I have just come back from a period of volunteering for the Turtle Conservation Centre in Cuc Phuong National park, Vietnam; this was an amazing opportunity to see conservation efforts for the Asian turtle crisis first hand.  Having just finished my masters, and now looking to start my career, I feel that it is vital to gain as much experience as possible. I was very excited when Paignton Zoo accepted me for work experience and couldn’t wait to get stuck in!   
Everyone on the LVI Department was extremely welcoming and I instantly felt at ease. They took particular notice of my interests to ensure that I could make the most of my experience. It has been a very varied few weeks; I was able to assist with husbandry activities and get a taste for office work, too. I really enjoyed working with Andy, Mark and Matt, preparing feeds and spraying enclosures.  Everyone was really happy to share their knowledge and expertise, which was not only hugely helpful for me but also fascinating! I learnt a lot about invertebrates during my time, such as the fascinating behaviour of diving beetles (Thermonectus marmoratus) and the structure of social spiders (Stegodyphus sarasinorum).  A particular highlight for me was watching the crocodiles feed!  The strength of the Crocodylus porosus is phenomenal. 
Assisting the Curator Luke Harding, I compiled animal management plans for a variety of species by researching species’ specific husbandry requirements. Given my recent volunteering experiences, I was particularly interested in researching the Asian turtle species at Paignton, such as Cuora galbinifrons and Mauremys annamensis. I was also able to attend a meeting on upcoming events, which gave me an insight into the work of other departments in the Zoo.  
In addition, I carried out a census on the amphibian collection. This proved a pretty challenging and mucky task; sometimes I had to remove all substrate to ensure that all frogs had been counted! It was wonderful to be able to work so closely with such gorgeous amphibian species as Agalychnis lemur. I was blown away by the Amphibian Ark and the work that staff do to conserve these beautiful species. 
I would encourage anyone who is seriously thinking of pursuing a career in reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates to apply for work experience with somewhere like the LVI Department at Paignton Zoo.  You won’t regret it!

By Alexandra Marie Hughes



Quotes Brilliant, loved every minute of it especially the free activities throughout the day. Quotes