Rebecca Whitelegg – BSc (Hons) Animal Conservation Science graduate

Year of graduation: 2014

Current Employer: Flamingo Land Zoo

Current Job Title: Zookeeper

Current Location: North Yorkshire

“The campus and the lecturers, who have a wealth of knowledge, were amazing.”

Tell us what you have been doing since completing your studies.

I’ve been building up my experience by working in several zoos, such as Twycross Zoo, and taking part in an internship in America. I now have my first ever full-time, permanent role as a zookeeper at Flamingo Land Resort in Yorkshire and I am absolutely loving it!

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

Probably going to live in America for three months whilst volunteering at a big cat sanctuary. Going so far away on my own was definitely a challenge, but it made me a lot more resilient and I now feel that I can face any challenge that may arise in my career.

What would you do differently since graduating?

I would have stayed in America for longer. The internships offered were on a three month rolling plan and I chose to only do the first tier. I would have loved to have stayed and built up my knowledge even further to enable me to work effectively with rescued animals or animals from a poor background.

Imagine you were about to start university again - with the benefit of hindsight - what would you now tell yourself to have done differently?

I’m sure everyone says this, but just study more! Go to as many lectures as possible, read up on the lectures beforehand, and take thorough notes. At the same time though, enjoy yourself! University is the only time in your life you will have your friends around you pretty much 24/7, so make the most of them being there.

What was your main reason for choosing to study your course at Plymouth? With hindsight how significant was this for you?

My main reason was the proximity to a number of zoos, such as Dartmoor Zoo. The first two years of the course were spent at the campus next door to Newquay Zoo, and so offered work placements. Without those placements I don’t think I would have been able to get my first job at Twycross Zoo.

How did studying at Plymouth change your career aspirations and plans?

It helped me to decide what section of animals I would like to work with in the future. My placement at Newquay Zoo was with carnivores and it was an instant hit.

What is your favourite memory of studying for your degree at Plymouth?

Probably all the campus markets that were held – my friends and I loved browsing them.

How well did Plymouth prepare you for the challenges that you have faced, or will face, in your career?

It helped me to realise that you really have to work hard for what you want; nothing just comes to you. If you want something, you have to go and get it! The library was a huge help as it was so easy to find citations for papers; the campus and the lecturers, who have a wealth of knowledge, were amazing, and the city itself is a great place to live as a student!