Tag Archives: Dudley zoo

Skills Development – ZooStephen Workshop

Communication and Presentation Skills training sessions are fun, and its great meeting new people.

Thanks to Dudley Zoo for hosting the event, I was able to run a day long workshop for educators/presenters from a diversity of collections: DZG, West Midlands Safari Park, Green Dragon Eco Farm, WWT Slimbridge, Cotswold Falconry, Knowsley Safari, WILD and BTO (ex welsh mtn).

The existing knowledge, skills and experience of the group was mixed, and the workshop covered some of the background theory, conservation messaging ideas and discussion, and a diversity of activities, designed to support greater confidence and understanding in doing presentations and providing ‘education’.  We used non-verbal communciation alongside ‘acting’ techniques and finished the day with light-hearted group talks on flamingos and pandas.

The feedback from participants was great – with some good thoughts regarding both the amount of content and development of individual skills. Thanks to all involved for engaging and having FUN whilst developing and enhancing skills and experience.

This workshop was provided at very low cost to the organisations involved as part of my commitment to supporting staff development in educational activity.  I will be running future sessions for more educators/presenters and for keepers in future.

Training and CPD – an important commitment for students and for zoo licensing

Whether you’re a student on a recognised course, volunteer, or a well experienced employed person, training and continued professional development are an essential aspect in any career. In the work of zoos there are various opportunities but some challenges for those wishing to enter the profession and to gain the necessary experience, knowledge and skills, or for those wishing to further develop and keep up to date.

I have been working with Sparsholt College for several years, most notably on the DMZAA zookeepers course, having written one of the units and acting as an assessor. However, I have also been working with animal care students connecting them to the work of zoos. In March I was pleased to help organise and run a day visit for students to Dudley Zoo, with a particular focus upon enclosure design. Dudley Zoo have been very welcoming and accommodating and recognise the value of tailor-made workshops and activities for the students in giving them meaningful experience.

At Dudley we were delighted to see the new snow leopard enclosure (extension) and hear about plans for other developments; to meet staff for Q&A – including education presentation, keeper work, and meet the curator. Through such activity the students not only develop their learning but understand more the profession some of them wish to join and contribute to.

Zoos have many skilled and qualified staff that can support each other and those wishing to join the profession, but there are barriers making it more challenging – not least the ‘you don’t have relevant experience’ or ‘you’re not well connected to zoo work’. Internships are offered by some, but are out of reach of many who can’t afford it. Apprenticeships are another option but of course highly sought after and competitive.

Meanwhile, zoos themselves are subject to external review and licensing by their local authority (in an Act overseen through APHA of Defra). Local Authority staff are charged with organising and overseeing the zoo inspection regime, supported by Secretary of State’s inspectors (vets and zoo professionals). Standardisation and training for zoo inspection is limited – partly due to resources and geography given that authorities across the country have zoos to inspect and costs of running and/or sending staff on training are subject to budget issues. However, it was great to be part of delivering a day of Zoo Licensing Training held at Sparsholt College in March.

The delegates received training and presentations from current chair of the Zoos Expert Committee, vet and zoo inspector Anna Meredith, and zoo inspector, vet and former zoo manager, Jon Cracknell and myself. Additionally we looked at a few of the enclosures at the Sparsholt College Animal Management Centre (which is a licenced zoo). The opportunity to discuss what the ZLA requires, interpretation of terminology, what conditions must be placed on licenses and gain a better understanding of both the process and timeframe for zoo inspections, was welcomed by all. It is hoped that more LA staff and zoo inspectors will undergo regular CPD activity to ensure good management of the Act and good standards in our zoos.

Winter into Spring

Another year is now well underway and ZooStephen is enjoying the beautiful winter scenery and nature in central Scotland. We’ve had some heavy frost, great snowy days and bright sunshine too, and hints of Spring to come with rivers of snowdrops appearing in early February.

Amongst various activities booked for the year, including career workshops, Durrell DESMAN education and communication sessions, I am delighted to announce an ‘open’ Presentation & Communication Skills Workshop on June 18th, kindly hosted by Dudley Zoo.  For details see flyer advert below. Places limited.

