Learning volunteers

Volunteers play a very important role in the life of the ZSL. They contribute to the success of ZSL by assisting staff, helping our visitors enjoy their day and providing excellent customer service at our zoos – ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.


Role description

Learning Volunteers make the difference between a good day, and a great day! They provide a warm and friendly welcome for our visitors, have great stories to tell and things to show people, and give our visitors the chance to ask questions – whether that’s about tigers, tortoises or the nearest toilets.
It’s all about providing fab customer service, while using your enthusiasm and experience to get across our most important message – that animals are amazing.

We will train you up so you will feel confident and knowledgeable, and you’ll spend your days moving around different locations at the zoo, usually for an hour at a time. You might be in Butterfly Paradise explaining how the postman butterfly gets its name, or at Tiger Territory helping visitors spot our sleepy tigers, or providing a cheery welcome at our information kiosk.
Whatever you’re doing, you’ll be helping ZSL achieve its mission to conserve animals and their habitats by improving the zoo experience so that our visitors leave feeling really inspired about the natural world.

About us

ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo are part of the Zoological Society of London, an international scientific, conservation and education charity whose mission is the conservation of animals and their habitats. We also employ over 70 scientists to carry out research in conservation science and manage conservation programmes in more than 80 countries around the world, including the UK.

ZSL doesn’t receive any government funding to run the two zoos so our income is generated entirely through donations and zoo visitors.
More than 1.5 million people visit the zoos each year and it is our aim to give them a unique and memorable experience, and hopefully inspire an interest in animals and nature.

Core activities: Live interpretation (these vary between the two zoos)

Exhibit Interpretation
Volunteers are based at key animal exhibits to chat to visitors, help them see the animals and answer a range of questions. This is a really important activity, so volunteers need to be confident and pro-active about approaching visitors and engaging them in conversation. We are there for our visitors come rain or shine too, so do be aware that volunteers are needed at both indoor and outdoor exhibits in all weather conditions. We will provide appropriate clothing to make sure you don’t catch a cold!

Touch Tables and Discovery Zones
Our touch tables display a range of biofacts (biological artefacts!), including snake skins, skulls and other items for handling and discovery. The emphasis here is on facilitating learning in an informal and enjoyable way. People learn in lots of different ways, and we will train you to use a range of techniques from imaginative play, to provoking curiosity to guessing games to engage visitors. Volunteers should therefore be comfortable communicating with a wide range of ages and abilities.

Special activities
We also complement our regular daily activities with lots of different special activities led or supported by volunteers. These activities often change on a seasonal basis. One day you could be helping children to make their own badge to take home, and then on the next day encouraging children to “be a vet” in an imagination learning session.

Presenting Live Animals
On occasion volunteers have the opportunity to handle live animals to present to the public. This can include ferrets, armadillos and a range of invertebrates (all optional). It’s probably important to mention now though that contact with animals is minimal in the learning volunteer role. If lots of animal contact is what you’re after, this is probably not for you. But if you just love being surrounded by animals, and you like talking to people, you’re definitely in the right place.

Information kiosk
At the information kiosk our volunteers are a friendly face for visitors, answering a range of enquiries, providing maps and recommending routes and events. This requires greater knowledge of the Zoo as a whole, so we’ll let you get used to the Zoo before you spend time here.

Commitment

We ask for a regular and reliable commitment of one full day per week (Monday to Friday) OR one full day per fortnight if volunteering on a Saturday or Sunday. To be able to provide our visitors with the best experience reliability is essential. Please only apply if you can realistically and regularly make this commitment.

Who are we looking for? 
• Friendly, outgoing people who are articulate, confident, and at ease with approaching visitors.
• People who understand what great customer service entails and deliver it consistently.
• Reliability, commitment and regular attendance
• An interest in animals and conservation
• A willingness to listen, learn, and keep yourself up to date.
• A good degree of fitness as you will need to walk across the Zoo from one exhibit to another. Activities are mostly standing up and, while a good part of the day is out of doors in all weathers, some activities take place in a tropical climate!

What do volunteers get out of it?
• A chance to be in a team of friendly, like-minded people - other volunteers 
• An opportunity to be involved in an international conservation charity
• Training and an opportunity to learn new skills
• A range of benefits including staff discount rates for lunch

 

1. Not currently recruiting at ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

2. Due to the importance of recruiting people with the right skills, not everyone will be short-listed. Those who are short listed will be invited for an informal interview and successful applicants undergo a probationary period of induction.
We are fortunate to receive many applications for the role. We aim to process applications to short-list stage within 4 weeks of the closing date. If you do not hear from us within this time, we regret you have not been short listed.

3. Training is done by placing new volunteers with experienced ones, by links to information on the website and at morning briefings. Day to day changes as well as training is given at morning briefings which start at 1030 and it is essential to attend and be on time for these.
4. This opportunity applies to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. Priority will be given to applicants living within commutable distance to the Zoo.

Volunteers must be over 18. There is no upper age limit as long as you continue to be fit and active, able and willing to learn and remember new information and adapt to change as the Zoo develops.

More volunteering