Students work experience

How to become a full-time trainee primate keeper

Katie story

Katie Loveland – Graduation

I am one of those people who has always known what job field I wanted to end up in. For as long as I can remember, I have had a deep passion for animals of all kinds, large and small.

My favourite childhood toy was the RSPCA van which came with small figures of injured animals- one of which was a sheepdog with a bloody paw. It was clear to me at that age like black and white that wanting to work with animals meant I was going to become a vet. I followed this ambition all the way through secondary school, when I decided which subjects I should take for my GCSEs. I chose a few subjects that I enjoyed and had good grades in, as well as a few that would benefit my future.

The start of the journey…

At the end of secondary school I was ready to attend an agricultural college to study Animal Management Diploma. I was the only student from my previous school attending, and it was quite a scary step to take, but I knew it was the only way to get where I wanted to be. As of this point, it was as vague as a job working with animals!

College and change of hearts

College was great fun to me and I thoroughly enjoyed the specialised subjects of the course. I soon decided that I wanted to become a veterinary nurse. Once a week, I would attend placement at my local veterinary surgery, and I loved every single minute of it. My confidence grew dramatically as I picked up the work very quickly. Working in a field that felt comfortable to me was a great feeling.

The plan seemed to be all set for me; after finishing my college course, I would become an apprentice veterinary nurse.

But things have taken a little discourse…

Rather, I chose a completely different direction and decided I wasn’t yet ready to settle in such a specific field. I wanted to gain more experience. I applied to study Zoo Biology at Nottingham Trent University and was delighted to receive a place.

Not long into the course, I found my real passion and my new ambition was now all things conservation. I had visions of myself in the rainforest carrying out important research or at an animal orphanage somewhere in Africa working with eAfter only a few weeks on the course, I realised that my real passion was conservation. I saw myself in the rainforest carrying out groundbreaking research or at an animal orphanage in Africa reintroducing endangered animals to the wild. This degree excited me and I couldn’t wait to see where it could lead me.

I also applied for a sandwich/placement year in Sumatra to track tigers as part of a research program in my second year.

The deal was almost done, but unfortunately fell through.

The new path

I had to quickly find myself an appropriate plan B. I was pushed for time and had to decide on a placement quickly so wIt was a time crunch and I had to find a plan B quickly. As I was pressed for time and had to make a decision quickly, I chose a placement close to home that I could drive to every day and that “sort of” ticked all the boxes. A primate keeper internship at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park sounded appealing to me. But why primates? I thought they were cool and knew I wanted to write my dissertation about them…

Honestly, I was not overly excited about this plan B option and had never considered myself a zookeeper. There are no words to describe the huge grin on my face as I write this.

I was wrong in every way possible.

I had the best year of my student life during my placement year. I met incredible people and worked with amazing animals, and I once again felt that familiar buzz of being good at something.

I extended my internship and found weekend work until I had to return to university for my final year.

While I was in my final year, in the middle of deadlines and exams, I received an email informing me of a job opportunity that would be available once I graduated. Having had an unusual skype interview experience short after, here I am today: a full-time trainee primate keeper! I was amazed.

To conclude, I would just like to stress the fact that nobody can predict where their careers will take them. Even those who have crystal-clear ideas of what they want to do often find themselves in entirely different directions.

The thing that is important to remember is that we have a huge amount of control over our pathways thanks to education, Education, degrees, apprenticeships, and various opportunities all give us a lot of control over our paths. Therefore, if something makes you feel great and gives you a buzz of excitement, go for it!


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