Liverpool is full of extraordinary people doing amazing things every day. From working behind the scenes at our cruise terminal to putting on Europe’s biggest free music festival, in our new ‘A Day in the Life’ series we’ll be meeting the very people who make all this happen.

Knowsley Safari Carnivore Keeper, James Welch, gives us some insight into what it’s like to be an animal keeper...

Meet our male Barasingha, one of the wisest faces on safari

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James’ Day

I arrive at the animal office where I will catch up with the other keepers to find out any relevant information about the animals, what is going on that day and catch up on any news before heading over to the carnivores section where the lions and tigers are.

It’s time to do a morning check and make sure that all the animals are healthy and accounted for. We also do a morning maintenance routine to check everything is in working order. 

Once we are completely certain that everything is safe and secure we let the lions out of their night paddock and into the drive through reserve nice and early before the first visitors arrive.

Someone can smell dinner cooking! #nosey

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With the lions out in the reserve it’s now safe to do the messy part of the job - cleaning out the big cat houses and their paddocks, It’s smelly but it has to be done - getting rid of any poo and giving fresh bedding. When we clean the paddocks out we sometimes make scent trails around with anything from lemons, chilli powder, blood, give them Christmas trees or even dung from other animals like our Rhino and Eastern Kiang to give them something unexpected to explore when they enter the paddock again.

If I’m looking after the lions that day, myself and another member of the team will take it in turns to oversee the gates and patrol the reserve in Lion 1, our patrol vehicle. The person on the gate will be making sure that they are kept clear and that all visitor car windows are up otherwise a lion could hurt someone. While the person patrolling will be monitoring the behaviour of the lions and ensuring that the visitors are safe. Spending time with the lions at this point of the day, you really get to know all the lions and see their different personalities.

We start to call the lions from the drive through reserve back into their night paddock. The tigers are a bit different and stay in their paddock with access to their house night and day. We also feed the lions and tigers twice a week which is normally done at this time of day.

If there’s time, we’ll do additional cleaning and create enrichment that is designed for various behaviours such as strength, problem solving or for their sense of smell and sight, putting their natural abilities to the test.

If the day has gone smoothly it’s time to go home but if there has been an issue that needs people to help I will stay as long as it takes. You always hope it’s the first option!

Question Time

Q. What is your favourite animal?
The lions without a doubt. They’re not only iconic, but also incredibly interesting. They are the only cats that live in a group and there are so many unanswered questions surrounding them. Plus, I do love the Lion King - who doesn’t?!

Q. What is one of your best memories of working at Knowsley Safari?
Probably when we started doing shared feeding for our male lions, which at the time involved giving one big piece of meat to our three males rather than feed them separately. It was amazing to see them displaying such natural behaviours.

Q. What is your favourite part of the job?
It is having the opportunity to not only watch the animals grow up over the years and reach the different stages of their life, but also getting to know their personalities and the different dynamics between them - especially the lion prides. Witnessing power struggles and how they react to newcomers has always been fascinating.

Q. What would be your one piece of advice to someone wanting to do your job?
Don’t take no for an answer! It’s a very competitive industry with a lot of people wanting to work with animals but only a limited number of jobs. This means you need to do everything you can to stand out from the crowd and show your passion for animals. Volunteer at as many animal shelters, zoos and safari parks as you can, even if it means travelling across the country to do so.
Also remember there is more than one route in. I was very lucky because I lived near to a small zoo growing up, so used to visit at least once a month (or every week in the summer!) and got to know the staff in the process and got given some great opportunities. All animal keepers come from all walks of life and have found various ways in to it - volunteering, apprenticeships and university degrees. All these routes give everyone different skill sets and talents that are relevant to the job.

We don’t know about you, but we think James has such a cool job! Knowsley Safari is home to over 700 animals and is a fun family day out - you can book your tickets here.


Knowsley Safari
Safari Park
A child looks through glass and puts their hands up to a tiger

Experience the Liverpool’s wildest day out with a trip to family-favourite, Knowsley Safari.