislation

Accurately report any concerns in a timely manner

KSBs

K1 K2 K3 K4 K12 K23

S1 S2 S3 S4 S6 S11 S17 S18 S19 S20 S22 S27 S28 S29 S30 S31

B1 B2 B3 B4 B5 B7 B9 B11

Duty 9 Communicate effectively with internal and external stakeholders, tailoring the approach by conveying information in the most suitable manner based on the audience.

Criteria for measuring performance

Comply with organisational guidelines for communicating with stakeholders
Communicate effectively in a timely manner
Adapt communication to suit audience

KSBs

K4 K5 K9

S4 S5 S7

B2 B3 B6 B8 B9 B10 B11 B15

Duty 10 Research, gather and present information for educational presentations relating to the species in your area, to promote understanding with different audiences such as visitors and other internal stakeholders.

Criteria for measuring performance

Carry out relevant research
Identify accurate and relevant information
Present information in a way which promotes engagement and understanding

KSBs

K5 K8 K10 K13 K19 K27 K28

S4 S5 S7 S32 S33

B3 B5 B9 B10 B15

Duty 11 Manage high risk and wild species such as endangered and dangerous animals ensuring the safety of visitors, colleagues and themselves, whilst reducing stress and optimising the health and welfare of the animal.

KSBs

K1 K2 K3 K6 K11 K12 K13 K14 K15 K16 K17 K18 K20 K21 K22 K23 K24 K25

S1 S2 S3 S4 S6 S11 S12 S13 S14 S15 S16 S17 S18 S19 S20 S21 S22 S23 S24 S25 S26 S27 S28 S29 S30 S31

B1 B2 B3 B4 B5 B7 B8 B9 B11 B13

Skills

S1: Work effectively in a safe and healthy working environment following current/relevant health and safety legislation and work place policies such as working safely with wild/higher risk animals and higher risk environments, working at height, working with chemicals, working with tools, manual handling, risk assessment, fire safety, relevant PPE 

S2: Demonstrate how the 5 welfare needs of an animal can be used as a basis to provide the animal with opportunities to display positive welfare, including providing a suitable environment and diet (including water), housing the animal in appropriate social groupings and protecting it from fear, pain, suffering, injury and disease and providing an environment where normal behaviour can be displayed 

S3: Prioritise more critical and less critical activities and tasks using scheduling techniques that enable them to meet deadlines and allow for unexpected tasks, such as an animal medical emergency, daily animal husbandry, visitor safety and staff absence 

S4: Communicate information clearly and within a timely manner with internal audiences such as colleagues, vets, managers and contractors, concisely, accurately and in ways that promote understanding – verbally as well as in writing (e.g. daily reports, diaries) adjusting and prioritising information and being mindful of the impact 

S5: Communicate effectively with external audiences such as the scientific community, general public/ visitors and media in a range of contexts including presentations, public speaking, visitor engagement, conservation education activities, customer service and delivering keeper experiences in order to educate about animal life histories and conservation issues, promoting awareness of the role of zoos in conservation and encouraging sustainable behaviour change 

S6: Actively listen, process and prioritise information, confirm understanding and react according to level of risk e.g. lost child procedure, animal escape, instruction from senior staff 

S7: Devise and deliver a talk/presentation using a range of appropriate resources such as audio/visual equipment, PowerPoint slides, physical props 

S8: Deal appropriately with difficult issues (e.g. visitor/internal conflicts and complaints) following workplace policies and procedures 

S9: Accurately record, retrieve and monitor information and write reports using a range of systems relevant to zoo/aquarium keeping within your organisation, such as diaries, ZIMS, Tracks, Excel following instruction to retrieve data or update information and follow workplace procedures designed to keep data secure 

S10: Use information from reliable sources using scientific nomenclature of taxa for a variety of purposes such as gathering information to share with the public and/or science community, researching information to underpin enclosure/tank design and husbandry plans including use of recognised assessment tools to identify species or habitat conservation status 

