Animal Handler jobs(Also known as Animal carer, Animal care assistant)
An animal handler is responsible for the safe keeping, dietary care and exercise of animals. The handler is typically the employee of a zoo or conservation reserve. An animal handler is tasked with the safe management and care of animals kept in indoor and outdoor enclosures. This is usually a zoo or biological preserve, although it can extend to game reserves and exhibition/show situations (for example, a circus or marine exhibit). Depending on the scenario, the handler may be responsible for general care and safe-keeping (“husbandry”), dietary maintenance, food preparation, maintenance and layout planning of enclosure, exercise planning and provision, the planning of mating/sexing, rearing, the successful introduction of new animals into existing enclosures and day-to-day medical management and maintenance. Large zoos with many staff members have teams working with a particular type of animal; there may be a handler, feeder, cleaner, biologist and manager responsible for one enclosure or set of enclosures. In a smaller institution with more limited funding, consolidation of these tasks into one or two roles occurs, with a larger area of responsibility given to the handler. In this respect, they may have to become a “jack of all trades”, though they will still usually look after a defined species or group of species.
SalarySalaries within the zoological sector (outside academia) have typically been quite poor. Those who start as handling assistants (food preparation, maintenance and assisting the handler) will work on minimum wage. In the UK, this is currently £5.93 per hour for workers aged 21 and over, £4.92 for those in the 18-20 age category, and £3.64 for young workers aged between 16-17. Many people begin as unpaid volunteers in the first instance. For trained handlers working at major zoos, the salary runs to a maximum of £16,000, although income can be supplemented by writing magazine features or in presenting university seminars where applicable. Working hours can be long, but the nature of the work is very rewarding for those who are keen to work with animals.
- Oversee general care and safe-keeping (husbandry)
- Plan dietary maintenance and prepare food
- Planning and design of enclosure and ground layouts (if applicable)
- Maintenance of enclosure (if applicable)
- Exercise planning and provision for wellbeing of the animal
- Planning the mating and eventual sexing of animals
- Rearing and supplementary rearing of newborn and young animals
- Introduction of new animals into existing enclosures
- Medical planning and maintenance on a day-to-day basis
QualificationsThere are no strict academic requirements for candidates wishing to become a maintenance handler for non-dangerous animals, and this may be part of the reason for the low introductory salary. Virtually all of the skills required in caring for an animal are learned “on the job.” Some handlers become specialists with a given breed, and subsequently go on to train assistants or replacement handlers. Large zoos typically demand that those who work closely with large and dangerous animals have an appropriate degree. Animal handlers who wish to study for a degree tend to look at courses focussing on cell biology, conservation biology, zoology or ecology.
- Have a desire to work with a range of animals or a specific type and breed of wild animal
- Develop a rounded understanding of conservation and animal biology
- Be prepared to interact with the public and explain assigned duties (and possibly perform “shows”)
- Be able to plan rotas and diaries
- Have a flexible approach to work, be a team player and be able to cover for others during absence
- Be prepared to work long or unsociable hours, weekends and public holidays
- Be resilient to bites, stings, cuts, scrapes and bruising on the odd occasion!