Meet the keeper: Sarah McGregor, Whipsnade Zoo

by ZSL on

Sarah McGregor, Team Leader of Predators at Whipsnade, spends her time caring for the animal kingdom’s top predators – from Amur tigers to African wild dogs. She talks about working with the world's biggest big cat, and why her most memorable moment involved some honey water and a syringe!

Sarah McGregor, Team Leader of Predators

When did you know you wanted to work with animals?
I think I’ve always known, ever since I was small. I was constantly asking my parents for pets – and told no – which must have spurred me on because, as soon as I turned 18, I got a job at a zoo! I wasn’t sure what animals I wanted to work with, so I volunteered with lots of different animals, but as soon as I met Whipsnade’s big cats and bears I was hooked. Carnivores have such strong personalities; I knew I wanted to work with them. 

Has anything surprised you about the job?
Everyone always seems to be surprised that my job isn’t mostly petting and cuddling the animals – far from it! Being a zookeeper is a lot of hard graft, in all weathers, but that’s part of the satisfaction. The harder we work, the better our animals’ lives are going to be; from fun jobs like making new enrichment for the African wild dogs, to the less glamourous jobs like clearing a blocked drain in their enclosure. Everyday we walk into the Zoo and with the attitude of ‘how can I make your day great?’ – and whatever it is, we get on with it!

I know you’re not supposed to have favourites – but do you?!
I am very lucky to be on a section with so many amazing different species, but one of my favourites has to be the tigers. I have worked with our three Amur tiger males – Czar, Dmitri and Makari – since they were born at Whipsnade in 2017, and it’s been a privilege to watch them grow into the individuals they are today. I will never tire of seeing them climbing the feed poles in their enclosure after we have tied meat or enrichment up high for them. It gives them such a good workout, stimulating both their muscles and their hunting instincts!

Sarah McGregor and Amur tiger

What’s been your most memorable moment as a zookeeper?
Training Colombo our sloth bear to let us take a blood sample from his paw for health checks. Now that Colombo is getting a little older we take blood samples every six months to make sure he’s doing OK, and the best way to do it is without anaesthetics. I spent weeks training him to reach his paws into a specially made compartment in his enclosure so our vet nurse Karla could take a blood sample. While this is going on I feed him honey water via a syringe, which is his favourite reward. I was really proud when we finally managed it! 

What are you most proud of?
This is going to sound cheesy, but being part of ZSL! My colleagues are working to protect so many different species and ecosystems around the world, and I get to share that work with our visitors – all in the presence of some of the world’s most endangered species. I couldn’t be prouder to work for a charity whose vision is ‘a world where wildlife thrives’.

What do you do when you’re not at the Zoo?
I have two children at home, as well as the animals at work, so most of my free time is spent being a mum! One day I’ll have time to pick up hobbies again but, in the meantime, it’s all about ferrying them to golf, tennis, swimming and regular visits to the Zoo on my days off! I love it. 

Gold members, Fellows and Patrons receive articles like this one three times a year in our Wild About magazine. To get your paws on the next edition, and to visit our big cats, bears and African wild dogs as often as you like, become a Gold Member today.


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.