Logo: Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens
Natalie crouching down next to a Sifaka sitting on a rock
Natalie with a Sifaka (Cotswold Wildlife Park)

Job Profile: Section Head - Primates, Small mammals & Birds

Name: Natalie Horner

Location: Burford, Oxfordshire

Employer: Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens

Natalie bottle feeding an animal wrapped in a towel
Natalie bottle-feeding an Azara’s Agouti (Cotswold Wildlife Park)


Job Responsibilities

I manage a team of 11 Animal Keepers, and over 100 species of Primates, Small Mammals & Birds. The species I work with are diverse including: Lemurs, Tamarins, Lesser Apes, Meerkats, Sloths, Bats, Penguins, Hornbills and Owls to name but a few. I started my career as an Animal Keeper, so even though my responsibility has grown and a lot of what I do is people management, I am still heavily involved in the daily husbandry of the species I work with. I work with each keeper on section, checking routines, standards of daily husbandry and the management of each area. I have regular walk rounds with each keeper to create jobs lists. I complete all annual appraisals and monthly one-to-ones with each keeper. I arrange and chair regular section meetings. I am responsible for ensuring all diet sheets are up to date. I coordinate Vet visits with senior management when needed to ensure the health and welfare of all of our animals are met. I produce the monthly rota. I ensure all food orders are up to date for our fresh and dry goods for the entire animal collection. I plan all animal catch ups and moves across the section. I train and mentor keepers on the correct catching and restraint of various species as well as helping to continue their CPD. I ensure all animal record cards are created and kept up to date. I help to support the Park in its education of our school visitors by giving school and college talks on various subjects including conservation on and off site as well as visitor animal experiences. I work with all other departments across the park in a professional and proactive way to ensure the Park continues to be a successful and thriving business.


Qualifications needed

I have always worked best by taking the practical route in everything I do. I have a Level 3 Diploma in the Management of Zoo and Aquarium animals which I completed whilst working full time as an Animal Keeper. This qualification covers all aspects of Zoo Management from licensing to animal transportation to nutrition and enclosure design. This is a valued qualification and did teach me a lot, but gaining on the job practical experience has been the most valuable for me in regards to my training and knowledge of Zoo management and animals.  


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Other aspects of my role

Zoological collections are vital in the conservation of species and habitats all across the planet. Here at Cotswold Wildlife Park, the majority of our species are part of European Endangered Species programmes (EEPs). This is a collaborative effort between Zoos across Europe to ensure the captive populations remain healthy and stable. There are also conservation efforts in-situ in which we play a big part. Our Madagascar conservation efforts are long-standing, and not only are we protecting and preserving habitats for the Lemurs and other species that call Madagascar home, we are also working to support the local communities. This cooperation is absolutely vital in order to achieve success with these projects. My role here at the Park means I am heavily involved in the captive breeding of these endangered species for the EEP. This includes providing the highest standards of daily husbandry to our animals in the hopes of achieving breeding success, but also conducting research such as behavioural studies and oestrus monitoring which contributes to our understanding of the species which is sometimes difficult to ascertain in the wild populations.

I have worked at Cotswold Wildlife Park for 9 years now, and within that time, I have had the honour of being ‘mum’ to a range of different species which unfortunately had a difficult start in life. Sometimes this was due to injuries or difficulties at birth to being abandoned by their mothers. Some of the species I’ve hand reared include Armadillos, Kirk’s Dik-Dik, Egyptian Fruit Bats, Azara’s Agouti, Burrowing Owl, Scarlet Ibis and Roul-roul Partridge. All of these individuals were re-introduced back to their own species and most of them have moved to other collections as part of the EEPs. I feel incredibly privileged to have had these experiences.   


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If you have any queries about this role or would like to ask a question of the job holder please contact CJS by email.

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