S11: Observe, describe and interpret animal behaviour (innate, learned, abnormal), including species specific behaviours for species in their care, taking response action where appropriate, including reporting to the supervisor or recording in animal records system 

S12: Develop, implement and evaluate (including safety evaluation) appropriate sensory and cognitive enrichment in accordance with enclosure/tank design and species-specific needs e.g. simulating hunting behaviours in big cats, stingrays and sharks 

S13: Identify individual animals through transponders, photos, ear tags, leg bands, individual markings, sex determination 

S14: Create a plan using the principles of population management in line with the organisation collection plan, such as the introductory meeting of a species, taking into consideration individual suitability (e.g. health status, age, social hierarchy, reproductive status), practical set up, potential issues and solutions e.g. introducing a males and females for breeding or forming single sex groups/mixed species 

S15: Interpret diet sheets and safely store, prepare and present diets in a manner which promotes species-specific natural behaviours, also considering individual needs (e.g. geriatric, disabled, etc.) 

S16: Evaluate diets and propose modifications e.g. to minimise the amount of uneaten food and contingent wastage, promote physical and psychological health and welfare meeting nutritional needs 

S17: Correctly follow procedures for waste management and disposal including hazardous materials, biosecurity risks, legally regulated materials 

S18: Identify which equipment, methods of approach, capture, handling, restraint and loading are best for specific situations and species, create plans for and make informed decisions to facilitate this e.g. fish species that are net sensitive or elasmobranchs that are trained to go in to a stretcher. 

S19: Show confidence in assisting with the capture and restraint of wild and high-risk species 

S20: Identify the most appropriate methods of successfully transporting animals, considering: species, level of risk, duration, animal welfare considerations, health and safety, legislation e.g. maintaining the temperature of the water for an overnight transport 

S21: Train animals’ using positive reinforcement-based techniques in various situations (e.g. target training with a single animal) and apply these techniques in the animal’s routine, monitoring and recording the results and giving feedback to the responsible supervisor 

S22: Identify, assess severity of and report potential health issues in animals in a timely manner. Monitor changes in health of animals and report their findings to a supervisor or veterinarian e.g. signs of ill health or injury, behaviour monitoring, body condition scoring, faecal scoring, food intake 

S23: Correctly collect, document and store suitable samples as part of veterinary health monitoring e.g. hair, faeces, urine, gill 

S24: Administer treatment following instruction from a veterinarian/competent staff member (e.g. administration of medication to an individual/group, parasite treatments, nail/hoof trimming) e.g. salt treatment, Aquatet etc. 

S25: Assess the strengths and weaknesses of different enclosure designs from the point of view of each stakeholder group (e.g. animals, keepers, vet team, visitors, educators, researchers) and propose improvements, if required 

S26: Select optimal enclosure substrates and furnishings and maintain them within the enclosure/tank e.g. clean appropriately, monitor condition and replace as appropriate e.g. coral chip and a siphon schedule 

S27: Identify potential and existing physical and bio hazards within an enclosure and associated areas, responding and participating in alterations/solutions where possible, reporting more complex issues to the relevant staff, all within a timely manner 

S28: Use, maintain and store a range of tools correctly, including electrical tools, appropriate to the workplace 

S29: Monitor and take responsibility of the health and safety of the visitors and welfare of the animals in enhanced animal contact situations, especially with higher risk and wild species, such as visitor encounter, keeper for a day experiences, walkthrough enclosures, animal handling sessions, taking action when required to minimise risks and stress 

S30: Comply with and support other staff in complying with emergency protocols e.g., animal escape drills, fire etc. 

