Top dogs – Banham Zoo duo make the grade for prestigious award prize

From left: Martin Simmons, Vice Principal from Sparsholt
College, Lucas Atkinson, Sarah Bonsall, and Gary Batters, the Director of Conservation and Education at Banham Zoo. Submitted photo.
From left: Martin Simmons, Vice Principal from Sparsholt College, Lucas Atkinson, Sarah Bonsall, and Gary Batters, the Director of Conservation and Education at Banham Zoo. Submitted photo.

A pair of zoo keepers from Banham Zoo are celebrating being top dogs.

Lucas Atkinson, 28, and Sarah Bonsall, 30, have shared first place on a national training course which seeks to train the next generation of zoo keepers.

Their journey began more than two years ago, when they were enrolled on the Diploma in the Management of Zoo and Aquarium Animals (DMZAA) at Sparsholt College, Hampshire, by the zoo as part of their keeper training programme.

The duo had to complete special studies, exams and numerous modules covering all aspects of modern zoo practice, from animal diets to zoo legislation, general husbandry and environmental enrichment.

The results were revealed earlier this year, with the college presenting an award for the student with the best overall grades.

For only the second time in its history, the award was shared – and both winners were from Banham Zoo.

Gary Batters, the director of conservation and education at Banham Zoo said: “We are immensely proud of Lucas and Sarah as we are of all our keepers that have completed this course over past years.

“They will have put in an enormous amount of hard work in during the duration of the course and receiving this award highlights the high standards that are achieved by all the staff at both Banham Zoo and Africa Alive!”

The DMZAA was developed between the college and the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria, as a correspondence course, with much of the work coming in the student’s own time.

The qualification is internationally recognised, and considered by many as the appropriate qualification for a career as a qualified zoo keeper and is only open to people actually working in zoos.

The pair have now been promoted to Level 3 Qualified Keeper and will use the knowledge gained from the course to further their careers in the zoo industry.