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Paignton Zoo is like a village. There are different people with different jobs scattered through 80 acres of woods and open spaces.

Of course, it’s not a typical village. There are jobs you might find in any community: electrician, gardener, teacher, chef, shop assistant, vet, accountant. Then there are the more unusual occupations: animal behaviour scientist, environmental officer, head of conservation – animal keeper.

This village has plenty of houses, but the occupants are a little out of the ordinary. On one side of the valley there’s a house with very tall doors where the giraffes live, on the other the crocodiles have the heat turned right up. Down by the lake is a house for howler monkeys, in the forest lurk big cats and big birds. The camels can boast a great sea view.

Jobs in this village come with the same sort of pressures and rewards as other jobs. There are overflowing inboxes and urgently ringing telephones, targets, meetings and deadlines. On the plus side, there’s a park full of amazing plants and animals and the knowledge that it’s all in a very good cause – in fact, the best cause of all, the survival of our planet.

The Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust is a complex organisation – it’s a registered charity, a trading company, a tourist attraction, a botanic garden and a centre of research excellence. It’s part university campus, part country estate, part holiday destination and all zoological collection.

There are a lot of characters here – and they are not all human. From the all-male troop of Western lowland gorillas to the clucking, neurotic free-range guinea fowl, personalities abound. People come and go. Animals come and go. But the fascination endures.

The extraordinary range of jobs and personalities required to make the Zoo tick contributes to the unique character of this singular organisation. While animals and plants are at the heart of Paignton Zoo, it’s the people who make it thrive.

For more information please visit Paignton Zoo

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