South African study tour voted a massive hit by students

Eighteen of our Level 3 Diploma in Animal Management students were privileged to spend part of this summer studying and traveling within the Shamwari Game Reserve, in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.

This amazing two week opportunity, which opened our students’ eyes to the range of issues facing conservationists, was organised by our animal management department in partnership with gap year specialists Worldwide Experience.

Chance to fund research of rare lizards

An exciting crowd funding opportunity has been launched to send two Reaseheath animal science lecturers to Ecuador to help in the study of two rare and endangered species of lizard, Riama yumborum and Riama oculata.

Jack wins scholarship to explore fish behaviour

Congratulations to Jack Wootton, a third year undergraduate on our BSc Wildlife Conservation and Ecology Degree.

Jack  has been awarded a two month £1600 scholarship from the Universities Federation For Animal Welfare (UFAW)  to explore the behavioural responses of fish to reflective stimuli in their tanks. This will take place over the summer using fantailed guppies and will be based at the University of Chester.

Jack has always been passionate about fish welfare. He completed a Diploma in Animal Management at Reaseheath  in 2010 and then spent two years working in the field in Borneo and in the industry near his home in Stockport.

He followed this by completing his Foundation Degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare at Reaseheath, followed by his current one year top-up which will hopefully lead to him achieving his BSc in Wildlife Conservation and Ecology. In addition to his studies Jack gained highly relevant experience working part-time as a zoo keeper at our Animal Centre, helping to look after our fish department.

Jack, who is particularly keen to improve the living conditions of fish in aquaria, applied for his scholarship independently while working for his degree.

He said:  “I was really surprised but delighted when my project proposal was chosen. I am really looking forward to working with UFAW. Reaseheath has played  an integral part in building my passion for aquatic life and furthering my career .”

Helen Kay, Higher Education Support Team (HEST) Leader, said: “Jack is definitely one to watch for the future. As well as working to the highest level for his degrees, he always found time to help, educate and inspire less experienced students. The HEST team is convinced he will go to the very top in his career.”

Marine mammal emergency averted!

A beached pilot whale and several dolphins and seals were successfully rescued from the front lawn at Reaseheath College on Tuesday.

Fortunately the emergency wasn’t for real, but a simulated situation to enable 37 animal management students to gain an internationally recognised qualification in wildlife rescue.

The one day course was offered to degree students and to Access to HE students who are studying science or animal management. After a morning of lectures and an afternoon of practical instruction using inflatable life sized models, all students achieved their British Divers Marine Life Rescue “Marine Mammal Medic” certificate.

This well recognised award qualifies our students to help in day-to-day marine wildlife emergencies and will be a fantastic addition to their CVs.

The training day was organised by HE Course Manager Kizzy Beaumont and was the third time we have offered this qualification to our students. It has proved so popular that Kizzy is now planning to run a follow up ‘wet’ course on the coast, when students will get hands-on with the rescue of a live marine mammal.

Josh Bufton, a second year Foundation Degree in Zoo Management student, was spotted for his talent by the instructors, who suggested he should widen his knowledge by gaining his advanced qualification.

Josh, who hopes to work with marine species in the future, said “This has been a great opportunity to gain a qualification which will help me to decide what sector I’d like to work in.

“The course was extremely informative and the instructors were very professional. I would highly recommend the training to all students who enjoy learning about marine mammals.”

Co-incidentally one of the instructors, Jayne Dobner, was a Level 3 agriculture student with us in the 1980s and hasn’t been on campus since.

She said: “It’s great to be back. The campus looks a lot more modern than when I was here, but it still has the same friendly vibe!”

Caption: HE animal management students enjoy their marine mammal training on the front lawn


Bluebell meets her Beau!

February is adopt a rescue rabbit month so we are encouraging owners of single rabbits to go out and find a companion for their rabbit.

