Zookeeper or Nature Conservator

Zookeepers or nature conservators in a zoo are responsible for the well-being of the animals. This includes monitoring their physical health and managing their breeding in conjunction with the zoo veterinarian, and keeping their cages and camps clean, tidy, attractive and visitor-friendly. They also educate the public regarding animals and conservation.

The most important task of zookeepers is the physical care of the animals. This includes feeding the animals and ensuring that they stay healthy. Caged animals are at the mercy of their keepers and it takes someone with a kind heart to be able to understand their needs. They may be also responsible for supervising other attendants and workers.

They must also spot and report illnesses and injuries to the veterinarian immediately, and assist in immobilising, capturing and transporting animals whenever necessary. They need to ensure that breeding programmes are scientifically correct. They may also be required to continually research their subjects, by gathering data and monitoring animals and to stay abreast of the latest developments.

The zookeeper works indoors and outdoors and must be willing to work long and irregular hours.

Personal Requirements

  • passionate interest in conserving natural resources
  • love outdoor life and animals
  • good health and physical fitness
  • practical and responsible
  • communicate well with people
  • dedicated to the work

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a Bachelor of Science degree or Diploma requirements for a N.Dip. 
  • Compulsory subjects: Mathematics and Physical Science
  • Recommended subjects: Life Science
  • Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to Study

Degree: BSc with Zoology as major 
Diploma: N.Dip: Nature Conservation - e.g. CPUT, TUT, NMMU, UNISA. The course takes 3 years to complete, of which 1 year is in-service training at an approved institution.


  • zoos
  • aquariums
  • bird parks
  • National Parks Board
  • private game farms
  • local authorities

Further Information

National Zoological Society of SA

The National Zoo of South Africa
Corner of Boom Street and Paul Kruger Street
Pretoria, South Africa
Tel: (012) 339-2700

World Wildlife Fund 
23 Melle Street
(Corner Melle and De Korte streets)
Braamfontein, Johannesburg, 2001
Tel: (011) 339-1152

The National Parks Board
643 Leyds Street
Tel: (012) 428-9111

Getting Started

  • do volunteer work for nature conservation bodies
  • try to get a holiday job on a game or other farm looking after livestock
  • obtain more information from the National Parks Board
  • arrange to speak to a zookeeper about career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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