Sophie, an European Barn Owl, with her trainer, Josh, at Paradise Wildlife Park.
Whenever I travel, especially abroad, I make it a point to see as many zoological facilities as possible. For those lucky enough to travel to the UK this summer, Paradise Wildlife Park offers spectacular ways to get up close and personal with birds.
A fun way to get hands-on experience and see the day-to-day workings of Paradise Wildlife Park as well as learn about all the animals they have is to sign up for the experience of shadowing a zookeeper for the day. The day starts off by being greeted by one of their Animal Park team members who offers complimentary refreshments at their Discovery Center, while providing a health and safety briefing and explains in more detail the timetable of your days?animal activities.
During your day you will experience all aspects of being a zoo keeper. This includes preparing diets, cleaning enclosures and exercising some of the zoo animals.
“They shadow a keeper experience involves either flying a bird or getting involved in a training session,?explained, Nicky Plaskitt, the section leader of the bird department and training coordinator for the Paradise Wildlife Park. “It’s a full day experience and the person gets to spend an hour or so with each section around the zoo.?lt;/span>
Plaskitt has worked with birds for about 13 years, and has worked with several different collections in that time. She is a Certified Professional Bird Trainer ?Knowledge Assessed (CPBT-KA), which she earned through the International Avian Trainers Certification Board. She has been at Paradise Wildlife Park for nearly 3 years and is continuously trying to improve enrichment and training techniques for the birds she works with.
Although she doesn? like to pick favorites, training a kestrel to hover on cue was one of the most rewarding training challenges she has encountered. “Then we put our toucan into shows ?he was my favorite thing,?she added. “Getting the buzzards to soar became my next favorite thing … you get the idea!?She said that seeing the birds doing what they do best will always be her favorite behavior to watch, regardless of species.
One of the hardest behaviors she has trained was to get their European barn owl to circuit over the audience. “The barn owl is fantastic now, and even on really windy days she flies multiple circuits demonstrating her hunting skills perfectly,?Plaskitt said.
During the summer months Paradise Wildlife Park offers two outdoor free flight bird shows, at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. “We always include a variety of different species showing off their natural behaviors. The shows include owls, parrots, hornbills, toucans, and true raptors,?Plaskitt said. Each show features a different set of birds. Her team also cares for a breeding group of African penguins and offers two encounters a day where prebooked guests can feed the penguins.
Plaskitt remarked that “Paradise is a great, family friendly attraction located just an hour outside of London. There are lots of hands on experiences for people who want to get up close and personal with our animals.?