Ear Scratch Rhino

Becoming a Junior Zookeeper for a day at Marwell

Ever since Isaac was little, if you asked him what job he wanted to do when he was older he would say “a zookeeper”.

I had looking into zookeeper for a day options for him for his birthday and decided to pick our nearest zoo – Marwell, as it had the best package.

Although Isaac’s birthday was back in April, Marwell’s Junior Zookeeper for a Day package is very popular and the earliest date I could book was this weekend, but he received a lovely invitation in the post with all the information about his exciting day at the zoo.

We arrived at 9am to join the other two children taking part. Each child has one accompanying adult with them, but other family members are offered discounted entry if they want to join them in the zoo.

We started off with a health and safety talk and the kids were then presented with a Marwell souvenir drawstring bag containing:

  • A certificate
  • A Marwell notepad and pencil
  • A badge
  • Stickers
  • Snack Voucher

We then headed off into the zoo to spend time with Marwell’s trained staff in preparing food and enrichment for their animals, mucking out their enclosures and meeting and feeding some of them behind the scenes.

Our guide for the day was Helen, who was brilliant with the kids, telling them the names of all the animals in the zoo and giving us information and fascinating facts about each as we walked past.

Our first stop was the giraffes, where we would be helping muck them out – after they finally persuaded Matilda to leave and go outside that is. Even the keepers are not allowed in the pen with them as giraffe’s have such a powerful kick that they can split a lion’s skull in half.

Matilda Giraffe

The kids were given their own broom and shovel and were instructed to sweep all the soiled sawdust and poo into a pile.

Zookeeper Giraffe

Once the floor was clean, they then had to use the scoops to pop the waste into the bin.


Once the floor was clear, they then got to lay down a fresh layer of sawdust for the giraffe’s, which they discovered help make cleaning their enclosure easier as well as helping to absorb moisture and make the floor more comfortable for the giraffe’s to walk on – all under the watchful eye of the giraffe’s of course.

Giraffe Marwell

Did you know: Giraffe’s are ruminant mammals. This means that they first swallow all the food that they want after some perfunctory chewing, and then bring up the half-digested cud back up to the mouth later, to chew on again – next time you visit, watch their necks and you can see the muscles contracting in rhythm to send the food back up the neck into their mouths!

Many of the animals in the zoo are more active at dawn and dusk, so we were really lucky to see the cheetah’s and leopards up close as we walked past.


Our next stop was the primate kitchen, where we got to make up special treat bags for the gibbons.

Morio Worms

This involved filling old paper food bags with straw, morio worms and peanuts and then folding them up as well as we could to give the gibbons at bit of a challenge.

Food Bags

Once finished, we took a short snack break in the Graze Cafe, before heading back to meet the keeper and hide the food bags in the Gibbons enclosure. We then got special access to watch the Gibbons try to find their bags and had a bit of a competition to see whose bag was the most challenging.


Isaac’s bag was the third to be found, but the first they managed to get into and they seemed to enjoy ripping it apart to find their tasty treats.

Gibbon Food

It was then off to meet another of the hoofstock team and the chance to meet the largest animal at Marwell – the rhino’s.


There are four rhino’s at Marwell; Kiri, Sula, Pembe and Jabari. Kiri and Sula are the old ladies of the group and Pembe and Jabari are both five years old and they hope to breed them in the next year or so as part of the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme.

Rhino - Marwell

They took quite a bit of persuading to come down and meet us, but finally all four arrived to say “Hello” and enjoy a tickle. They are especially fond of a scratch behind the ears!!

Ear Scratch Rhino

The final part of our zookeeper experience was meeting the bird team and feeding the penguins.


They were great fun to feed and even gave us a display of porpoising, where they leap in and out of the water in a rapid series of short, shallow arcs while swimming – leaving me with a face full of water, much to the kids amusement.


That was the end of our zookeeper experience and we were asked if we had any final questions before being left to explore the rest of the zoo on our own.


The Junior Zookeeper for a Day Experience lasts from 9am – Midday costs £185 per child, with accompanying adult free.

Top Tips:

  • Wear old trainers / hiking boots as you will be expected to dip your feet in iodine solution as you enter and leave each enclosure
  • Wear long trousers and neutral coloured clothes as some animals don’t like bright colours
  • Take a jumper / jacket – it can be chilly, especially in the shade

Isaac thoroughly enjoyed his zookeeper for a day experience and I it gives a real insight into the roles the zookeepers have to play on a daily basis.





