There were hoots, howls and hollers of joy when three Blackpool Zoo employees picked up awards in the zoo industry Oscars.
The annual ceremony hosted by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) recognises and rewards the hard work and successes of its members.
Head of Education, Natalie Garrett, picked up the Rising Star Award for her outstanding contribution to Blackpool Zoo and the BIAZA community.
Natalie, who is 32 and from Bury, joined the team in 2008 after graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Zoology.
She was promoted to Head of Education in 2011 and has introduced two new extra-curricular courses and set up a partnership with The Duke Of Edinburgh Scheme.
In addition, Natalie launched a weekly All Together group for people with learning and physical disabilities and planned and implemented the launch of the Blackpool Zoo Education Academy.
She is the Vice Chairman and Northern Regional Co-ordinator of BIAZA’s Education and Training Committee and the Northern Co-ordinator for trainee zoo keepers studying for their Diploma in the Management of Zoo and Aquarium Animals.
Natalie is also a huge fan of wolves and is planning to study a Masters Degree in Conservation and Education, specifically linked to research on her favourite animal in the future.
Sealion keeper Alyx Milne, who is 27 and from Liverpool won Bronze in the Research category for her postgraduate research into how sealions use their whiskers, which was also published in the Comparative Physiology Journal in 2014.
Alyx is a double first graduate with a BSc (Hons) in Zoology and a Masters in Animal Behaviour. She has worked at the zoo as a sealion keeper since 2011.
Next on the talented keeper’s academic ‘to-do’ list is working on a PhD relating to marine mammals.
Digital Marketing Executive, Laura Stevenson, who is 26 and originally from Oxfordshire, scooped Gold in the ‘Behind the Scenes in a BIAZA Collection’ photography category for her stunning, up-close picture of a critically endangered tiger cub climbing a tree.
Since joining the zoo in 2014 she has transformed its digital and social platforms. The introduction of #ThrowbackThursdays and #ChooseTuesdays has seen social media likes and follows soar and her spectacular videos, which form part of a series she is producing to showcase life behind the scenes, has been featured in national print and broadcast press.
Darren Webster, Managing Director at Blackpool Zoo, said: “I’m delighted that the hard work and dedication of Natalie, Alyx and Laura has been recognised by these prestigious zoo industry awards. Our talented colleagues at respected attractions throughout the UK take part every year and the competition is tough, so winning three accolades is a real coup. It was, once again, a wonderful evening and it is fantastic to hear what zoos and aquariums across the country are doing for conservation and endangered species across the world.”
Pictures show: (left to right) Laura Stevenson, Darren Webster, Natallie Garrett and Alyx Milne