We're not all zoo keepers, you know!

Published: 27 July 2015

We're not all zoo keepers, you know!

There are lots of different jobs at our zoos - like registrar, for example.

If someone told you that Dr Holly Farmer was a registrar, you might reasonably expect to find her working in a hospital not a zoo. Beyond the specifically medical usage, registrar means a keeper of official records. And record-keeping, it turns out, is the cornerstone of conservation.

It’s Holly’s job to manage information on all the animals at both Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts using a web-based database called ZIMS (Zoological Information Management System). This records births, deaths and transfers between zoo collections for everything from scorpions to puffins, frogs to stingrays and gorillas to pelicans.

“At the end of every year I compile a stock-list of animals. It is easier for mammal keepers, as counting the number of rhino or giraffe is pretty simple, while our amphibian keepers have to count some very tiny frogs, which can be a bit trickier!”

Holly has been working in the Field Conservation and Research Department since 2005, but has been part-time registrar only since September 2011. She is also Zoo Research Officer and an occasional university lecturer. So what qualifications do you need for the job of registrar? “Officially there aren’t any! But you do need to be very organised, have great communication skills and be very reliable.

“Zoos are legally required to keep accurate, up-to-date records and produce an annual stock-list, so it is really important. Sharing information about the breeding and husbandry of species threatened in the wild means that as conservationists we can do our very best for them worldwide.”

She grew up in the Midlands but enjoys life in the West Country. “In my spare time I love to take my Labrador Tess for walks. I practise yoga and I am trying to get into running, although I enjoy it more when it’s not dark and cold! I enjoy DIY and gardening - I like to spend time on my vegetable patch after work. Devon is such a pretty place to live; I love the coastline but also walking on Dartmoor on a really windy day is exhilarating!”

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