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Discover the ‘science behind the zoo’ as part of the NI Science Festival

Date: 01 Feb 2018

NI Science Festival

To celebrate the Northern Ireland Science festival, we are hosting a series of events to engage and inspire visitors about the wonders of the natural world and wildlife in danger (including our own native species), with an aim of creating the next generation of zoologists and conservationists.

Our ‘science behind the zoo’ sessions will allow young people aged 15 to 18, with an ambition of working in the zoology field, to get a taster of life in the zoo.  We all know what a challenge it can be to decide on a suitable career path or to get your first step on the career ladder.  These half day sessions will take place on Saturday 17 and Saturday 24 February 2018 and will allow participants to meet some of the zoo team including keepers, curators, educators and veterinary staff. Participants will also get some hands on experience including the chance to go behind the scenes and to create animal enrichment items.

Education officer, John Fisher, said “The zoo is a fantastic place to work and there are a variety of career paths within the field of animal care, welfare and conservation.  Being a zoo keeper is much more than just shovelling poo and spending time with the animals. The survival of many species is becoming increasingly dependent on the sustainability of zoo populations.  We take part in more than 60 global and collaborative breeding programmes, several of which are managed by Belfast Zoo staff. The key to wildlife conservation is science and, to ensure successful breeding, we rely on the knowledge and skills of keepers and the veterinary team to ensure that the animals are healthy, happy and to allow us to adequately understand the behaviours of different species.  As the only zoo in Northern Ireland, we feel it is not only our responsibility to give young people the tools and knowledge to begin their career in this field but we also hope that this event will inspire a lifelong passion for wildlife and conservation.”

The zoo is also calling for all key stage 2 and 3 teachers to bring their classes along to interactive education sessions which will run from Wednesday 21 to Friday 23 February. These sessions will give each class a simple guide and some practical experience of what they can do in their own garden or at school to help protect native species. By the end of the sessions, the class will become ‘zooper wildlife champions’ and will graduate with all of the skills necessary to become ambassadors and a voice for native wildlife.

John continues “When you think of the zoo you usually think of lions and tigers and bears. It’s far too easy for us to think that endangered animals and the threats they face are a world away from our day to day lives. However, the problem is right here on our doorstep. Many of Northern Ireland’s native species are facing increasing dangers and are even facing the very real threat of extinction. Our ‘zooper wildlife champions’ will get the chance to meet Twilight the barn owl, get to know Harry the rescued hedgehog, scurry over to red squirrel nook and they can also make a beeline for the Buzz Stop to visit our hive of Irish black honeybees.”

Zoo manager, Alyn Cairns, said “We are delighted to be taking part in the Northern Ireland Science Festival for the first time this year! Key to animal care and wildlife conservation is science. More than 90% of our animal care team are qualified in the science behind animal care, health, behaviour, husbandry and nutrition. We have developed these exciting and unique events which will help to highlight the science behind the zoo while also allowing us to engage with the next generation of zoologists.”

To find out more about our ‘science behind the zoo’ and ‘zooper wildlife champions’ sessions and to download booking forms, visit, email or call 028 9077 6277 extension 204.

To find out more about the NI Science Festival, visit