Two trainee zookeepers from a prestigious school in Northern Europe have headed to Cumbria to gain first-hand international experience working with some of the planet’s most endangered animals.

20-year-old Tatiana Mikkelsen and 22-year-old Pernille Waehrens Joergensen are both studying for professional zookeeping qualifications at the prestigious Hansenberg in the city of Kolding, in their native Denmark. To gain first-hand practical experience with a range of species they have recently taken up eight-month placements at the Lake District Wildlife Park at Bassenthwaite, near Keswick.

Pernille is specialising in carnivores and has been caring for the wildlife park’s red pandas, fishing cat, lynx and scottish wildcats. Meanwhile, Tatiana is focusing on primates including the lar gibbons, lemurs and mandrills – the world’s largest monkeys, known for their brightly coloured markings.

Pernille said: "I love working with animals and coming to the Lake District has given me the chance to do that. I can also practice my day-to-day English, which will be useful for dealing with tourists when I return to Denmark.

"Living and working at the wildlife park means you get close to both your fellow staff and some incredible animals very quickly, and it really feels like one big family here. I feel very honoured to be getting this life experience.”

Tatiana said: “We had the choice of different international placements but I wanted to work with a good variety of animals in a beautiful setting. The Lake District Wildlife Park is a nice size and it is very fulfilling to be here. For me, the mandrills are very cool. They have amazing personalities and I want to help other people learn more about how they live and what we can do to protect them for the future.”

As well as cleaning, feeding and monitoring the behaviour of the Lake District Wildlife Park’s animal residents, both Tatiana and Pernille are taking part in its daily programme of Keeper Talks which run every day between 11am and 4pm.