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Ken Millwood - Team Leader Education

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I am the Education Team Leader at Hamilton Zoo, and I’m responsible for formal and informal education programmes, resources, information and initiatives. I am also part of the team that look after Zoo signage, interpretation and the website. When schools want to organise overnight stays or group visits, I work with the teachers to establish what the learning focus for the visit, and to prepare the appropriate resources.

I grew up in Vanuatu, until my family moved to New Zealand when I was 11 years old. I attended Southland Boys High School in Invercargill, before completing my Bachelor of Science at the University of Otago, and then a Graduate Diploma in Teaching from the University of Waikato. In the following years, I worked as a primary school teacher in between being a stay-at-home Dad for my son and daughter, before landing my dream job at Hamilton Zoo.

I love being part of the important conservation and environmental work we engage in and promote at Hamilton Zoo. Working with students is always great fun because each day is different. Probably the best thing about my job is spending time with all the excited, motivated students. It’s wonderful to get feedback after their visit to the zoo and to hear about how they have taken the learning to heart, for example, how those students have really taken on board the ‘think globally, act locally’ message by organising recycling at their school, or how they have arranged conservation fundraising events, or even written letters asking governments to do more to stop poaching and illegal trade.

There are over 600 native New Zealand and exotic animals at Hamilton Zoo so it’s hard to pick a favourite, but my favourite native animal is definitely the kea. They are amazingly intelligent, curious, inquisitive and playful birds. The kea is the world's only mountain parrot and they are famous for their impressive problem-solving abilities. Like so many native species, the kea is unfortunately on the ‘threatened species’ list and in danger of becoming extinct, largely due to threat from introduced predators.

When it comes to exotic animals, my favourite is the White Rhinoceros, because of the cute squeaks, snorts, and grunts they use to communicate. Rhinos are also deceptively fast at moving despite their massive size. Sadly, due to habitat loss and illegal poaching, they could become extinct in the near future. That’s why our breeding programmes and conservation education is so important.

In terms of memorable experiences, there have been plenty to choose from in the past 10 years, including times when students have asked hilarious questions, or loved it so much that they end up coming back over and over and eventually joining our volunteer Zoo Host team (which you have to be over 18 to join). There is also the excitement of the overnight stays and the delight on the students’ faces when they get to explore the zoo in the morning before it’s open to the public. But working with other zoo staff to get an understanding of their roles, are probably the moments that most stick out. We are an incredibly close-knit team and I work with some of the most passionate and talented staff in the world. Hamilton Zoo is a fantastic place to work and a wonder-filled place to visit.