EMMA ZOO…..MS TO THE TOP OF THE CLASS

Blackpool Zoo Keeper Emma Banks is flying high after scoring top marks at the end of the first year of her Advanced National Diploma in the Management of Zoo Animals. Emma, who is 26 and from Kirkham, scooped a whopping ten out of ten distinctions in all her Diploma Units, which included the Role of Zoological Collections, Principles of Animal Behaviour and Animal Nutrition. The three year course, which is funded by the zoo, will see Emma working full time and spending 12 month slots on each of the animal sections. She has just completed a year with the large mammals, where she was part of one of the first groups in the UK to be trained in protective contact with zoo favourites, the elephants. Following this she is now fully qualified to carry out health checks, give daily baths and even administer foot manicures to the majestic creatures! Her second year will see her work with reptiles, birds and small mammals and she hopes spending time with this group of animals will cure her of her biggest phobia, spiders. She will also work with some of the newest additions to the zoo’s collections including the baby otters, the red panda cub and the hand-reared flamingo chick. The third and final year will involve Emma working with primates from the largest of the species, the Western Lowland Gorilla, to the smallest, the Pygmy Marmoset. Emma said: “After graduating with a BSc degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare I worked hard for a year to save enough money to spend the next 12 months volunteering at farms, kennels, the zoo and the RSPCA. “After securing a position as a seasonal worker at Blackpool Zoo it became blindingly obvious to me that this is where my heart is and was delighted when after just three months head keeper Peter Dillingham offered me a position as a trainee zoo keeper. “I work full time at the zoo and do all the academic side in my own time; it is hard work but I am enjoying every second of it! “Out of all the animals I have worked with so far I think the Red River Hogs are my favourite, they are all so cheeky and each one has its own unique personality.” Head Keeper at Blackpool Zoo, Peter Dillingham, said: “I had an instinctive feeling that Emma was going to be a shining example here at the zoo and her work over the past year has been exemplary. “It comes as no surprise to me that she gained top marks in all her units and she has a very promising career ahead. “I just hope she can get over her fear of spiders over the coming 12 months!” As well as working at Blackpool Zoo and doing all her course work in her own time Emma is also busy organising her wedding, which will take place in 2011. She lives with her partner in Kirkham. -ends- Pictures show: Emma Banks with Kelloggs the Corn Snake

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