Rabbits are social animals and should  be kept with a companion but unfortunately many spend their lives in solitary confinement stuck at the end of the garden in a hutch lonely, bored and ignored once the novelty of the new pet has worn off!  Rabbits are often recommended as good pets for children when in fact they are not as they can be difficult to handle and kick out with their large, powerful back legs resulting in the rabbit being dropped and injury to the animal.  Its always best to interact with your rabbit on ground level and leave the handling for important health checks, grooming, nail clipping and vet visits.

Rabbits love to snuggle together, groom each other, run and binky (a joyful leap into the air, with a twist of the body) together.  A lot of rabbits are denied these social interactions.

Rabbits are social and inquisitive animals that should have much more than a hutch to live in.  The minimum requirement  for two rabbits is a 6x2x2 hutch with an 8×4 run but garden sheds and play houses are often much better as they are much more spacious. Unfortunately many pet shops sell accommodation way too small and many rabbits become obese and  develop health problems due to lack of exercise and stimulation in these ‘prisons’.

Rescue centres are full of rabbits looking to find loving homes and rabbits from a good rescue centre will already come neutered and vaccinated. In 2012 the statistics stood at 67,000 rabbits passed through rescue in the UK.  This problem comes from the casual breeding of rabbits by owners, breeders and some pet shops.

You should never attempt to introduce two rabbits that are not neutered and the introduction should be done on neutral territory with supervision and a male/ female combination is best.  Rescue centres will normally help with the bonding process as it can be difficult.

Bluebell and Beau are a great example of two lone rabbits that have found friendship with each other.  Beau came to us from the RSPCA, he was a stray bunny who had probably been abandoned or escaped from someone’s garden.  Introducing bunnies can be a difficult process but with Bluebell and Beau it was pretty much love at first sight.  Both Bluebell and Beau were neutered before the introduction which  was done on a neutral territory as this stops the rabbits wanting to defend their own territory.  After a little bit of chasing each other round Bluebell and Beau seemed to accept each other’s company and become firm friends.  It’s great to see them snuggled up together and enjoying each other’s company.  It’s important to mention though that not all introductions go this successfully and can take a lot longer, that is why it’s important to seek advice before attempting it.

Reaseheath College supports the neutering and vaccinating of rabbits and does not support the casual breeding of rabbits. For further information about rabbit care email Emma Hunt on or contact your nearest animal rescue centre 


Love is in the air for Reaseheath rabbits

Every bunny needs some bunny to love! This is the Valentine’s Day message from Reaseheath College’s animal management department in support of a national campaign encouraging owners of lone rabbits to find them a companion.

True love is definitely in the air for Bluebell and Beau, two of 25 rabbits kept by the Nantwich, Cheshire, college to educate students about their correct care. The former unwanted pets have become inseparable after being introduced by keepers.  In a far cry from their singleton days, Bluebell, a female Beveren Blue rabbit, and Beau, a white cross bred male, spend most of their time snuggled up together enjoying each other’s company.

Reaseheath’s rabbit keeper Emma Hunt, a member of the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund, believes that every rabbit deserves a companion.

She says: “Rabbits are social animals but unfortunately many spend their lives in solitary confinement in a hutch at the end of the garden. They are bored, lonely and ignored, and this can lead to behavioural and health problems.”

In line with Britain’s leading animal charities, Emma is urging rabbit owners to look on February as ‘Adopt a rescue rabbit month’ and contact their local rescue centre to find a buddy for their bunny.

But she warns: “You should never attempt to introduce two rabbits unless both are neutered and the introduction should be done on neutral territory under supervision. Rescue centres will normally help with the bonding process, as this can be difficult. Don’t be too disappointed if it’s not love at first sight – not all introductions work.”

Emma also suggests housing the rabbits in a garden shed or playhouse with an attached run rather than a conventional hutch, as these offer more space for exercise. In Reaseheath’s tailormade rabbit room another love match is in the offing. Leonard, a newly rescued rabbit, is about to be introduced to lonely Tilly.

