Our qualifications in International Wildlife Biology have given us the confidence and knowledge to ultimately help with our business start-up.
Not many young graduates would take on the challenge of an abandoned and dilapidated zoo, but that’s just what 2011 alumni Briony Taylor and Michael Knight have done. The couple who met whilst studying for a degree in International Wildlife Biology, discovered that they both had a passion for animals and an eye for an opportunity.
“We both chose the International Wildlife Degree course because it was the only course of its type, with lots of practical fieldwork as well as academic study. One of my favourite memories of my time at University was our amazing trips to South Africa and Indonesia.”
“Fife Animal Park was unfortunately shut down when its former owner was convicted of a string of charges of animal neglect. Fife Zoo will open as a newly established zoological collection in North-East Fife, near Cupar in Scotland, 40 miles north of Edinburgh. The zoo will work to ensure the conservation of wildlife and habitats through education and research. Our family-led attraction will focus on fun, play and learning, with children and adults being inspired to protect threatened habitats on their doorsteps as well as around the globe. Our mission is to promote the conservation of biodiversity through education, research and passion.”
There have of course been many challenges along the way. “One our key achievements has been finally purchasing the site after our initial offer was rejected. We also overcame the challenge of submission of the phase one planning application for the zoo, which as you can imagine was a demanding task! “
“As we are in the renovation stage, currently a typical day may consist of various tasks from painting and decorating buildings both internally and external, weeding and other gardening, business admin, and ordering new stock for our various departments. Interacting with members of the public, professionals and the media.”
“A normal day for us also includes liaising with the planning team for Fife Council, as well as other council officials, working with our zoo consultant to make sure Fife Zoo is recognised by the European Stud Book keepers and Breeding Programme Managers, and sourcing animals from throughout European zoos.”
“It has been a steep learning curve. We are responsible for many key areas in a large multi-departmental business. From animal care and education departments, catering and retail, right through to grounds keeping and marketing of the business.”
What advice would the couple offer to other University of South Wales alumni? “Go for it. You can’t be an expert on everything, especially from the beginning. Don’t try to be. Get some help. If its planning permission that you’re struggling with, find an experienced architect; if its business planning, find a great business mentor.”
Watch Briony and Michael being interviewed at Fife zoo (courtesy of Courier Media).