Zoo Keepers: A Photo Essay by Marco Mega

April 26, 2011 /Photography News/  London Zoo is the world's oldest scientific zoo. It was opened in London on April 27, 1828, and was originally intended to be used as a collection for scientific study. It was eventually opened to the public in 1847. Today it houses a collection of 755 species of animals, with 15,104 individuals, from the smallest monkey to the tall giraffe, making it one of the largest collections in the United Kingdom. It is managed under the aegis of the Zoological Society of London, ZSL (established in 1826), and is situated at the northern edge of Regent's Park.

ZSL, as international conservation organization have more than four hundred people working behind the scenes leading the world of animal care, research and conservation in more than 30 countries around the world in projects to protect animals in their natural habitat.

The role of a zoo keeper is one of the most popular jobs involving animals. They have responsibility both to the animals and to the general public. Keepers provide daily care for a zoo's animals. Their routine involves cleaning enclosures, preparing food, providing fresh water and clean bedding and ensuring that animal enclosures are kept at the appropriate temperature and humidity. They also keep records on health, diet and the behavior of the animals in their care and assist the vet when either preventive or curative treatment is needed.

Keepers also require good communication skills to be able to impart their enthusiasm, commitment and knowledge to the visitors. Keepers are an essential part of public education programmes, giving talks and participating and organizing events and activities for school groups and other interested parties. At ZSL London Zoo they are about 50 keepers. The zoo is open to visitors for few hours each day, but the animals are there 24 hours a day all year. The keepers need to be present all the time and some of them live at the zoo. The day starts early at 8am when a keeper's first task is to check that all the animals are well. The work is hard, and they work long hours and regular weekends.

Keepers are usually recruited initially for the summer season only (Easter-September). The best of these temporary keepers may be retained for permanent employment. After completing a six-month probationary period, new keepers begin a two-year flexible learning course leading to the City & Guilds Advanced National Certificate in the Management of Zoo Animals. This involves studying nutrition, enclosure design, hygiene and safety, breeding, transporting animals, diseases and the role of zoos in conservation, education and research.

ZSl London Zoo offer the “Keeper for a Day” experience which gives  to people an opportunity to get up close and personal with some of ZSL’s most popular animals, for one day and also offers a unique insight into the day-to-day life of zoo keepers and their charges. Budding keepers can try their hand at tasks such as preparing food for animals, feeding the giraffes and the monkeys, cleaning the penguin pool and going behind the scenes at the big cats. The “Keeper for a Day” program is an expensive experience, with a price range from £ 170,00 for half a day to £ 270,00 for a full day.

About the photographer:

Marco Mega was born in Bern, Switzerland in 1978. He is a free lance Italian photographer, based in London, member of NUJ - National Union of Journalists, specialized in documentary and sport photography. In 2009 he spends 4 months between India and Nepal for a project about Tibetan refugees in collaboration with the Italian NGO Tibetan Refugee. In 2010 he moves to London where he attends MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at London College of Communication and works with press agencies, national and international magazines. He covers social and editorial documentary features, news and sport in London and travelling worldwide. His work can be seen at and

Photos & text: Marco Mega, London, UK. All Rights Reserved


  1. Anonymous says

    Brilliant and interesting piece of work especially in an area often overlooked and left on vets pile of desk journals. Thousands of vibrant unemployed young ones will explore this area of science. Pity it is not explored to its highest potentials by the media like they do gardening and plants. Emma. Thank you Marco

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