Reaseheath College supports the neutering and vaccinating of rabbits and does not support the casual breeding of rabbits. For further information about rabbit care email Emma Hunt on or contact your nearest animal rescue centre 

Animal Management to Africa and back

Holly and Hayley Africa 1Holly Berry and Hayley Worsfold  attended the 11th International Conference on Environmental Enrichment (ICEE), hosted by the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (Pretoria), held at Kwalata Game Lodge, Dinokeng Reserve near Pretoria. It was the first ICEE conference held within an in-situ context. The theme of the conference was ‘Visitor Experience through Environmental Enrichment’. This is very relevant to us in Animal Management at Reaseheath, particularly relating to how this impacts on our own BIAZA accredited Zoo open to the public during holidays.

Holly and Hayley deliver Level 3 modules including  Zoo Husbandry and Health and  Animal Behaviour, both of which contain significant content relating to Environmental Enrichment . The conference spanned five days and included six game drives followed by interactive workshops, speakers from all over the world and opportunities to network with guests. Over the course of the week Holly and Hayley attended over forty talks and ten poster presentations from national and international experts.

Hayley delivered her own presentation about the work she has done with students at Reaseheath. This was titled ‘Environmental Enrichment As An Active Learning Tool: Increasing Learner Motivation And Encouraging Visitor Participation’. This focused on the sustainability project she undertook last year with students to enable members of the public to create enrichment at our Family Festival.

The impact on our students and other staff is huge.  Both Holly and Hayley have been able to disseminate up to date knowledge, research findings, methods and skills to students relevant to a wide range of subjects and provide CPD opportunities for other staff.  Students have been exposed to refreshed ideas of the importance of understanding animal behaviour when realising a new concept for enclosure design and re-evaluating enrichment methods.

After the conference the CPD continued with a visit further south to Cape Town. Whilst there they had a specialist visit to SANCCOB Penguin Rescue Centre. Both have a history of working with Penguins and this visit has opened up intern opportunities for our students graduating this year.


Stephanie Dellicompagni

Animal Management 

Rare breed ponies help to educate Reaseheath students

Two rare breed ponies are helping Reaseheath College undergraduates to understand how the equine mind works.

Exmoor ponies Yasmin and Yohan, who are 19 months old, are being handled and trained by students studying for degrees in Animal Behaviour and Welfare or Zoo Management at the Nantwich, Cheshire college.

The ponies, which were bred by BBC Countryfile presenter Adam Henson, began their education at Reaseheath’s equine centre last year and were featured in several programmes of the popular TV series.

Adam has since donated the filly and gelding to Reaseheath and they have joined other rare breed paddock animals which are used to teach students about their care. Many Reaseheath students go on to work in zoos and farm parks and find the experience invaluable to prepare for their future careers.

The students are training the ponies to lead on a halter in a round pen using natural horsemanship methods. They are also getting them used to being handled and groomed in the hopes that they can be entered into regional agricultural shows such as the Cheshire Show and Nantwich Show next year.

Madeline Harrison BSc ABW works with Yohan

Madeline Harrison BSc ABW works with Yohan

Hoofstock Keeper Kerri Robson hopes to set up a Showing Group for students who are interested in preparing and exhibiting animals in the showring. Apart from training the ponies, members will be involved in bathing, grooming and transporting them. Interested students may also get the chance to show Reaseheath’s rare Golden Guernsey goats.

Plans are already in place to include a fun rare breeds show in the programme for Reaseheath’s popular Family Festival, to be held this year on Sunday May 18.

Kerri successfully showed Reaseheath’s Welsh Section A pony Cassie last year at the Cheshire Show. She explained: “ I am hoping to show the students how rewarding showing animals can be.”

“Thanks to Adam, our students have the chance to show well bred and attractive ponies which will hopefully catch the judges’ eye. It is also an opportunity for them to learn how to do basic groundwork with untrained ponies. Being able to gaining this sort of experience is quite rare and a great privilege.”

