A keeper at West Midland Safari Park is celebrating with her colleagues, after becoming ‘top student’ on a national course for training zoo keepers.
Kate Atkinson, 27, a carnivore keeper at the Safari Park, beat a hundred other animal keepers to gain a national award for her performance on the DMZAA (Diploma in the Management of Zoo and Aquarium Animals) course, which is run by Sparsholt College in Hampshire.
The two-year course, developed between the college and BIAZA (the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums), is recognised internationally and is considered to be the most relevant qualification for animal keepers to gain, whilst working within a zoo, aquarium or safari park.
Penny Hounsome, Curriculum Leader of Zoo Animal Studies at Sparsholt College, said, “Winning the annual BIAZA award for ‘Best Performance on the DMZAA Course’, represents the culmination of two years of dedicated study for Kate. To sustain such high grades for this length of time, over 18 modules of study as well as still working full time, is really something to be proud of. Everyone involved in supporting Kate during the programme are delighted to recognise her for this achievement.”
“Kate has also beaten strong competition to come out as the top student in her year group, since the DMZAA course (run for BIAZA through The National Zoo Academy at Sparsholt College) qualifies up to a hundred animal keepers and aquarists each year! The course continues to develop in partnership with BIAZA, and still sets the ‘gold standard’ for keeper education in zoos across the UK and Ireland. I fully expect to see and hear more of Kate in the industry, as her career continues to shine!”
Kate started her zookeeping career as an intern at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in 2012. She then completed an internship at West Midland Safari Park in 2013, where she progressed to be employed as an animal keeper, working on the hoofstock and carnivore sections.
Kate said, “The award was always an achievement that people spoke about, but I never imagined getting. So, to win this award after a hard two years of balancing my job and the course, I am absolutely thrilled, especially as many colleagues from the Park supported and encouraged me along the way. With the course qualification and the award, I was able to apply for a senior keeper position after graduation – another target I never thought I’d be able to achieve!”
On Friday 18 October, Penny, along with the Regional Course Coordinator, Dr David Beeston, came to the Safari Park to present Kate with her award and certificate, in front of an audience of Kate’s colleagues, family and senior management. She also received a special “congratulations” from Dr Madelon Willemsen, the CEO of BIAZA, via a Skype call.
Kate is a Senior Carnivore Keeper at the Safari Park and spends her days caring for the Park’s pride of African lions. This involves feeding them, cleaning the lion house, target training the three male lions, patrolling the reserves and creating enrichment for the lions to interact with.