Cotswold Wildlife Park

A visit to Cotswolds Wildlife Park

The Cotswolds are an area of England that I have not really explored, so when we were offered the chance to review Talbot Cottage in Stow on the Wold with Manor Cottages I started researching all the places we could visit locally.

Top of my list was Cotswold Wildlife Park which is located two miles south of Burford and just a short drive from where we were staying.

Cotswold Wildlife Park is one of the largest privately owned zoological collections in the UK and has over 260 different species of animals and the first ones we saw were these fascinating Emu’s who followed us around their enclosure.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

Set in 160 acres of landscaped parkland and gardens, the park has a diverse and fascinating range of animals, beautiful grounds to explore, a large well-equipped play area and a narrow gauge railway which runs around the entire site.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

Although the kids did not want to leave the play area, I managed to tear them away to look at the animals and we were all really impressed with what we saw.

Cotswold Wildlife Park

The enclosures are huge and not only do you get the chance to get up close to the animals, but they are also as close to roaming freely as they will come in a UK-based zoo.

Cotswold Wildlife Park

The Pelicans were wandering among us, although I am not sure the kids were so sure about being so close to them.

Cotswold Wildlife Park

The range of animals at the park is really impressive and the kids loved spotting animals as we wandered around. I was really surprised to see turtles resting on a log in the lake.

Cotswold Wildlife Park

Cotswold Wildlife has welcomed some new additions this year and the kids were eager to try to spot the newborn Rhino who is so young he has yet to be given a name.

Cotswold Wildlife Park

Sadly we only caught a glimpse of him as Mum was very over-protective, but the other Rhino’s were happily roaming outside in their huge paddock.

Cotswold Wildlife Park

One of my favourite animals are giraffe’s and in all my visits to see them at various zoo’s I have never been as close to them as we were here.

Cotwolds Wildlife Park

The kids loved watching them eating and even offered them bits of straw which they took gently from their hands.

Cotswold Wildlife Park

Opposite the giraffe enclosure were the big cats including the stunning clouded leopard.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

Last year the Asiatic Lions, Rana and Kanha, made history with their very first litter of cubs, giving birth to triplets, Kali, Sita and Sonika and all were chilling out and sunning themselves on a platform.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

Another baby in the park who was much happier to have his photo taken was Clyde the camel baby.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

Opposite the Camel paddock are the Porcupines and they had their first ever Porcupettes born earlier this year, although sadly we didn’t get to see them.

Inside the ‘Little Africa’ area are Gundi, an African small mammal that I had never heard of before which are housed next to the fascinating Naked Mole Rat colony. Did you know that these fascinating animals are the only species known to be immune to cancer, so they are scientifically a very important animal.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

Hidden at the back in a wooded area are the wolves and we just about caught a glimpse of one watching the world go by.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

The kids were keen to ride the train and next to it is the Wolverine enclosure, where spotted one as we waited for the train.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

The train costs £1 per person and is well worth factoring into the budget as it gives you a great view of all the animals as it goes around the park.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

There are also smaller enclosures to explore hidden behind the gift shop in the exotic gardens where you will find the penguins and smaller mammals.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

Like the animals in the larger enclosures you can almost reach out and touch them they are so close.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

We weren’t hopeful at spotting the Lemur’s in the Madagascar walk-through as the keeper told us they were all sleeping, but thanks to eagle-eyed Isaac, we spotted the snoozy bunch.

Cotswold Wildlife Park

We were really impressed with our visit to Cotswold Wildlife Park, there is so much to see and do that it will keep you entertained for the whole day and after hoping to see a Red Panda I finally got a brilliant view of one happily sat in a tree.

Cotswold Wildlife Park

You are more than welcome to take a picnic and there are plenty of areas to sit and enjoy is, but if you are planning a treat there is a large cafe serving hot meals, a smaller hot snack bar and that all important ice cream and tea/coffee hut too.

Cotswold Wildlife Park

Tickets to Cotswold Wildlife Park cost from £14 for adults and £9.50 for children over the age of 3 if bought online in advance which I think is very reasonable for the amount of animals to see and activities on offer. Tickets on the door are £15 for adults and £10 for children.

Country Kids