Madeline Harrison, 18, who has volunteered to help with the ponies along with fellow students Sophie Dockray, Dani Cowell and Daniel Crutchley, said: “It has been very interesting to learn how to assess the ponies’ behaviour and how to work with them.”

Reaseheath students go orange for orangutans

Reaseheath College animal management students went orange to help save one of the world’s most endangered apes.

The students dressed in orange and asked others to do the same during fund raising activities for the ‘Go Orange for Orangutans’ campaign. Their efforts raised over £300 for the campaign, which was run by Chester Zoo as part of its “Act for Wildlife” initiative to raise money for conservation projects worldwide.

Two groups of students took part. Seventeen Level 2 Diploma in Animal Care ‘Group B’ students raised £227 after being sponsored by family and friends to dress up in orange while members of Reaseheath’s Conservation Society raised £76 by holding a social event in the student bar. This included the free services of DJ Sam Walton, courtesy of Moo Media UK. As well as raising funds, the students  also took the opportunity to talk about the plight faced by orangutans due to habitat loss.

The Level 2 Diploma students presented their cheque to Penny Rudd, Chester Zoo’s Registrar and Internships Co-ordinator, when she visited the campus last week. The Conservation Society members handed over their donation during a recent trip to the zoo.

Level 2 animal care group b students l-r Penny Rudd Chester Zoo students ashleigh goldstraw and robbie kelly

Chester Zoo’s Penny Rudd receives the donation from Level 2 Diploma in Animal Care students Ashleigh Goldstraw and Robbie Kelly.

Chester Zoo’s appeal has raised over £13,000 to be used to provide specialist camera traps in Borneo, the last stronghold of the wild orangutan.

Penny Rudd, who is a former Reaseheath governor and has strong links with the animal management department, said: “It has been wonderful to meet students who are so keen to become involved in a real conservation project.

“Orangutans face a very uncertain future owing to habitat destruction, mainly caused by the widescale production of unsustainably farmed palm oil. Along with Reaseheath, Chester Zoo aims to actively encourage and educate young people who will have the power to influence the future. In this case we need to encourage shoppers to buy only the products which contain responsibly sourced palm oil (look for the RSPO signs on packaging!) This could have a major impact in saving what little habitat is left for the orangutans.”

Level 2 Diploma in Animal Care Course Manager Holly Berry said: “Our students were particularly keen to help as they had learned about the plight of wild orang-utans during their lectures. Both the students and I were very proud to have raised money for such a worthy cause”

For further details see and for more details about Reaseheath’s animal management courses see

Students get first hand ‘zoo practices’ experience when introducing porcupines

Animal Management’s  two groups of African Crested Porcupines have finally met!

With the assistance from FDSc Animal Behaviour and Welfare and FDSc Zoo Management second year students, the porcupines went through a lengthy eight week introduction process. Student supported with; helping to train the animals to load into a crate, moving the females into an enclosure next to the males and working week by week to acclimatise both sexes to each other. This gave students invaluable hands-on experience of the introduction process. The culmination of the introduction process occurred on Monday 25th November, when the porcupines finally met face to face.

The college has housed two male porcupines at the animal centre for the past seven years, since they arrived from West Midlands Safari Park. Whilst the two female porcupines have been at the college three years, brought from Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust; Jersey Zoo. The two sexes have been kept separate to allow the females to mature before a possible breeding programme can take place.

As well as gaining valuable experience of a task that happens routinely in zoo collections, the students also collected data during the whole process working towards a research task. When the data has been collated it can hopefully be published and used in other zoo collections to assist with captive porcupine husbandry.

Being a social species, the porcupines have now formed a small group. All four can be seen feeding, resting, and sleeping under their heat lamp together. However, being a large, quilled rodent the students had to observe all health and safety requirements when working with a potentially dangerous animal.

The introduction process has gone very well. The porcupines have created a small social group and two groups of students have gained some valuable practical experience and work skills.

Lisa Boardman

Porcupine Keeper