Blackpool Zoo, Big Cats experience 19.6.17 

Blackpool Zoo works on a 2 door policy to ensure the safety of the big cats’ keeper so when my dad and I arrived at the lion house, we waited for the doors to be locked.

The Zoo keeper first showed us the indoor housing and room for when the lioness was in cub. We hosed down the floors and mucked out. We learnt about the different social structures at the zoo at this particular time as opposed to the wild due to the passing of the lioness @ 90% weaning stage. Leaving the two males behind, the son was cared for and they have a surprisingly close father-son bond.
The tigers are a male and female pair, but the female has a contraceptive implant due to the controlled breeding programme.

We weighed out their food (4kg of horse meat), whilst discussing the visitors’ perceptions of big cat feeds and the legislation for Zoo licensing. Unless it is a life or death situation I.e an animal won’t eat, a zoo cannot feed live prey. In this rare case, a veterinarian would be on site to review and watch. Many zoos will not feed the horse / hare heads to the lions to prevent distress from spectators during feeding time.

Time for fence feeding! I kept my distance, facing the animals at all time. The keeper called the male tiger over to the panel without electric fencing (which surrounds the enclosure as a safety precaution). 
I fed him through the bars with a piece of horse meat on the stick each time, he was well trained. This is handy for vet checks, to see underneath an animal.

As the female wore down her canines during gestation, she is not fence fed to avoid problems to her previous root canal from occurring.

When it came to feeding Wallace the lion, he stood his ground and roared. Due to the hierarchy, the son stayed behind and so the keeper reassured me that they are separated in the paddock so they both get their fair share throughout the day. To mimic their intake in the wild, where their daily feeds fluctuate reflecting the inconsistencies of having to catch their preys, big cats in captivity will have semi-fast days then days where they are fed 16kg.

It was amazing to go behind the scenes of the big cat house, and shadow the keeper.

Blackpool Zoo, large mammals, 8.8.16

Today I officially finished Blackpool Keeper Academy. It was incredible to feel so welcome and see everyone again! 

After cleaning the camel and giraffe areas, I had the chance to feed the camels- something I’ve never done before.

I then fed the giraffes which was a great experience.


Knowsley Safari Academy, Lions, 2.8.16

There are 2 subspecies of lion: the African and the Asiatic. The IUCN classification is vulnerable.

Life span= 12 years. Habitat= mainly savannah and grasslands. Weight range= 190-300kg.


  1. Mane: Designed to make the male seem larger to scale rivals. The dark colour indicates high testosterone level which indicates sexual maturity.
  2. Nose/eyes: Good eyesight at low vision which helps in hunting. Advanced sense of smell.
  3. Tongue: Covered in rough spines for getting meat off the bone, and for grooming.
  4. Stomach: Short and simple digestive system and acidic.
  5. Tail: Only members of the cat family with a tassel. Used for balance and communication.
  6. Feet: Digitigrades walkers. They walk on their toes so have large pads. The large pads on their feet keep their movement quiet. They have retractable claws.

Social structure

A pride is generally comprised of 6 related females, their cubs of both sexes and one male.

The lionesses’ job within the pride is to hunt as they are smaller and more agile. The males’ manes can cause them to overheat when hunting so their role is to defend the pride.

Diet and hunting

Key prey species: zebra, wildebeest, buffalo and warthogs

A male needs 7kg of food per day, a female needs 5kg of food per day.

Their main competitor for food is the spotted hyena as they have a dietary overlap of 60%.

To avoid clashes with the lions, cheetahs hunt at different times of the day whilst leopards make use of their ability to climb trees.


Females breed at 4 years old, males breed at 5 years old. Gestation lasts for 122 days with 1-4 cubs being born. Weaning occurs at 6 months but 80% of cubs die before the age of 2.

Lions in captivity are more likely to have a vitamin A deficiency. One of the lionesses as a result has brain damage where there has been pressure on motor areas of her brain. Treatment is vitamin powder but this will not cure it.

In addition to the deficiency, lions get cuts and scrapes from other lions. Although these will naturally heal, keepers will monitor them to prevent infection. If necessary, they will be given oral antibiotics.

When a lion needs to be sedated, they will be lead into the lion house in a pair to prevent panicking and stress. There will be a vet and fire arms team on stand by in case of an emergency. Once the anesthetic is administered, the keeper or vet will touch the pad of the paw as this is a sensitive area, to check the lion is unconscious. A vet student will often monitor the heart rate and breathing.

Knowsley Safari Park, Reptiles amphibians invertebrate, 2.8.16


Reptiles are cold blooded. This means they can’t control their body temperature. They can maintain function over a large temperature range of 24 to 35 degrees.

Reproduction and excretion occurs through the cloaca.


There are approximately 300 species of snakes. The longest is the reticulate Python (9m), the shortest is the Barbados thread snake (10cm).

The Jacobson’s organ is used for tracking their prey. It examines the air Bourne particles that the tongue has collected.

Their heart can move around due to the lack of a diaphragm this is helpful when passing large prey. Their left lung is smaller or non existent. Their paired organs are staggered.

Sloughing is shedding skin, replacing worn skin. This keeps it healthy and free from parasites.


There are 600 species of lizards, ranging from 3cm-3m. They are able to break from the grip of predators due to autonomy which is breaking their tail off.


Crocodiles have adaptations that make them good hunters…

•Streamlined body

•Jaw muscles to keep hold of prey

•Webbed feet

•Ears, eyes, and nostrils on top of head

•High stomach PH to digest bones and hooves


The top part of the shell is called the carapace and the bottom part is called the plastron.


