South Africa is home to extensive biodiversity including a number of iconic wildlife species, most of which are found in the wild. In some instances though, animal sanctuaries such as zoos, nature reserves and aquariums, play a key role in the care and rehabilitation of injured animals that can no longer survive in the wild. They also play a key role growing and increasing population sizes of declining, threatened or endangered species. Zookeeping involves caring for animals that live in captivity.

Zookeepers feed, provide water for and monitor the health of animals kept in sanctuaries. They prepare food and medicine and develop feeding schedules to ensure animals are properly cared for. They train animals to facilitate grooming or medical processes and provide rehabilitation support and appropriate exercise and mental stimulation. Zookeepers also clean, fix and maintain animal enclosures and provide important information to the public about animals through educational programmes and exhibits.

Zookeepers work alongside animal curators and veterinarians when training or treating animals and occasionally interact with the public around animal education programmes. They work long hours and at varied times of the day, depending on the nature of the animal they are caring for.


Zookeepers require a thorough understanding of the physical needs and behaviour of a variety of animal species as well as patience while working with animals. They will additionally benefit from:

  • Strong observation and a keen attention to detail
  • Good organisational and record keeping ability
  • Good relational competence
  • Physical stamina and strength


Observe animals to detect signs of illness

Inspect cages, grottos and pens for cleanliness and structural defects

Supervise and coordinate activities of workers

Conduct education programmes and provide information about animals


B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Biological Sciences specialising in Zoology at all universities

B.Sc.Agric., B.Sc.Agric. (Hons), M.Sc.Agric. in Animal Science at NWU, SU, UFH, UFS, UNISA, Univen, Unizulu and UP

B.Sc. (Hons) in Wildlife Management at UP


Zoos and aquariums.

Nature reserves, parks and conservation sanctuaries.

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