London Zoo: An Extraordinary Year

by ZSL on

Meet the amazing staff behind episode 2 of our exclusive ITV documentary

In the second episode, we invited you to take a deep dive into life with our sea lions, reach deep into the back end of an elephant – and meet the incredibly passionate people behind these incredible animals. Missed it? Catch up on the ITV Hub here

During lockdown, our Zoos fell silent. Yet behind closed gates, our staff never stopped - keeping our animals well looked after, 24 hours a day. Our outgoings however didn’t change, and without crucial income from visitors during lockdown, we now find ourselves in a financial predicament that threatens the very future of our two Zoos.

Please give what you can to help our Zoos stay open – head on over to our donations page or text ZSL 10 to 70500 to give £10 now.

Donate now

Now let’s meet the dedicated staff that have kept our Zoos going from behind closed doors! From elephant ultrasounds to sea lion training, they’ve been as busy as ever these last few months:

Ben Abbott

Elephant Keeper Ben describes his job as ‘a privilege [he’ll] never take for granted’. Looking after our herd of Asiatic elephants at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo for over four years now, he certainly doesn’t consider his job a standard 9-5, telling us: “I’m making a difference. The natural world is suffering, and zookeeping, caring for these threatened species, is so important.”

Male zookeeper stands in front of elephants at Whipsnade

Eimear Daly

Always bubbly and full of energy, elephant keeper Eimear, who works with Ben, is more than passionate about pachyderms, “I love coming into work in the mornings and catching the elephants when they’re still fast asleep, it’s such a wonderful thing to see”.

Zookeeper poses with elephants
Dan Simmonds

Heading up our Primates Team at London Zoo, keeper Dan works not only with our Western lowland Gorillas, but with our gibbons Yoda and Jimmy and our colobus monkeys too. “The animals I work with are so rewarding, they’ve got huge personalities and we know them all so well”, Dan says.

Zookeeper smiles, with two gorillas
Jamie Turner

Site Manager and all-round cheeky chappie Jamie has been working at London Zoo for a whopping 29 years. His job is particularly varied and involves overseeing everything from food deliveries and plants on site to the disposal of animal erm… waste (our animals produce a LOT). You’ll have spotted him proudly installing the NHS sign above our giraffe enclosure in episode 1. Missed it? Catch up with all the monkey business here.

man smiles in front of NHS sign at London Zoo

Alex Pinnell

Remember Sea Lion keeper Alex from episode 1, which aired on Thursday 24 September on ITV at 9pm? Having dedicated over 17 years of her life looking after this spectacular family of ‘fur friends’, she’s delivered hundreds (probably thousands!) of sea lion talks at Whipsnade Zoo over the years.

zookeeper with two sealions at Whipsnade Zoo

Fieke Molenaar

You’ll have found Fieke elbow-deep in an elephant ultrasound during episode 2 of London Zoo: An Extraordinary Year. Presented with animals needing her expert care each and every day from the very small to the gargantuanly large. On her 7 years as a ZSL Vet, Fieke told us: “no two days are the same - I get to make a huge different for all of our animals”.

Zoo staff stands with amazing bird
The dedication of our staff is unmatched, we’re sure you’ll agree. Heartfelt about creating a world where wildlife thrives, they need your help to keep doing the amazing work they do for as long as possible, both in our Zoos and around the world.

Every donation makes a difference. Please give what you can.


Or support us with a visit! Come along and meet the amazing animals we have the privilege to work with, each and every day:

Select a blog

Careers at ZSL

Our people are our greatest asset and we realise our vision for a world where wildlife thrives through their ideas, skills and passion. An inspired, informed and empowered community of people work, study and volunteer together at ZSL.

Nature at the heart of global decision making

At ZSL, a key area of our work is the employment of Nature-based Solutions – an approach which both adapt to and mitigates the impacts of climate change. These Solutions, which include habitat protection and restoration, are low-cost yet high-impact, and provide multiple benefits to people and wildlife. We ensure that biodiversity recovery is at the heart of nature-based solutions. 

ZSL London Zoo

A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo, bringing you extraordinary animal facts and exclusive access to the world's oldest scientific zoo.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Do you love wildlife? Discover more about our amazing animals at the UK's biggest zoo!


We're working around the world to conserve animals and their habitats, find out more about our latest achievements.


From the field to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.


A day in Discovery and Learning at ZSL is never dull! The team tell us all about the exciting sessions for school children, as well as work further afield.

Artefact of the month

Every month, one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the Month.

Wild About

Read testimonials from our Members and extracts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine, Wild About.

Asia Conservation Programme

ZSL works across Asia, from the famous national parks of Nepal to marine protected areas in the Philippines. Read the latest updates on our conservation.

Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation

An Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.