Two keepers are celebrating this month after being awarded The BIAZA Award for Best Performance on the national course for training zookeepers. 

Gemma Worboys, a keeper at ZSL London Zoo and Lisa Girot, Zookeeper at Edinburgh Zoo, have both had their hard work recognised with the award for their performance on the DMZAA (Diploma in The Management of Zoo and Aquarium Animals) course, which is run by Sparsholt College, Hampshire. 

The two-year course, developed between the college and BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums), is recognised internationally and 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 This year, unusually, two fantastically dedicated keepers have shone jointly in their two years of study, both gaining remarkable Distinction Star grades overall – a real accolade.  

Both showed determination to produce the best possible work, consistently, during their studies and to tackle the task of doing this whilst working in their collections, in this very challenging year too. 

“The staggering quantity of distinctions which were earned shows that these two graduates are really rising stars in their fields. I’m really delighted for them both. 

Gemma and Lisa are both happy with their achievement, which will help progress their careers as zookeepers and shows recognition for all their hard work and perseverance.  

Gemma, an Animal Activities keeper at ZSL London Zoo, began the course later than others when she stepped into a vacant space for her collection. This haproven to be no hinderance at all to such a committed studentHer Team Leader also remarked at how competently she was able to study and produce high standard workwithout any disturbance to her usual duties at the zoo.  

On her award, she says: 

“I am extremely pleased to receive the BIAZA Award. The DMZAA was a brilliant opportunity to learn and develop, but sometimes a challenge to balance with busy days at the Zoo, so it is truly wonderful to have my hard work and dedication recognised. In light of this particularly challenging year for our industry, I am honoured to bring this Award back to the Zoological Society of London.” 

Lisa, who works on the Bird section at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo has also proven to be a highly committed and engaged student throughout her course. Her Coordinator commented that she showed such interest and passion in the tasks, that it was clear she was always driving herself to achieve as well as she possibly could. This strategy, applied even in tricky circumstances at times, has certainly reaped its reward!  

Lisa has commented: 

“I am still in shock from this and do not quite believe it. What I am sure of is, that I could not have accomplished this without the tremendous support both from work and at home. I love being a zookeeper not only because of the animals but having a career that truly makes a difference in the natural world. I hope to continue to do so for many years to come.” 

Two virtual award presentations took place at the respective collections earlier this month in order to continue with celebrating the graduate’s hard work in line with current government restrictions. The glass zebra statuette and certificates were presented in front of colleagues, tutors and course coordinators either socially distanced in personor online. 

Both presentations were also joined online by one of the Joint Acting Directors of BIAZA Cerain Tatchley or Nicky Nedham, and Penny Hounsome – Curriculum Leader Zoo Animal Studies, Sparsholt College. 


Find out more about the National Zoo Academy at Sparsholt College