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Study Animal Management and Welfare today

New Zealand Certificate in Animal Management - Zookeeping

Spend your days managing the welfare of giraffes, elephants and other wild animals by studying New Zealand’s only zookeeper qualification. 

120 (1.0 EFTS)
Mt Albert
Start dates
Full time for one year with blended learning (includes work experience and block courses)

Programme overview

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.

Imagine a job where you work with some of the world’s most majestic and vulnerable wild animals. Studying to become a zookeeper will turn that dream into a reality so you can make a meaningful contribution to the welfare, care and conservation of wild animals in zoos within New Zealand and overseas. 
In this programme, you’ll equip yourself with the skills, knowledge and attributes needed to ensure the positive welfare and care of wild animals in a zoo environment and manage the daily operations of wildlife or zookeeping facilities. 
Here’s what you’ll learn:
  • How to maintain the safety and welfare of yourself and animals in a wild animal in human care environment, including feeding, safety and hygiene practices, housing and containment of animals, natural behaviours, enrichment, and life histories
  • How to recognise and respond to health issues and emergencies involving wild animals within a zoo environment. 
  • The role of zoos and other wild animal facilities. You’ll delve into the history of these facilities and how they’ve changed over the years, and explore zoos’ local and global impact on conservation. 


  • Only zookeeper qualification in NZ. All main zoos in Aotearoa New Zealand recognise this programme as the entry-level qualification to work as a zookeeper in this industry. 
  • A mixture of on and off-campus learning. You’ll be required to attend three compulsory block courses (5-6 days) at our Mt Albert campus, where you’ll gain applied knowledge and skills to help you through your work experience. It’s also a chance to meet students from other zoos around the country and attend field trips to Auckland Zoo. 
  • Lots of work experience. You’ll complete 280 hours at an approved zoological facility where you can apply the knowledge and skills you’ve learned to the practical management of a wide range of species. 

Blended learning

This study option is full-time (off-campus and online), and you'll be required to attend three compulsory block courses at our Mt Albert campus.
To study from a distance, you need to be self-motivated, committed, and have excellent time management skills. You must attend all block courses, exams, practical assessments and work experience, and complete your self-directed study (research, reading and revision) and assessment writing.
You'll also need consistent access to a computer with a reliable internet connection and appropriate office software, e.g. Microsoft Office, which we'll provide once you‘re enrolled.

Finding the right work placement

To apply for this programme, you must secure a total of 280 hours of work experience at an approved zoo facility over the year of your study. 
You can complete your work experience at one facility or across multiple facilities. If you’re interested in a placement with Auckland Zoo, we will arrange this as part of your application. If you’re interested in applying for a placement with a different facility, please ensure you arrange it before applying for this programme (we’ll require written consent that you have a suitable work placement confirmed).
You must split your work experience between three animals 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 dangerous animal
Each zoo has unique age requirements and final application dates. For example, Auckland Zoo has a minimum age requirement of 18. We advise that you contact the zoo/s that you’re seeking placement with as soon as possible (excluding Auckland Zoo). 

Interested in working at Auckland Zoo?

Unitec arranges Auckland Zoo placements as part of your application. If you plan on applying for a placement at Auckland Zoo, follow the instructions below (please don’t contact them directly).

Additional Information

Approved zoo facilities

Please note: if you choose to work at a zoo facility marked with an asterisk (*), you’ll need to approach multiple facilities to ensure you meet the work placement requirements for this programme. See 'Additional Information',

Also, note that the cut-off date for the work placement application must be submitted to Unitec for a place in Auckland Zoo before 1st October.


Auckland Zoo – please do not contact directly, but add the required information in your application. See 'Additional Information'

Butterfly Creek* – Jess Ayres (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* – Shaun Horan (email or +64 3 359 6226)


Hamilton Zoo – Mark Turner (email or +64 22 568 3485)


Natureland* – Alix Rimmer (email)

New Plymouth

Brooklands Zoo* – Eve New and Maxine Jenkins (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 the Bachelor of Applied Science majoring in Animal Management and Welfare or Biodiversity Management.



Admission requirements

To be admitted to this programme applicants must hold one of the following:

  • NZCEA Level 2 with Vocational Pathways Primary Industry endorsement; 
  • New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care (Level 3) with strands in Companion Animals, Equine, or Rural Animals; 
  • A relevant qualification at NZQF Level 2 or above;
  • A recognised equivalent

Additional requirements

All application needs to meet or submit the following;

  • Health and tetanus declaration
  • Provide a copy of your current criminal conviction history

You’ll need to show that you’ve been accepted by one or more approved zoo facilities in New Zealand to complete your mandatory work experience. Work experience must be completed in your year of study.

You’ll also need to provide proof of your identity (ID) and other documents, such as academic certificates. Please have these handy when you’re ready to apply.

English language requirements

All applicants for whom English or te reo Māori is not a first language need to provide evidence that they have the necessary English language proficiency required for the programme. International applicants are required to have an IELTS score of 5 (general or academic) with no individual band lower than 5 from one test taken in the preceding two years, or an equivalent described in NZQA Rules

Don’t meet these requirements?

There may be other options available:

  • If you’re over 20 and have relevant skills/life experience, or
  • If you’re under 20 and have the relevant reading, writing, and numeracy skills
  • We also have a range of Foundation and Bridging Education programmes to help you prepare for further academic study.

Simply apply online, and we’ll be in touch about your next steps.

For more information, download the programme regulations:​

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 2024; please check back again soon.

Courses Credits Aim
Anatomy and Physiology (ANML4002TP) 15.0 credits (0.125 EFTS) The aim of this course is to develop the knowledge, skills and competencies relevant to the anatomy and physiology of animal health and welfare
Biodiversity and Conservation (ANML4902TP) 15.0 credits (0.125 EFTS) The aim of this course is to develop the knowledge, skills and competencies relevant to biodiversity management and conservation within a zoo industry context.
Zoo Animal Husbandry (ANML4903TP) 15.0 credits (0.125 EFTS) The aim of this course is to develop the knowledge, skills, and competencies relevant to animal management, transportation, and housing to ensure optimum outcomes for animals, staff and visitors.
Zoo Animal Welfare and Behaviour (ANML4904TP) 15.0 credits (0.125 EFTS) The aim of this course is to develop the knowledge, skills and competencies relevant to the welfare and behaviour of zoo animals.
The Zookeeping Profession (ANML4905TP) 15.0 credits (0.125 EFTS) The aim of this course is to develop the knowledge, skills and competencies relevant to the operational requirements of zoos and the education of zoo visitors.
Introduction to Professional Skills and Competencies (ANML4906TP) 15.0 credits (0.125 EFTS) The aim of this course is to develop the knowledge, skills and competencies to manage personal wellbeing and professional development in the workplace.
Zookeeping Industry Practicum (ANML4907TP) 30.0 credits (0.25 EFTS) The aim of this course is to develop the knowledge, skills, and competencies to work professionally in a safe and sustainable manner, whilst providing optimal day-to-day care to animals in a zoo 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.