Zoo Keeping

Course CodeBEN208
Fee CodeS1
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Zoo Keeping Distance Education Course 

Study Zoo Keeping and gain the foundation knowledge and skills you will need to start your career in captive animal management. This course is suitable for those already working with captive animals or those wishing to gain entry into this competitive area.  Students will learn about:
  • Animal Welfare
  • Animal Care
  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Enrichment - Environmental and Feeding 
  • Captive Breeding
  • Optimum 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.

Lesson Structure

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 and Sanctuaries
    • Legislation
    • Codes of Practices
    • Animal Welfare
    • Enrichment
    • Record Keeping
    • Identification Tags
    • Animal Taxonomy
    • Phylums & Classes of the Animal Kingdom
    • The Function of Zoos
    • Research and Zoos
    • Education in Zoos
  2. Occupational Health and Safety in Zoos
    • Workplace Health & Safety
    • Legislation
    • Health & Safety Management in Zoos
    • Zoonoses
    • Legionnaires Disease
    • Other Safety Issues
    • Risk Management
  3. Captive Husbandry - Nutrition and Feeding
    • Animal Nutrition
    • The Effect of Poor Nutrition on Animal Behaviour
    • Water Requirements
    • Essential Dietary Components
    • Vitamins & Minerals
    • Food Storage & Preparation
    • Presentation of Food
  4. Captive Husbandry - Health
    • Monitoring Health
    • Maintaining Health
    • Diseases
    • Quarantine
    • Record Keeping/Animal Transfer Data
    • Enrichment Data Transfer Form
  5. Captive Husbandry - Reproduction
    • The Need for Captive Breeding
    • Captive Breeding in Zoos
    • Goals of Captive Breeding
    • Issues with Captive Breeding
    • Inbreeding Risks
    • Captive Breeding Programs
    • Monitoring the Reproductive Status of Zoo Animals
    • Assisted Reproduction
    • Stud Books
    • Birth Control and Separation
  6. Captive Husbandry - Behaviour and Enrichment
    • Ethology
    • Behaviour
    • Types of Behaviour
    • Behaviours in Captive Animals
    • Learned Behaviour
    • The Flight or Fight Response
    • Animal Behaviours
    • Animal Welfare Indicators
    • Environmental Influence on Behaviour
    • Behaviour Management
    • Environmental Enrichment
  7. Human-Animal Interactions
    • Keeper-Animal Interactions
    • Visitor Animal Interactions
    • Dealing with Dangerous Animals
    • Flight Distance of Animals
    • Handling Animals
    • Visitor Animal Interactions
    • Stress Reduction
  8. Enclosure Design and Maintenance
    • Optimum Enclosure Design
    • The Perfect Enclosure?
    • Replicating Nature
    • Providing Stimulating Environments
    • Physical Enrichment
    • Feeding Enrichment
    • Sensory Enrichment
    • Social Enrichment
  9. Problem-based Learning Project - Environmental Enrichment
    • Introduction and Definition of PBL
    • Problem Definition
    • Team Structure and Interaction
    • Discussion
    • Resources
    • Guidelines
    • 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 required for a range of different captive zoo animals
  • Describe the management of breeding in zoos
  • Determine appropriate ways to manage a range of different wild animals in zoos
  • Explain procedures and techniques used to manage human-animal interactions in zoos
  • Identify and describe the qualities of good enclosure design. Develop maintenance programs for different enclosures


This seems a simple question but before we begin to learn about working in a zoo, we need to define exactly what a zoo is. A zoo can defined as an establishment, park or garden where live animals are kept on display for the purposes of recreation and education. A zoo can cover a range of establishments such as aquariums, fauna sanctuaries, bird gardens, safari parks, petting zoos and any collection of living animal species on display to the public.

Today, wild animals are kept in a wide range of settings. These include:
  • Zoos or zoological gardens
  • Open range zoos or safari parks, 
  • Aquariums
  • Roadside Zoos
  • Petting Zoos
  • Amusement Parks and
  • Private collections.

Many modern zoos have a common ethos of contributing to education, conservation and research while providing entertainment to visitors.

Working with Animals

A major safety risk at zoos arises from working with animals. There are a number of hazards faced by employees when working in close proximity to animals.  The main two risks of working with animals include the potential spread of disease from animals to humans (zoonoses) and risk of injury from the animal – eg. biting, mauling, scratches and impact injuries such as crushing, bruising and fractures from larger animals.

Other factors may influence the potential risk for injury such as the predatory nature of the animal, reactions of both humans and animals to fear, the natural group instinct of animals and hierarchical behaviour and the fact that some animals are built to kill or injure other animals.