S31: Carry out safe housekeeping regimes including the safe use and disposal of products used, cleaning of enclosures/tanks, public areas, Life Support Systems maintenance, and their associated hazards, frequency of cleaning based on situation, species and individual considering factors such as sent marking or removal of body fluids to required standard, according to species specific standard 

S32: Design and implement research projects; including a small number of variables or indicators, using tried and tested research methods e.g. single animal case studies of behaviour challenges 

S33: Analyse results and summarise findings using reporting tools including descriptive statistics, listing methods of dissemination of results including where relevant research might be published and considering the implications of findings for practices within their organisation 

Knowledge

K1: Current legislation, including health and safety and Animal Welfare Act, zoo licencing act, EU Zoos directive 

K2: Work place policies and procedures, such as working safely with higher risk animals and higher risk environments, working at height, working with chemicals, working with tools, manual handling, risk assessment, fire safety, relevant PPE, managing health and wellbeing 

K3: The 5 welfare needs of animals: a. its need for a suitable environment b. its need for a suitable diet (and water) c. Its need to exhibit normal behaviour patterns d. any need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals in appropriate social groupings e. its need to be protected from fear, pain, suffering, injury and disease 

K4: Key stakeholders for their area of work, including their organisation structure, organisation mission, regional, national and international associations as appropriate, e.g. BIAZA, EAZA, WAZA, AZA, ZAA 

K5: Information needs of internal/external audiences, including what information is appropriate and the factors that need to be taken into consideration, such as communicating animal births/deaths to a range of audiences, and methods of communication and the appropriate communication methods for specific audiences, i.e. internal/external, such as presentations, demonstrations, scientific publications, media releases, social media posts, staff meetings, reports 

K6: The principles of basic zoology including the classification of taxa, anatomy, physiology, genetics, adaptations, evolution, ecology, behavioural ecology 

K7: The increasingly significant role zoos play globally in conserving species and their habitats, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) One Plan conservation approach 

K8: The changing roles of zoos in relation to conservation, research, education, visitor experience, promotion of positive behaviour change in the public, welfare management, enclosure design 

K9: Common ethical concerns of the public and the corresponding ethical position taken by their organisation including their organisation’s protocols 

K10: The assessment of conservation status of species and habitats including IUCN red listing, IUCN green listing, the Alliance for Zero Extinction, ZSL’s Edge programme, Biodiversity Action Plan (BAPS) 

K11: The natural history of the animals in their care and how they are best managed and exhibited to suit their species-specific needs. This is to include their environmental parameters (e.g. temperature, humidity, pH and UV), behavioural needs including habitat type and feeding behaviour, their social needs (e.g. group dynamic) and psychological needs (e.g. quiet environments) 

K12: The principles of animal movement and transportation legislation, including handling, restraint, capture and monitoring of animals and the challenges around these such as safety concerns for higher risk and wild species 

K13: Population management and its effectiveness including; determination of a range of wild species, same sex groups, breed and cull, and contraception, introduction, the importance of genetic diversity and the consequences of hybridisation and inbreeding e.g. seahorse breed and cull, new fish introduction into a tank 

K14: Means of identifying individual animals through transponders, photos, ear tags, leg bands, individual markings, sex determination etc e, g, elasmobranchs for sex determination, individual markings on some fish 

K15: Nutritional requirements of a range of wild species across all life stages and how diets are safely stored, formulated, prepared, and delivered including weight management, supplementation and food hygiene e.g. artemia to fry (brine shrimp/mysis) to adult seahorses 

K16: Welfare assessment using appropriate welfare assessment tools such as signs of ill health and injury, behaviour monitoring, body condition scoring, specimen collection, faecal scoring, food intake e.g. gill/skin scrapes from fish and the preparation/storage of the slides 

K17: Basic veterinary procedures, such as the storage and administration of veterinary medicine, wound management, minor procedures as appropriate 

K18: The principles of animal training, such as classical versus operant conditioning, cuing, bridging, reinforcing 

K19: How and why to record and retrieve information and write reports using a range of systems relevant to zoo keeping within their organisation, such as diaries, ZIMS, Tracks, PMX, Excel, following instruction to retrieve data or update information and following procedures designed to keep data secure 

