Animal magic for biovet students

23 May 2023

UCLan’s bioveterinary sciences’ students visited Blackpool Zoo to learn more about research and animal enrichment

A group of University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) students swapped the lecture theatre for the zoo for an educational day with a difference.

The first cohort of BSc (Hons) Bioveterinary Sciences’ undergraduates visited Blackpool Zoo for the first time to observe and create new enrichment devices for a variety of the Zoo’s animals.

The students observed giraffes, lemurs, otters, king colobus monkeys, anteaters, keas, meerkats and apes in their habitats before designing and making new food dispensers. The enrichment devices, which all zoos use, give the animals opportunity to exhibit their natural behaviours, providing well-being through mental stimulation throughout their day.

Sam Galloway was one of those whose new creation was a hit with the ring-tailed lemurs.

"It’s been a really interesting experience. Practical experience such as this is so beneficial"

Student Sam Galloway

The 20-year-old said: “It’s been a really interesting experience. There are lots of factors to consider when designing enrichment provision, such as habitat, diet and social behaviour, and then of course we’ve been able to monitor how well our devices were received. Practical experience such as this is so beneficial.”

As part of the educational trip, around 20 students were given an insight into Blackpool Zoo’s ongoing research projects. They also saw the work being undertaken to ensure the animals’ physical and mental health and wellbeing is a top priority.

They were also able to observe a wide variety of different species, including some of the Zoo’s largest animals such as elephants, gorillas and sea lions to learn more about their behaviour.

First year student Erin Newman, 18, worked on enrichment provision for the zoo’s giraffes. She said: “I’ve enjoyed monitoring the giraffes and seeing if what we put together was stimulating for them. This practical side of our education consolidates our learning and really complements what we are taught the classroom.”

"The students had a clear passion and knowledge for the subject, which was evident in their enthusiasm during the tasks"

Ellen Nodding, Animal Interactions Coordinator at Blackpool Zoo

Morven Webster, Lecturer in Veterinary Education at UCLan, commented: “Our accelerated bioveterinary sciences course, which we deliver over two years, gives our students a degree enhanced by practical experience in scientific research and clinical skills.

“This first visit to Blackpool Zoo was a huge success for our students as they could observe a range of behaviours in a wide variety of species first-hand. The practical task gave them a fantastic opportunity to apply their knowledge, and an insight into how zoos are using the latest scientific research to get things right for the animals they care for.”

Ellen Nodding, Animal Interactions Coordinator at Blackpool Zoo, added: “It was a pleasure welcoming the UCLan Veterinary Education group to Blackpool Zoo. The programme was designed to provide an insight into animal husbandry and welfare at the zoo with both theory and practical elements. The students had a clear passion and knowledge for the subject, which was evident in their enthusiasm during the tasks. We look forward to welcoming more students from future courses.”

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