It is important for employees to be aware of these risks as well as the fact that these risks change with age, sex, grouping behaviour and sexual maturity of certain animals. Employees should be properly trained in how to work and handle animals (when necessary) and zoo keepers should always have relevant experience for working with different animals.

Zoo employees need to be aware that research on behaviour of all animals kept in zoos is not comprehensive and that risk assessment principles should be adopted before handling animals.

Moving Animals within a Zoo

This can be one of the most hazardous operations within a zoo. Moving animals requires experienced staff, careful planning and an accurate identification of potential hazards. Both the animal’s welfare and the safety of staff are major concerns when relocating animals. If possible, staff should avoid manual handling of the animal. If this is not possible, this should be kept to a minimum and be carried out by appropriately trained and experienced staff. 

Restraining Animals

Each animal species will require a different form of restraint to ensure the safety of both the zoo staff and the animal.  Below are a few examples of restraints used for some animals.

Animal Containment

Zoos are required to ensure that animals (especially dangerous animals) are effectively contained so that risk of escape is low. Containment will generally take the form of an outer perimeter boundary of the entire zoo as well as enclosure boundaries which may include cages, tanks, pools, fences, walls, moats or ditched enclosures.


The legislation regarding enclosure design and size will again vary from country to country as well as within countries. Enclosures must be designed to ensure that animals cannot escape. 


Passionate about working and caring for these animals?

Does this course suit the career path you would like to follow?
If you are fascinated by the challenge of caring and working with exotic animals,
ENROL NOW and learn to interact with a broad variety of fascinating species through this exciting and inspiring course!!
Not too sure yet?
Why not connect with one of our friendly qualified tutors through our
Free Course & Career Counselling who will gladly guide you towards the career that best suits YOU!
Thinking of taking a step further? Have a scroll through some of our other Zoo Keeping courses:
Certificate in Zoo Keeping

• E books available to buy and immediately download to a computer or reader
• Many interesting and well illustrated E books to choose from
• Printed books reviewed and selected by our staff to complement our courses
• Click on any of the titles below to visit the bookshop and see an outline of that title

For more titles visit www.acsbookshop.com


ACS is an Organisational Member of the British Institute for Learning and Development
ACS is an Organisational Member of the British Institute for Learning and Development

Member of Study Gold Coast, Education Network
Member of Study Gold Coast, Education Network

ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.

ACS is recognised by the IARC
ACS is recognised by the IARC

Need assistance?

Start Now!


  Dr Robert Browne

Zoologist, Environmental Scientist and Sustainability, science based consultancy with biotechnology corporations. Work focused on conservation and sustainability. Robert has published work in the fields of nutrition, pathology, larval growth and development, husbandry, thermo-biology, reproduction technologies, and facility design.Robert has B.Sc., Ph, D.
  Barbara Seguel

Teacher and Researcher, Marine Scientist, Tourism and Outdoor recreation guide, Health and Safety Coordinator & Production Manager for Fisheries, National Park Staff/Farmer, Laboratory technical aide, Zoo, Wildlife and Marine Park assistant. Barbara has worked in Hawaii, Mexico, Chile, New Zealand, and Australia. Barbara has a B.Sc. Marine (Academic degree) and M.Sc Aquaculture Engineering.
  Dr. Gareth Pearce

Veterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Post-graduate qualifications in Education, Wildlife Conservation Medicine, Aquatic Veterinary Studies and Wildlife Biology & Conservation. Gareth has a B.Sc.(Hons), B.V.Sc., M.A., M.Vet.S,. PhD, Grad. Cert. Ed.(HE), Post-Grad.Cert. Aq.Vet.Sc., Post-Grad. Cert. WLBio&Cons., Dipl. ECPHM, MRCVS.
  Alison Pearce

Alison brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to ACS students. She has worked as a University Lecturer, has also run a veterinary operating theatre; responsible for animal anaesthesia, instrument preparation, and assistance with surgical techniques and procedures. She has worked in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. She has extensive experience of handling, husbandry, and management of a wide range of both small and large animals and has a particular love for nature and wildlife. Alison has a BSc (Hon) Animal Science.
  Marine Animals
With 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 Health
Understand health issues, disease and injury prevention, inspecting animals, differential diagnosis and common illnesses. Animals can suffer from injury, poisoning, hereditary conditions, nutritional problems and viral, bacterial and fungal infections. A book for managing pets, farm animals, or wildlife.
Learn what is different between the 29 different orders (groups) that birds belong to. Well over 100 stunning colour photos, 117 pages and lots of information
  Animal Psychology
Animal Psychology- Comparing the Psychology of Different Animals gives an interesting insight into animal behaviour and and animal psychology. Ideal for students who are studying animals, animal lovers, pet owners and professionals who work with animals.