Undergo metamorphism (changing from gills to lungs). They use their skin as a a secondary respiration system.

Features include

•3 pairs of legs

•3 body parts

•chitinous exoskeleton

•pair of antenna

•compound eye



•Mantle-> organ sack

•Radula-> chitinous tongue

Many have no central brain but clumps of nerves at key points


Breathe through spiracles

Their lower lip containers a maxillae which are structures used for tasting and manipulating food.



•8 legs

•Additional appendages

They have 2 body segments called prosoma and abdomen and two kinds of eyes.



Knowsley Safari Park, Elephants, 1.8.16

There are two species of elephant. Asian and African.

Their habitat includes Savannah, forests, swamps, and bush land.

Threats are poaching and habitat loss.

They are found in herds of approximately 10. The matriarch is the oldest female who is the decision maker, she teaches the daughters to become mothers and finds food and water sources. Males leave the herd at puberty.

They only absorb 40% of what they eat so the deposits of half digested materials promote plant growth. This is one of the reasons they are a keystone species. A key stone species is one who’s presence or absence affects many others.

Captive elephants are prone to foot conditions especially if they are on outdated concrete floors rather than soft substrate. Sand floor is naturally abrasive and mimics the elephants walking longer distances.

Their nails are filed down and excess sole is trimmed. Elephants walk on their toes so this is where the pressure is, so it is essential that their feet are taken care of to prevent absecces.

Every day their feet are also washed with Hibiscrub. Their faeces are acidic and as they are in captivity, are more likely to stand in it. This is a higher risk in winter when it is too cold for the elephants to go outside so are more likely to walk in their faeces.

In addition to the foot care, the elephants have to take supplements…

Linseed oil-> healthy skin, hair and nails

Elephant equivalent of cod liver oil

Malasis (sugar)

One elephant has concentrated cranberry supplements for urinary tract problems.

Another has pain relief as its legged splayed out at birth so dislocated its shoulders.

PC training enables the keepers to implement the preventative care of the elephants.

Target sticks and positive reinforcement are used, the elephants are trained to present their body parts so they can be inspected.

They’re free to walk away at any time!
An elephant had an abscess on his forehead, he was taught to learn down so it could be squeezed, this meant he didn’t require sedation

Taking blood: Use nail over vein after rubbing, desensitise them. Then push on vein, use a cocktail stick. Once they allow this, move on to a needle.

Knowsley Safari Park, Safari, 31.7.16

At the end of the day we drove around the safari park so I made as many notes as I could to increase my general knowledge of zoo animals.

Fallow deer: Introduced by the Romans. Although there are white fallow deer at Knowsley, due to survival of the fittest and it being caused by recessive genes, they are rare in the wild. The males have antlers made of bone that fall of each year. They use them for fighting with other males over females.

Rhea bird, South America: They are ratites (flightless birds without a keel on their sternum bone) in the order Rheiformes
Kiang, Tibet: Only place in UK that you can see them Matriarchal herd. Main predators = wolves, so will stand in a circle with young ones in the middle and kick out wolves
Père David’s deer, China: Extinct in the wild (Flood so a lot drowned + Boxer rebellion, poor people at the deer). Before this father David was doing missionary work over here so sent some to Europe.  If deer horns are fluffy = ‘velvet’ get blood supply to it to grow, so may look like it’s bleeding as waiting for rutting season. Most deer and antelope will do something called ‘parking’ which means leaving their young to fend for themselves.

Blesbok don’t as they’re migrating so would leave their young.

Axis deer, Asia: Don’t have a rutting season, so will give birth year round.

Rhino: Female and male territories. Male makes a midden (a pile of rhino poo).Are able to replicate the natural breeding.

Zebra: Dazzle= group  Black and white stripes confuses predators

Ostrich: Biggest bird in the world. Group = wobble. All females lay eggs together, most dominant lays in the middle. Male sit on them at night, share (camouflage).

Bongo, Africa: Polish horns in the tree (have Ivory tips), and use them to break branches to eat

Lion: One male in a pride. mMales kicked out of pride by father and then will kill a male of a different pride to take over it

Darker mane= higher levels of testosterone = dominant.

At Knowsley … Brothers taken out, live together and have formed a coalition (not successful in taking over a pride independently)

Vasectomised as when the dominant male died, the three males were introduced to the females left in the pride to see who was dominant. This therefore prevents breeding as he is the son.

Female hunt as male has mane so will get too hot.

One was castrated so not a threat- therefore no mane.

Knowsley Safari Park, Tapirs, 31.7.16

As a group, we created tapir enrichment by cutting up fruit and vegetables and putting them into balls for the tapirs. They have to move them around to get the treats out.

Tapirs are semi aquatic so they enjoy swimming, as seen below they have an awesome area!


The tapirs came from Folly Farm and as they had been kept indoors, the pads on their feet had cracked.

The main issue (again) has been feet! The keepers used coconut butter to moisturise them and now they can swim when they like so this is no longer a problem.    

Knowsley Safari Park, Modern zoo practice, 31.7.16

All those who hold animals not normally domesticated in the UK require a zoo licence under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981. Local authorities carry out inspections and give out the license following the guidance of Secretary of States Modern Zoo Practice Handbook.

Areas they look at include:

•Education •Conservation •Animal acquisition •Public safety •Staff training •Animal records

Welfare is dictated by the 5 freedoms…

Here is some more information about organisations…