K20: The principles of enclosure/tank design including the needs of each stakeholder group (e.g. visitor needs: viewing windows, accessible paths, etc.), the needs of the animals (e.g. places to hide) (bio)hazards connected to the enclosure design, enclosure components and furnishings e.g. aquariums and keeper/aquarist access to the LSS 

K21: The key risk factors associated with zoonosis and common zoonotic diseases and their management e.g. fish TB 

K22: Factors affecting zoo bio security for wild species under their care and appropriate control measures to maintain bio security e.g. net dips 

K23: Organisational protocols for dealing with emergencies (e.g. animal escape, unintentional human-animal contact, fire, human medical emergency) and understand their role within this 

K24: The principles of housekeeping including cleaning, enclosure/tank management, Life Support Systems maintenance, products used and their associated hazards, frequency of cleaning based on situation, species and individual considering factors such as scent marking or removal of body fluids e.g. fish safe cleaning products 

K25: Basic horticultural principles in relation to wild animal collections and species, e.g. care of enclosure plants, knowledge of edible browse species, knowledge of toxic plants and their management e.g. using aquaponic systems to help filter the water 

K26: Strategies for compliant and sustainable waste management and recycling 

K27: The importance of zoo or aquarium research and the types of research undertaken in zoos/aquariums (e.g. behavioural observation, genetic, nutritional, records based) 

K28: The principles of research design and data analysis in a zoo setting including hypothesis creation, ethical approval processes within their organisation, common behavioural observation sampling techniques and how to present findings appropriately e.g. from descriptive statistics, listing methods of dissemination of results etc. 

Behaviors

B1: Be safety conscious and maintain safe working practices, which must be adhered to at all times with constant situational awareness and adaptability to ensure safety of the animal(s), themselves and others, including proactively assessing risks and mitigating these immediately. 

B2: Have a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn. Be respectful, punctual, reliable, trustworthy and diligent and prepared to work irregular hours, in all weathers. Take a pride in their work, showing commitment and loyalty, whilst conducting themselves in a professional manner, both in terms of their presentation and conduct. Have a responsible attitude towards themselves, others and the animal(s) in their care, showing respect, empathy, patience and tolerance in all situations, including working with methods that reduce any risk of physical injury and emotional stress to animal(s), themselves or others. 

B3: Professional and ethical responsibilities and the values of their work place 

B4: An awareness of the limits of your own authority, expertise, training, competence and experience 

B5: Respect and empathy for animals 

B6: Being aware of how to use social media responsibly 

B7: Be respectful of the legal duty of care under animal health and welfare legislation and codes of practice and other relevant legislation affecting the keeping of animals 

B8: Have a positive approach to working within a team and have the ability to work both individually and as part of a team as required, understanding their role and changing priorities when the situation dictates to meet organisational objectives. Be willing to develop productive working relationships with colleagues and stakeholders 

B9: Respecting the values of the work place 

B10: Being open to new ideas, willing to develop skills and new ways of working and being committed to ongoing professional development 

B11: Knowing when to ask for advice or guidance when unsure and learning from these experiences. Self-reflection in taking responsibility for own actions and mistakes, reporting them immediately, and identifying lessons learnt 

B12: Using initiative and maximising productivity and efficiency 

B13: Being flexible with respect to changing demands, priorities, schedules, working hours, weather conditions

B14: Being aware of the surroundings and noticing and responding to problems that may adversely affect public perception (e.g. litter-picking) 

B15: Being customer focused, polite and friendly 

Qualifications

English & Maths

Apprentices without level 2 English and maths will need to achieve this level prior to taking the End-Point Assessment. For those with an education, health and care plan or a legacy statement, the apprenticeship’s English and maths minimum requirement is Entry Level 3. A British Sign Language (BSL) qualification is an alternative to the English qualification for those whose primary language is BSL.

Duration (months):

24

Occupational Level:

3

Review

This standard will be reviewed after three years.

 

Originally published on Gov.uk, this information has been re-used under the terms of the Open Government Licence.

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