The Workforce Training and Education Board licenses our Wildlife Academy as a vocational trade school specializing in employable Zookeeper skills. Students from across the globe attend a 24- or 48-week program to learn how to manage the feeding and caring of exotic animals. More than 300 students have graduated from our Professional Zookeeper Program, taking this knowledge and expertise to far-flung places like Australia, the UK, Africa, Central America, and Canada – and, of course, across the USA. We educate and train some of the most talented and professional zoological staff who find successful jobs throughout the international zoological community.
The Professional Zookeeper Program develops animal/wildlife health and welfare-related skills, the supporting teamwork & relationships inherent to success in a professional animal care setting. Understanding the backbone and front side of a zoological facility and its organization is essential to the program.
All persons applying for admission to the Cat Tales Wildlife Academy must be at least 18 years of age and be a high school graduate. Students must possess a High School Diploma with a GPA of 2.5 or greater, a General Education Development (GED) Diploma, or pass a graded entrance exam.
All applicants must demonstrate freedom from physical handicaps that would affect their ability to safely and satisfactorily perform the responsibilities required of all Wildlife Academy students. These responsibilities include, but are not limited to, being able to lift 30 pounds and have visual acuity and manual dexterity to maintain safety and prevent physical danger while on school grounds. Students must provide proof of a recent physical examination, tetanus shot, and tuberculosis test. Cat Tales Wildlife Academy encourages diversity and does not discriminate.
Please Note– It is essential that all applicants, prospective students, and those with disabilities thoroughly read the entire catalog/website, the full description of the training, and the work environment. Cat Tales Wildlife Center and Academy houses inherently dangerous animals, and the students will be working near these animals. Though we have STRICT safety rules in place, we reserve the right to restrict access to areas of the Wildlife Center to any student we feel could pose a risk of injury or death to themselves, the animals, or others, whether intentional or not. Any such restriction could affect a student’s ability to benefit from the program as presented. Refer to Conduct Requirements.
Quarters begin during June, September, November, and March. Due to demand or other circumstances, additional or alternate start dates may exist. Though not required as a participating student, the Wildlife Center may request pre-scheduled attendance due to an animal or other emergency or concern; the Wildlife Center will or may be open to students during any 24-hour day, any day of the year. Sometimes, homework assignments are heavy, and access to a computer and the internet is necessary—student’s schedules begin their days in the fall, summer, and spring at 7:30 a.m. Winter hours vary depending on the weather. The school is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Part One – Introduction to Zookeeping & Facility Operations (weeks 1 through 24) consists of 720 practical clock hours broken down into 24 weeks of 30 hours per week AND
Part Two – Advanced Zookeeping & Small Facility Management (weeks 25 through 48) consists of 720 practical clock hours broken down into 24 weeks of 30 hours per week.
Completing the Professional Zookeeper Program consists of 1440 practical clock hours broken down into 48 weeks of 30 hours per week.
Students must be on the zoo grounds for a maximum of (10) hours per day. Full-time employment or opposing work schedules are not recommended as they may interfere with progress in the program. Students will receive two weeks off each 6-month course (either during or between courses). The instructors must approve the scheduling of such time off to ensure proper support for the animals under the care of the students. Also, other time off for particular circumstances may be arranged at the instructors’ discretion and considered on an “as-needed” basis.
Though not required as a participating student, Animal Care Management may request pre-scheduled attendance due to an animal or other emergency concern. Cat Tales may be open to students during any 24-hour day, any day of the year. Students are frequently scheduled to begin their fall, spring, and summer days by 7:30 in the morning. Winter hours vary depending on the weather and commuting conditions. In-person and virtual instruction continues throughout the year. The school is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
The students will be scheduled for training and instruction at the program’s start, with their weekly/daily attendance requirement determined at that time. Students will be required to attend three days per week at a 10-hour day or the equivalent of a 30-hour week. Student attendance will include hours scheduled Tuesday through Sunday, including at least one weekend day. The virtual and in-person instruction dates and times are determined to fit the student’s schedule at the start and throughout the course(s).
Student’s clock hours must be kept current regardless of the time off granted. Any other absences must be made up before the completion of the course in which they occurred. Failure to make up missed contracted time, responsibilities, or studies will result in no grade given and dismissal from the program. Unless specified, without written notice, the dismissal date will be as described in the “Official Termination Date” section.
Successful completion of Introduction to Zookeeping & Facility Operations (or equivalent) and Advanced Zookeeping & Small Facility Management are required for Graduation and to acquire the Certificate of Achievement – Professional Zookeeper
Introduction to Zookeeping & Facility Operations is the all-inclusive beginning to understanding people/animal relationships and the role of public relations and teamwork in professional animal care.
The Introduction to Zookeeping & Facility Operations course consists of 24 clock hour weeks at 30 hours per week. A minimum of 720 hours of practical internship training is required to complete the Introduction to Zookeeping & Facility Operations course.
