Joanne Iredale

Another step forward for Volunteers in Zoos & Aquariums

Posted: 19th March, 2021

Volunteer zookeepers and aquarists now have the opportunity to gain a dedicated award from Sparsholt College and City & Guilds. The established ‘Volunteer Programme’, has now been awarded prestigious City & Guilds recognition as a standalone achievement now known as the Level 3 Certificate in the Management of Zoo and Aquarium Animals for Volunteers (CMZAAV).

The hard work and dedication of volunteers in the industry has long been recognised and the Volunteer Programme allowed these valued community members to begin formal training towards achieving the respected Diploma in the Management of Zoo and Aquaria Animals (DMZAA) run by Sparsholt College and BIAZA. The opportunity still remains for successful candidates to later ‘Top Up’ to DMZAA, should they subsequently gain paid employment in the sector.

Penny Hounsome, Curriculum Leader for Zoo Animal Studies at Sparsholt College, said:

“The opportunity for volunteers to train and gain this established award is really important to us. Many collections rely on such willing staff and in recent times these committed volunteers have stepped up and will continue to be an essential element of zoo and aquaria staffing. I am really pleased that a route for dedicated student keepers, giving their own time freely to a collection, has been awarded this recognition by the awarding body and that we can continue to support learners making their way into our fabulous industry.”

The very first candidate, Toby Reeve of Colchester Zoo, claimed his well-earned CMZAAV credential in January 2021, he said:

“I am proud and honoured to be the very first candidate of the new CMZAAV credential, and feel so lucky that volunteers are now able to have this route into the industry.

“I wouldn’t have achieved this award without the help of Penny and Sparsholt College, who have been so supportive in helping me achieve my dream - it really is an amazing support network they provide. I would also like to thank Colchester Zoo where I volunteer for being so friendly and open and providing excellent advice and resources to help me achieve the credential.

I would recommend this course to any volunteers thinking of taking that next step in their animal career. Here’s to a very exciting future!”

Toby has received congratulations from Rebecca Moore, Director of Conservation, Education and Research at Colchester Zoo, who said “Toby’s hard work over the course has paid off, and we look forward to more volunteers achieving the qualification in the future.”

Several more students are now at the same stage in their training, with more expected in January 2022 and in subsequent years, as the course continues from strength to strength.”


Learners achieving this award will receive a digital credential from City & Guilds, which can be downloaded and shared to help them reach potential employers and celebrate their success widely. To find out more about digital credentials please visit the City & Guilds digital credentials page.

Sally Green, Development Manager at City & Guilds expressed her support for the news, stating “City & Guilds are delighted to support Sparsholt College and BIAZA in formally recognising the skills, knowledge and achievement of the zoo volunteer community”.

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