- Current students
Please note: Entry into this programme requires you to have a confirmed zoo placement. If you’re interested in a placement with Auckland Zoo, this will be arranged by us as part of your application. If you’re interested in applying for a placement with another facility within New Zealand, please ensure you arrange this with them prior to applying for this programme.
Equip yourself with the skills, knowledge, and attributes needed to ensure the positive welfare of captive wild animals, and manage the day-to-day operations of wildlife or zookeeping facilities.
Develop your knowledge and understanding of how to maintain the safety and welfare of animals, and yourself, in a captive wild animal environment. This includes feeding, safety and hygiene practices, natural behaviours, enrichment, and life histories. Learn to recognise and respond to health issues and emergencies involving captive wild animals.
You’ll learn about what role captive wild animal facilities play in society, both in today’s world and historically, and you’ll explore the local and global impact of zoos on conservation. You'll also gain industry experience and contacts at an approved zoo facility within New Zealand.
- The only qualification in New Zealand that can train you to become a zookeeper.
- Recognised by all the main zoos in New Zealand as the entry-level qualification to work in this industry.
- As a distance learning programme, you'll have the benefit of 280 hours at an approved zoological park where you can apply what you’ve learnt about husbandry to a wide variety of exotic species.
- Take part in three compulsory six-day block courses at our Mt. Albert campus, where you'll learn crucial skills and gain knowledge in face-to-face lectures, meet students from other zoos around New Zealand, and attend field trips at Auckland Zoo.
To study from a distance, you need to be self-motivated, committed and have excellent time management skills. You need to attend all block courses, exams, practical assessments, work experience, as well as complete your self-directed study (research, reading, revision) and assessment writing. You'll also need to have consistent access to a computer with a reliable internet connection and appropriate office software i.e. Microsoft Office, which we'll provide once you‘re enrolled.
Students must also be able to attend three compulsory block courses, run at Unitec’s Mt. Albert campus.
This programme has specific work experience requirements. You must obtain a total of 280 hours of structured work experience at an approved zoo facility over the year of study, split between three different animal groups.
- At least 40 hours must be with invertebrates, fish, amphibians, or reptiles.
- At least 40 hours must be with birds.
- At least 80 hours must be with mammals, with a minimum of 16 hours with at least one highly dangerous animal
You need to organise and confirm your own work placement with an approved New Zealand zoo facility in addition to meeting the programme admission requirements before you can enrol in this programme (with the exception of Auckland Zoo). We require written consent from the facility/facilities where you will undertake your work experience.
Unlike other placements, Auckland Zoo placements are arranged in conjunction with Unitec during your application process. If you plan on applying for a placement at Auckland Zoo, please do not contact them directly.
Each zoo has different age requirements and final application dates, so it is a good idea to contact zoos as soon as possible to express your interest. For example, Auckland Zoo's minimum age is 18.
For more information, download the programme's additional information.
Approved Zoo Facilities
We have two types of approved zoo facilities; those who can provide the full scope of animal experience required and others - marked with an Asterix (*) - that can't provide the full scope of animal experience required. In these cases, you need to contact other approved facilities to gain experience in areas that can't be accommodated by these smaller facilities. Here is a list of all approved zoo facilities and contacts.
Auckland Zoo - please do not contact directly
Butterfly Creek* - Stacey McCarthy or Ryan Gedye (email or +64 9 275 8880 ext 218)
Wellington Zoo - Harmony Wallace (email or +64 4 381 6755)
Orana Wildlife Park - Catherine Roughton (email or +64 3 359 7109 ext 810)
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve* - Kirsty Willis (email or +64 3 359 6226)
Hamilton Zoo - Jesse Golden (email or +64 7 838 6961)
Natureland* - Toni Gordon (email)
Brooklands Zoo* - New Plymouth District Council (email or +64 6 759 6060)
Where to next?
If you’re interested in continuing your studies, this programme will give you the academic admission requirements for higher-level animal programmes at Unitec, including the Bachelor of Applied Science (Animal Management and Welfare).
For this programme, you will need the following:
- 36 credits at NCEA Level 2 including 12 credits in English;
- 12 credits at NCEA Level 1 in a relevant science subject;
- Provide evidence you have been accepted by one or more approved zoo facilities in New Zealand to complete 280 hours of work experience with them. Work experience must be completed within your year of study and must include minimum hours on specific animal groups (see application information)
If you don’t meet the academic criteria above, we'll also accept the New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care (Level 3) or an equivalent qualification. We also have a range of Bridging Education programmes which will help you prepare for further academic study.
If English is not your first language you will also need one or more of the following:
- Have achieved NCEA Level 3 and New Zealand University entrance;
- Be able to provide evidence you satisfy our criteria for existing English proficiency;
- Have achieved at least one English proficiency outcome in the last two years.
If you don’t meet the English criteria above, we have a range of English Language programmes available, depending on your current level of ability.
If you don’t meet these requirements, you may still apply under special or discretionary entrance.
For more information download the programme regulations:
Courses and timetables
For more details on the courses, please click on the course names below. Please note that our systems are updating with new course timetable information for 2021; please check back again soon.
|The Zoo Industry (Sem A) (NSCI4734-SA)||15.0 credits (0.125 EFTS)||This course examines the roles of zoo keepers and similar positions, and how the roles pertain to working within the zoo industry and associated facilities in New Zealand and globally|
|The Zoo Industry (Sem B) (NSCI4734-SB)||15.0 credits (0.125 EFTS)||This course examines the roles of zoo keepers and similar positions, and how the roles pertain to working within the zoo industry and associated facilities in New Zealand and globally|
|The Practice of Zookeeping (Sem A) (NSCI4740-SA)||22.5 credits (0.188 EFTS)||This course enables the student to develop best practice skills for the care of captive wild animals in a zoo context.|
|The Practice of Zookeeping (Sem B) (NSCI4740-SB)||22.5 credits (0.188 EFTS)||This course enables the student to develop best practice skills for the care of captive wild animals in a zoo context.|
|Vertebrate Anatomy and Physiology (Sem A) (NSCI5720-SA)||7.5 credits (0.063 EFTS)||To enable students to understand the concepts of anatomy and physiology as they relate to the maintenance of homeostasis and animal health|
|Vertebrate Anatomy and Physiology (Sem B) (NSCI5720-SB)||7.5 credits (0.063 EFTS)||To enable students to understand the concepts of anatomy and physiology as they relate to the maintenance of homeostasis and animal health|
|Principles of Captive Wild Animal Husbandry (Sem A) (NSCI5742-SA)||15.0 credits (0.125 EFTS)||This course enables the student to understand the theoretical principles of best practice animal husbandry in a zoo or similar captive wild animal facility.|
|Principles of Captive Wild Animal Husbandry (Sem B) (NSCI5742-SB)||15.0 credits (0.125 EFTS)||This course enables the student to understand the theoretical principles of best practice animal husbandry in a zoo or similar captive wild animal facility.|