- Current students
- Under 25s
Please note: Entry into this programme requires you to have a confirmed zoo placement. If you are interested in a placement with Auckland Zoo, this will be arranged by us as part of your application. If you are 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, housing and containment of animals, natural behaviours, enrichment, and life histories. You will also learn to recognise and respond to health issues and emergencies involving captive wild animals.
Learn about what role captive wild animal facilities play in society, both in today’s world and historically, and the local and global impact of zoos on conservation. You will 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 will have the benefit of 280 hours at an approved zoological park where you can apply the theory of what you have learnt to the practical management of a wide range of species.
- Take part in three compulsory block courses at our Mt. Albert campus (five to six days in length each), where you will 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. Your learning is supported by online tutorials and a range of Unitec support systems.
To study from a distance, you need to be self-motivated, committed and have excellent time management skills. Blended learning integrates three face-to-face block courses, online tutorials with staff members, and self-directed learning. You must attend all block courses, exams, practical assessments, work experience, as well as complete your self-directed study (research, reading, revision) and assessment completion. You will also need to have consistent access to a computer with a reliable internet connection and appropriate office software i.e. Microsoft Office, which will be provided to you once you are enrolled.
You will be expected to participate and complete activities in the week before each block course, and there will be a minimum of a one-hour online Zoom tutorial each week.
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 as shown below.
- 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, except Auckland Zoo, in addition to meeting the programme admission requirements before you can enrol in this programme. We require written consent from the facility/facilities that you have a guaranteed placement to fulfil your work experience requirement.
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; instead, please follow the instructions in the Additional Information (link below).
Each zoo has different age requirements and final application dates. For example, Auckland Zoo has a minimum age requirement of 18. We advise that you contact the zoo you are seeking placement with as soon as possible (not including Auckland Zoo, as mentioned above).
Approved Zoo Facilities
We have two types of approved zoo facilities; those that can provide the full scope of animal experience required and others - marked with an Asterix (*) - that cannot provide the full scope of animal experience required. In these cases, you need to contact other approved facilities to gain experience in these areas to ensure you meet the overall work placement requirement for the programme. The following is a list of all approved zoo facilities and contacts that are aligned with our programme.
Auckland Zoo - please do not contact directly, but add the required information in your application. See 'Additional Information',
Please Note: The cut-off date for the work placement application must be submitted to Unitec for a place in Auckland Zoo before 1st October.
Butterfly Creek* - Rebecca Moyle (email or +64 9 275 8880)
Wellington Zoo - Work Experience team (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 - Mark Turner (email or +64 22 568 3485)
Natureland* - Alix Rimmer (email)
Brooklands Zoo* - New Plymouth District Council (email or +64 6 759 6060)
Where to next?
If you are interested in continuing your studies, this programme will give you the academic admission requirements for the Bachelor of Applied Science majoring in Animal Management and Welfare, Biodiversity Management, or a double major in both.
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 Foundation and 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 including timetables, please click on the course names below.
|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.|
Unitec is part of Te Pūkenga
On 1 October 2022 Unitec became part of Te Pūkenga. Find out more about Te Pūkenga and what this means for you.