Frequently Asked Questions

In this section of the EPZQF website, we will do our best to provide answers all questions that you might have about the European Professional Zookeeper Competency Framework. If you do not find the answer to your question here or in the Guidance Section, please do not hesitate to get in contact.

Who compiled the framework?

The framework was compiled by the eight project partners: EAZA, Zagreb Zoo, Sparsholt College, Chester Zoo, Romanian Zoos and Aquaria Federation, Kaunas Zoo, Wrocław Zoo, and Aeres Groep. The project was also extensively reviewed by the reflection panel, a selected group of experts in the field of zookeeping who represented a wider range of countries and specialist fields.

Which qualifications does the framework relate to?

For an overview of qualifications that have been benchmarked against the framework, please see the Benchmarking page.
If you would like to benchmark another European qualification for zookeepers, or if you have developed a qualification using the framework, please contact us so we can include it in our list.

How can I use the framework in my zoo?

The EPZQF was designed to be a flexible tool that applies to a number of situations. At an institutional level, the framework can be used to create an in-house training programme. It can be used to form the basis of performance development reviews for staff. It can be used to identify any gaps in your current training and keeper skillset.

How does the framework reflect practical skills?

… and not just theoretical qualifications?
The role of zookeeper requires a high level of practical skills, not just theory and knowledge. These practical skills can be difficult to describe and assess, however the project partners have worked hard to ensure that competences include demonstration of skills and good practice, as well as the theoretical knowledge that underpins them.

What evidence do you need to verify keepers are working at a particular level?

This can vary depending on how you are using the framework. Existing qualifications will have their own standards for verification, which may include things like photo portfolios and testimonies from coworkers of demonstrated skills.  For zoos applying the framework independently, the EPZQF project team is working on creating an Assessment Toolkit that can be used to assess the levels of keepers.

Why are zookeepers expected to learn English?

The section about English language competence was added at the request of, among others, the zookeepers attending our first training event. This is only counted as a higher level competence to acknowledge that zookeepers can work competently without needing to speak additional languages. However, zookeepers feel that English skills are required to succeed at many higher level competences because English is the working language for the European zoo community, and therefore necessary to participate in most international training and networking events. The majority of zoo-related research is only published in English, so a working knowledge is necessary for many zookeepers to stay up to date with the latest research developments.

Does my zoo/aquarium need to be in a European/EU country in order for me/my zoo to use this framework?

No. The framework was developed primarily for zookeepers in EU member states, so some of the content is EU specific. However the framework and associated materials are freely available for use anywhere in the world.

Does my zoo/aquarium need to be in an EAZA Member in order for me/my zoo to use this framework?

No. The framework and associated materials are freely available for use by anyone.

Are there expected pay levels associated with achieving a certain level of competency?

The framework is highly modular, and it is possible for zookeepers to achieve high levels in some areas and lower levels in others, so there is no expectation to link competence level with pay. However, zookeepers working at higher levels across a large number of competencies may be working in higher level positions (e.g. section head, team leader) which would merit a higher pay level. At an institutional level, if desired, it is also possible to use the framework to develop an evaluation structure for performance related pay.

Is following the framework a requirement of EAZA membership?

… and will it become a requirement of accreditation?
At this time it is not required for EAZA members to to follow the EPZQF. Members are currently expected to provide clear job descriptions for their staff, staff need to understand their roles, and EAZA members should employ sufficient numbers of experienced and knowledgeable staff to care for their animal collections. EAZA members are also expected to provide their staff with continuing professional development opportunities. It is not anticipated that EAZA members will be asked to have staff operating at specific levels on the EPZQF, however the EPZQF will be recommended as a tool to members who struggle to meet these expectations.  Using the framework in their institutions can help EAZA members and aspiring members meet and maintain the required standards for EAZA membership.

What training will EAZA provide to help zookeepers reach the different levels in the EPZQF?

EAZA professional development training is provided by the EAZA Academy. The EAZA Academy is committed to assessing its training and identifying where it fulfils elements of the EPZQF. EAZA members who would like to have training in areas not currently offered should contact the EAZA Academy Manager to discuss course development. For more information about the EAZA Academy, including an overview of available courses, please visit the EAZA website.

Where can I get support to help me implement the EPZQF in my zoo?

Our friendly support network is still growing rapidly. More information will follow soon; for now, please see the Guidance Section or contact the EPZQF team using the contact form on this website.

How many zoos are already using the EPZQF?

On this website we will soon publish interviews with zoos and educational institutions that are using the framework.
If you are already using the framework at your institution, and you are willing to share your experiences with the EPZQF team, please do not hesitate to drop us a line via the contact form.

Where can I find out about good practice in zookeeper training?

Standards for the Accomodation and Care of Animals are one place to start.
Join your regional zookeeper association and take advantage of conferences and workshops on offer.

Why do zookeeping standards need improving? Is there a problem?

Many zoos and zookeepers are already demonstrating very high standards in their work, and within Europe there is robust legislation to ensure that zoos provide high standards of care for their animals. However, zoos are increasingly called upon to justify their existence and their practices, and these high standards are not yet universal. For many institutions, lack of knowledge and existing support presents a barrier to improving standards.
The goal of the EPZQF is to acknowledge the high degree of professionalism found in many zoos, and provide tools and support to help every zoo in the EU reach the best possible standards of zookeeping.
Zookeeping is also a profession strongly rooted in science, so as with all scientific endeavours it’s important that zookeeping remains progressive and keepers continue to find ways to improve their work. The content of the framework is designed to promote this drive for continuous improvement and development, both for individual zookeepers and for the profession as a whole.