In the Introduction to Zookeeping & Facility Operations instruction and applied skills, students will learn basic husbandry and management of zoo animals through virtual and practical internship training using the animals located at the Wildlife Center for illustration of technique. This includes, but is not limited to,
- safety and emergency protocol,
- cleaning, sanitizing, & maintenance of exhibit and holding areas,
- wild animal nutrition & diet preparation,
- record keeping, behavior observation, animal enrichment,
- back-up & an introduction to lead zoo keeping,
- and related government regulations.
The Facility Operations instruction and applied skills training include, but are not limited to,
- various aspects of basic zoo support and operations,
- public relations, fund raising & public education,
- exhibit and grounds maintenance,
- construction and horticulture.
This training is accomplished on the Wildlife Center grounds.
The course subjects are taught through a combination of virtual and practical internship training throughout the program. The order in which the studies occur may vary slightly as current emphasis fluctuates to meet the educational needs of the students and to meet the current standards of the animal care industry, including rules and regulations. Successful completion of all course subjects is required for advancement.
Advanced Zookeeping & Small Facility Management
Prerequisite Introduction to Zookeeping & Facility Operations, or Equivalent Experience (To be determined by the Review and Acceptance Committee)
Advanced Zookeeping & Small Facility Management covers more advanced study and implementation of the skills taught in the Introduction to Zookeeping & Facility Operationswith the concentration on Leadership skills and an introduction to Small Zoo Management. The management skills taught can be utilized in many business applications as the student will learn a comprehensive background to the structure of an animal/people related facility.
The Advanced Zookeeping & Small Facility Management course consists of 24 clock-hour weeks at 30 hours per week. A minimum of 720 hours of practical internship training is required to complete the Advanced Zookeeping & Small Facility Management course.
In the Advanced Zookeeping & Small Facility Management instruction and applied skills, students will learn through virtual and practical internship training, leadership in professional animal care and small zoo operations. Virtual and/or in-person classes and practical internship training will review instruction covered in Introduction to Zookeeping & Facility Operations.
- Using the animals located at the Wildlife Center for illustration of technique, students will implement the conditioning or training of specified animals to assist in their husbandry, health, medical management, and welfare.
- Depending on the species and animal’s history, the wildlife housed at Cat Tales are protected contact animals and under rare circumstances are free contact.
Other areas of instruction and implementation will include, but are not limited to,
- the role of leadership in zookeeping incorporated in the supervision of
- animal husbandry,
- animal health & welfare,
- dietary preparation and delivery,
- and related recordkeeping.
Also covered and assigned is
- advanced enrichment,
- onsite and outreach conservation education programs (use of ambassador/program animals not guaranteed);
- species specific and age related animal care including geriatric animal concerns and quality of life assessment;
- the role of the zookeeper in veterinary care & procedures;
- and employment readiness.
In the Advanced Zookeeping & Small Facility Management instruction and applied skills, students will learn through virtual and practical internship training, aspects of Small Facility Management including, but not limited to,
- fund raising,
- public education and relations,
- staffing and scheduling,
- volunteer training,
- local, regional and federal regulations, licensing, inspections,
- acquisition and disposition of the animal collection,
- advanced record keeping, networking, inventory,
- zoo science, and emergency protocol.
Program Start Dates for 2023 – 2024
- September 13, 2023
- November 1, 2023
- January 10, 2024 – tentative
- March 6, 2024 – tentative
- June 5, 2024 – tentative
Tuition & Fees
The Wildlife Academy keeps the tuition and fee costs as low as possible. We understand that some of the most dedicated zookeeper students are often financially challenged. Our program is designed to educate future animal care professionals and provide employable skills in an industry where their experience and work ethics are highly sought after. This compassionate field of study is constantly evolving as we learn more about the species in our care and their survival in the wild.
The One-Year Program is divided into Two (2) Six-Month Courses with the following Tuition and Fees. Payments can be made in 2 installments – One for each Course or Payment can be made for the Full Program in advance. Payment is due upon acceptance to the Program at which time details of transactions can be arranged.
- Part One – Introduction to Zookeeping & Facility Operations – Tuition —- $750.00
- Printed Materials & Virtual Training Fees – (required) (nonrefundable once received) —- $250.00
TOTAL COST FOR PART ONE — $1,000.00
- Part Two – Advanced Zookeeping & Small Facility Management – Tuition —- $750.00
- Printed Materials & Virtual Training Fees – (required) (nonrefundable once received) —- $250.00
TOTAL COST FOR PART TWO — $1,000.00
TOTAL COST OF PROFESSIONAL ZOOKEEPER PROGRAM ————– $ 2,000.00
- Students are required to purchase their own basic personal clothing & footwear. Staff shirt is provided.
- Access to a computer and the internet is necessary for online study and research assignments.
- All work tools, and related training aids which are germane to the course are furnished by the school.
Cat Tales Wildlife Academy is not authorized to offer Federal Financial Aid. Applicants will be notified of known financial aid through non-federal outside resources and/or work study opportunities when available.