Zookeeper training opportunities vary greatly across Europe. While some countries have standardised formal qualifications, resources and standardised training opportunities are lacking in many other countries. This has resulted in a clear skills gap in professional zookeeping in many European countries.
The goal of the EPZQF project is to develop a European Professional Zookeeper Qualification Framework identifying the key competencies required to be a professional zookeeper working in an EU zoo, and to design several training modules to help staff reach the expected competency levels.
The EPZQF project is co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union.
The EPZQF project is coordinated by EAZA, in partnership with several zoos, regional associations, and educational institutions.
Sparsholt College is a formal education institution that is a leading provider of vocational education and training to both the Further and Higher Education sectors in Animal Management. The College is recognised as a centre of excellence within the UK and European Zoo community. Furthermore, since 2002, when it was selected as the official partner by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) to deliver the recognised programme of continuous professional development for the United Kingdom, the College has designed and developed the Diploma in the Management of Zoo and Aquarium Animals. This is a distance learning course delivered entirely via the internet. The College is thus able to advise on unit construction and delivery and assessment of practical competences within the framework.
Romanian Zoos and Aquaria Federation (RZAF) brings together the zoos and Aaquaria in Romania and as an umbrella organisation connects the Romanian zoos with their European counterparts.
RZAF’s role in the project is through contributing to the development of the competency framework documents and resources; representing and advising on the needs of their 21 members, understanding both the current resources available and limitations of zookeeper training within Romanian zoos and surrounding countries, facilitating the keepers’ exchanges and pilot studies, coordinating participation and supporting members in use of the framework, promoting the training of trainers and promoting the project in front of the local and national authorities.
Zagreb zoo is dedicated to principles of animal welfare and conservation. As members of the International Zoo Educators Association (IZE) the zoo strives to create educational programmes of the highest quality. Extensive experience in education and lack of standardised keeper training in Croatian language forced Zagreb zoo to create in-house zookeeper education programmes. Participants gain new expertise, skills and knowledge and contribute to the general conservation of biological and landscape diversity and to the progress and development of the society as a whole. Zagreb Zoo’s experience serves as guidance for the development and implementation of the European Professional Zookeeper Qualification Framework. Zagreb Zoo contributes by streamlining the processes for future participants and making it more comprehensible for organisations that decided to collaborate on this project by disseminating our ideas and proposing different solutions.
Chester Zoo is rated as one of the top zoos in Europe and upholds the highest standards of animal husbandry and welfare. It houses has a diverse collection of over 10,000 individuals of 500 species and is a key player in a number of international conservation breeding programmes. The zoo employs approximately 100 keeping staff and has developed competency frameworks to ensure consistency of quality across its staff. Over the last 15 years, Chester Zoo has also been contributing to training the next generation of zookeepers. Chester Zoo provides valuable input to this programme due to its experience in providing practical training that is highly sought after by zoo employers. The zoo’s training coordinators, curators and keepers are highly skilled and can advise on how to best train and assess the key practical competencies required to meet the needs of the zoo profession.
Aeres vocational college is part of Aeres Group, which offers broad and comprehensive education that focusses on the student. Aeres offers post-secondary vocational agricultural education as well as advanced adult education. Aeres offers BTEC-courses on vocational level, programs and courses in all fields related to agriculture, veterinary nursing, animal management and livestock production and related areas such as food processing and nutrition. The students in the department of animal management are required to gain an extensive amount of practical experience during their training, both at our campus and during internships. Therefore, Aeres is recognised as a leading educator in the Dutch and European zoo community. Aeres’ capacity-building programs have a proven track record in Europe, Asia and Africa. Focus on the international aspect of the green sector in specific is a vital part of green education. For this reason, there are international elements within the education at Aeres. The Aeres Group offers consultancy services and implements projects, both nationally and internationally, in the fields related to its fields of expertise.
Lithuanian zoological gardens currently have three positions that engage in animal management – zookeeper, senior keeper, and curator. The biology and management of zoo animals requires a great deal of knowledge to maintain a sustainable population of animals in captivity and insure their physical and mental well-being. The zoo has a strong practice in handling health management, population management, training, enrichment. They also offer an expertise in training staff under creative and no budget conditions. Lithuanian Zoological Gardens has been providing training and capacity building programmes to their members to increase the skills of zoo staff in Lithuania. In this project the zoo will share their experience with these programmes, plus lessons they learned while operating in a country without a formal education programme for zookeepers.
Zoo Wrocław promotes endangered species conservation (participating in more than 80 EEP, ESB and ISB programmes) and we has developed its own education programme, educating over 20 000 pupils per year. Poland currently does not have any formal training program for zookeepers. Consequently Zoo Wrocław is well-placed to advise on the needs of zookeepers who have limited access to formal training resources, as well as the needs of the zoological institutions regarding both skills required and applied training. In 2012 the zoo implemented a project from Leonardo da Vinci funds, sending over 40 employees for 2-weeks zookeeper training within other European zoos. As a result, Zoo Wrocław is practiced in the application of keeper exchange programmes as part of zookeeper training schemes.
The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) is the membership organisation of the leading zoos and aquariums in Europe and the Middle East. EAZA’s mission is to support and guide zoos in achieving the highest possible standards of animal care, conservation, education and research. Partner organisations include a zoo keeper occupational association, zoological institutions, an animal management vocational training institution and zoological associations from across EU member states.
EAZA is the only Pan-European network of zoos and aquariums and therefore works closely with zoos and zookeepers on the sector. The association has a deep understanding on what is the current situation in different EU member states on the education of zookeepers and the development of the vocation.
The project team thanks the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) for their work on the logo design.