Experiential Learning at Dudley Zoo

There are many ways to learn and expand knowledge. There is undoubtedly a place for lectures, books, private study and classroom activity. However, a lot of ‘theoretical’ and ‘philosophical’ learning is put into context and enhanced by opportunity to engage ‘in the field’ and undertake experiential learning.

I was delighted to lead students from Sparsholt College, Hampshire on a field trip to Dudley Zoological Gardens so that they could fully appreciate the practicalities of operating a zoo, designing enclosures for diverse species, and working within the constraints and opportunities of a historic site of national importance with Dudley Castle, and the important (and listed) 20th century modernist architecture of Tecton buildings – and on a hill.


Dudley Zoo celebrates its 80th year this year, and has seen many changes in both species and exhibits in this time, which includes the original ‘Tecton‘ buildings for animals such as polar bears and elephants (no longer kept) and their adaptation for other species, as well as the creation of a diversity of other exhibits from chimpanzees to Asiatic lions on the site. Comments and questions from the students in response to seeing and experiencing the site illustrated the value of spending time exploring and discovering, as well having some guided time and developing real understanding of the way in which the zoo has worked to cater for the animals, staff and visitors.

Zoo visits enable students to ask questions, to observe and to develop and challenge opinions. Zoos are varied and there are diverse issues faced. Students understand through their own experiences what challenges there are, and that keepers are working hard for their animals and within constraints of budgets as well as site.

Through the day Dudley Zoo staff were welcoming, friendly and happy to answer questions. It was therefore, great to end the day with opportunity to question the zoo curator and registrar, and hear about some of the history but also the work in progress and development plans.

So a day out may appear to be ‘fun’ and even ‘time off’ but in fact such a visit consolidates and extends learning and understanding, providing context and experience – and is highly recommended!

Dudley Zoo enclosures – Student visit

Dudley Zoo was opened in 1937 around the ruins of the castle on the hill. It is of particular note for the original features and enclosures designed by the Tecton partnership and Berthold Lubetkin.

DZGCastle

DZGTecton1

 

Lubetkin and Tecton created ‘modernist’ structures using pre-stressed reinforced concrete and in the 1930s this was revolutionary. Perhaps their most famous zoo structure is the ‘old’ penguin pool at London Zoo, but Dudley Zoo was designed with these structures throughout, and they made a real striking feature surrounding the ancient castle.

Not surprisingly Dudley Castle is a listed (protected) building of historic importance. However, the 12 Tecton structures that survive (the penguin pool was lost in 1979 due to dilapidation) are now listed Grade II or II* and have World Monument Fund status.  This means that as a zoo, Dudley has a significant additional asset and burden – buildings of great historic importance, but ones that have to be maintained alongside the zoo, even when the suitability for their original inhabitants is passed. It calls for lateral thinking and budgeting – ideal for students to study and review.

I was therefore delighted to work with a group of nearly 40 animal care students from Sparsholt College, Hampshire, on a visit to Dudley Zoo last week looking at enclosure design and contrasting Dudley to other zoos they had visited.

Dudley Zoo has done well in ‘adapting’ old Tecton structures and making them usable and suitable habitats for other species – largely by adding substrates; such as bark; and features such as climbing frames and plants. The rest of the site also has some cost effective enclosure designs using features of the hill and landscape, eg gelada baboons, otters, walk-through lemur wood.

DZGotter

DZGlemurDZGpenguin

 

 

 

 

 

 

The students were able to focus upon how the needs of animals, keepers and visitors are met through the different approaches and styles of enclosure, as well as appreciate the constraints and limitations listed buildings have upon a zoo, as well as experience this unique zoo, castle, bird of prey display and talks on sealions and penguins.

Dudley Zoo staff were very helpful answering questions, and the students also got to meet the zoo director. This visit enabled learning outcomes relating to assessing and evaluating enclosures; comparing and contrasting different zoos and understanding zoo design and development within constraints of site and budget.

Thanks to all involved for a good day at the zoo!

DZGSparsholt