We caught up with Nikki to find out a little more about her, what she does here at Paignton Zoo and why she enjoys it so much…


How many species do you care for?

Over 60 different species, including a kiwi, toucans, ibis and hornbills.

What is your favourite animal at the zoo and why?

I love the kiwi – he is so special as he is the only kiwi in the UK. He is totally different to any of the other birds that we have and is the only nocturnal bird here at Paignton Zoo. He can be very particular in his behaviour and sensitive about things too.

Did you always want to become a keeper?

I always wanted to work with animals and wanted to do more of the physical looking after rather than the veterinary side. I also love being outdoors which really helps with my job.

Why did you become a Keeper?

I’ve always kept animals including hamsters, mice and gerbils. When I was growing up, I would take in wild birds that had been injured, rehabilitate and release them.

When did you become a Keeper and where?

I did a National Diploma in Animal Management at Bridgwater and I did quite a bit of work experience with zoo animals. 

How long have you been at PZ?

I’ve been working at Paignton Zoo for 11 years and I’ve worked on the bird section since 2007.

What is your average daily routine?

My routine can change quite a lot depending on the time of year. A typical day would start with chopping food for the hornbills and cleaning the forest aviaries. Let out any birds that have been shut in overnight and then feeding the kiwi (which can be very time consuming). If we’re in breeding season, I spend a lot of time feeding and cleaning out chicks. If we are hand rearing flamingo or crane chicks, they need to be walked at least twice a day too.

What is your favourite part of the job?

I love feeding the kiwi his breakfast worms and getting to see him out in the evenings. As he is nocturnal, we don’t get to see him very often.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Developing the skills we need for hand rearing and doing it successfully. The process we follow can be tweaked from experience and improve the chances of survival. It’s really nice to see chicks develop, grow and move on or breed themselves.

Why do you feel that’s zoos are important?

Zoos are important to help educate people about conservation of species and their habitats.

Why are you passionate about conservation?

I think that everyone should be passionate about conservation – the future of the planet depends on it!

What is your most memorable experience here at Paignton Zoo?

There have been so many! We had to round up all of the flamingos and some of the pelicans which was very entertaining! The kiwi arriving was also a highlight for me.

Do you work closely with any conservation projects?

Not yet, although I’m hoping to work more with kiwis in the future.

If you could pass on just one message about conservation, what would it be?

I think that people should be more interested in birds. They eat fruit seeds and disperse them, they help keep on top of insect populations, which in turn would otherwise eat the plants. Their whole existence impacts on the eco cycle of the planet and they are often overlooked.


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