Twycross Zoo is committed to supporting high quality research at all levels from undergraduate to post doctorate. We have a dedicated Animal Health and Research Department and a full time Research Officer. Research facilities include a library and computers with standard software, internet access and access to zoo animal records and a database of zoo-specific documents such as studbooks etc.
All enquires about research should be directed to the Research Officer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 0844 474 17777. You should contact us to discuss your project at an early stage. We expect you to have a good idea of what you would like to do but be prepared to be flexible. We cannot always support projects as they stand but can often suggest slight changes to make them feasible in our setting.
Before you consider a zoo research project you should consult the excellent research support materials on the BIAZA web site - www.biaza.org.uk. We will expect all multi-zoo studies, including questionnaire-based studies, to have successfully applied to BIAZA for a letter of support.
Before you can undertake research at the zoo you have to submit an application form obtainable from the Research Officer. This will be considered by the zoo management. It may take some weeks to get approval and NOT ALL PROJECTS ARE APPROVED. Plan ahead and leave plenty of time.
We aim to provide our animals with the highest level of health care and welfare. Animal welfare is always our first priority. We are not a research institution or laboratory. However, we aim to support research for animals, to improve welfare, improve health care and promote conservation in captivity and in the wild.
We do not have a Home Office licence, or allow any research requiring a Home Office licence, for researching on animals. We will not restrain or separate animals solely for research purposes. We will not change routines or husbandry practices, including diets, solely for research purposes. We will not introduce any device into an enclosure if we feel that it would constitute a danger or an undue stress to the animals or a danger to their carers or the public.
You must read the ethical guidelines and (if appropriate) the sampling guidelines on the BIAZA web site BEFORE applying to us - see the research pages on www.biaza.org.uk.
For samples from any Annexe A species, CITES legislation must be complied with. For all sample requests we will therefore ask you to sign a contract supplied by us before any samples can be released. This guarantees that no samples will be used for any commercial purposes, either immediately or at any time in the future, and that all samples will only be used for the purposes described in the original application. Samples remain our property and disposal at the end of the research must be carried out according to the relevant legislation.
We will not allow any projects that detract from the visitor experience. We must approve any questionnaires to be used with the public in advance.
We expect all studies to undergo ethical scrutiny by your institution's ethics committee.
Any equipment that you bring onto the site for your research is entirely at your own risk. We have no secure storage for equipment left on the premises.
Health and Safety
You will work under the direction of zoo staff at all times. Most research (observations) will be carried out from the public access areas but occasionally some projects may require behind-the-scenes access. The zoo staff will supervise this.
- You will regard all animals as dangerous.
- You will never attempt to pet or touch animals.
- You will wash your hands before touching any animal foodstuff or equipment.
- You will wash your hands before eating.
- You will do as directed by the zoo staff at all times.
- You will not smoke on the site except in designated staff smoking areas.
When you start, the Research Officer will provide a full health and safety briefing.
Interacting with the public
- You will wear your research badge at all times on the zoo premises.
- The public will ask questions. Respond politely. You can answer if you know the right answer, otherwise refer the visitor to the Information Centre.
- Never discuss zoo business outside the zoo, particularly on internet chat sites.
- Make sure you know the lost child procedure, the escaped animal procedure and fire procedure.
Visiting the zoo
Every time you visit the zoo you should sign in on the research log book held at the Reception desk.
Types of Study
In the past, there have been studies of many types carried out at the Zoo. There are some examples below.
Animal based studies
We have supported a wide range of animal-based studies. A major focus has been aspects of animal behaviour, such as social interactions, methods of communication, the introduction of a new enrichment device, or how animals respond to the introduction of a new individual into the group. We are also keen to support analytical studies such as those that focus on nutrition or animal records and veterinary-based projects, including specific case studies.
We have a strong education department that teaches around 38,600 school pupils and university and college students a year. The department is also responsible for interpretation and signage. We have supported educational studies and studies on visitor experience and learning.
Business, leisure and tourism and IT
We are a large tourist destination for the East Midlands. We have around 500,000 visitors a year. We have supported research in areas such as marketing and web design.
We contribute to in-situ conservation across the world and may carry out projects to support wild conservation.
Sustainability and biodiversity
We aim to operate as sustainably as we can, adopting novel green technologies wherever feasible. We compost much of our waste and recycle most of the rest. We have developed a new, extensive waterways system with reed beds to clean the water used on site. We have a large site surrounded by farmland and are also developing a wetlands area where we are aiming to encourage the colonisation of native plant and animal species.
If you have a good idea that you think we can help with then contact us to discuss it.
Studies fall into this category if they are observational studies only, requiring nothing to be changed in animal enclosures or in the management routines and have no effect on the operation of the zoo or the zoo visitors. Such studies include requests for information, particularly if these require lengthy answers. Typically such projects are at undergraduate level or are a small component of a larger multi-zoo project and typically they are of short duration.
When deciding whether or not to support these projects, we will be looking mainly at their educational value for the student and their practicality in our environment. We expect you to discuss your project with your supervisor, have a well-thought out research question and be able to demonstrate, with your reference list, suitable background knowledge.
More complex research
Studies fall into this category if they request any form of intervention, affect the management routines or the zoo visitors. Typically such projects are at postgraduate level.
When deciding whether or not to support these projects, we will be looking mainly at their scientific (or other) merit and their practicality in our environment.
We will expect you to have a well constructed research question and be able to demonstrate that it can be addressed by your research at the zoo.
Requests for Zoo samples
Any requests for samples from animals have to fall within the legislation affecting zoos in the UK. We can usually supply urine and faecal samples, shed hair and feathers, though we cannot usually identify the individual they came from. We can sometimes supply post-mortem material. Any samples requiring invasive procedures such as blood, cheek swabs, skin and biopsy samples can only be supplied when obtained opportunistically as part of a veterinary procedure that was necessary for the health of the animal. We can never guarantee to be able to supply samples.
For all sample collection, we require the researcher to supply suitable containers (and medium if appropriate) and to arrange collection. We do not have facilities on site to store large quantities of materials.
All projects should be discussed with the Research Officer before application.
For all studies
Before applying to the zoo you must:
- Read our website. There is a lot of useful information about the zoo, including a list of animals that we hold.
- Read the BIAZA web site. This site has excellent resources for researchers, including guidelines for most types of zoo-based studies and guidelines on suitable statistics for analysing zoo data. www.biaza.org.uk.
- For multi-zoo studies apply to BIAZA for support. You are much more likely to be successful in you application to zoos if you get support for the study from BIAZA. www.biaza.org.uk.
The zoo is in the middle of the East Midlands countryside. It is well served by the motorway network. If you need accommodation in the area then you need to organise this in advance. Accommodation is in short supply near the zoo and public transport is very limited. We may be able to help with some suggestions for local accommodation and some staff offer rooms for rent.
Once you have finished you will be asked to give a short summary of the research you have carried out and to provide us with a copy of the finished research project, when you complete it, with unrestricted copyright. This will be held in our library for use by staff and other students. You will always be credited if it is referenced.
Twycross Zoo must be credited in the main body of your report and any subsequent publications. Co-authorship of papers may be requested if the zoo staff make a significant contribution.
Entrance to the zoo is free for researchers while they are carrying out research and for preliminary visits, as long as these have been organised with the Research Officer in advance.