New Forest Wildlife was originally a Butterfly Farm and later became the Nature Quest Wildlife Centre.

Carol and Roger Heap and their son Ed Heap, who have been working in wildlife conservation for most of their lives, took over the park in 1997 and later re-named the centre the New Forest Wildlife Park.

Jason Palmer - Curator of Animals

Jason has overall responsibility for the welfare of all our wildlife, bringing new species to the park and dealing with the mountains of red tape required.

After working for us at Battersea Park Children’s Zoo and a couple of years abroad he returned to the New Forest Wildlife Park. Under his management many new species have been introduced to the park and he co-ordinates the studbooks for pine marten and Asian short-clawed otters. Jason has a huge network of colleagues in the zoo and natural world and can always find the answer to any problem.  

Jason is responsible for creating the stud book for Asian Shortclaws otters in the UK to ensure correct breeding guidelines are followed to maintain the health of these lovely otters in captivity.  

Jason has appeared on many local TV and radio stations, passing on his expertise about our animals and birds.

Donna Swan - Animal Manager

After travelling and working in Texas and Canada with North American native species Donna is now working in the New Forest with European native species. She has experience with many types of zoo animals and thoroughly enjoys her work. Donna has had many sleepless nights caring for orphaned young animals needing extra TLC, but always enjoys seeing them return to the park fit and well.

Shanna Dymond - Senior Keeper

Shanna was one of our first work-experience students from Sparsholt College in 1999 and after qualifying she came to work at the park as a trainee keeper.

Shanna enjoys sharing her knowledge about our wildlife and leads our Keeper Experience and Junior Keeper days. Like most of our keepers she has done her fair share of night feeds for orphaned animals, including taking them home to her family. As a result Shanna has many wildlife friends around the park.  Coffee time would not be the same without Shanna's cakes and biscuits.

Victoria Sissons - Senior Keeper

Ali Morris - Animal Keeper 

Ali has been with us for many years and is an experienced and knowledgeable keeper. Ali always has a smile and the ability to see the funny side of a situation.  Over the years she has helped with many orphaned rescued animals.  Ali is a firm favourite with  our Keeper Experiences and Animal Encounters.

Connor Macmillan - Animal Keeper

Connor has recently completed a degree in Zoo Management during which time he volunteered at Chestnut Centre (New Forest Wildlife Park sister collection- now closed) to collect his dissertation data on pine martens.

Hamish, the pine marten, adored Connor and would wait everyday for his arrival. Hamish also gave Connor a love for the British mustelid species and subsequently Connor was able to follow his dream and work with more mustelids when volunteering at the New Forest Wildlife Park for 4 months before starting as a full time keeper. 

Previously he has volunteered with park rangers at a South African safari park and researchers at the Manu National Park in Peru. 

Elizabeth Mcnamara - Animal Keeper

Tom Gray - Animal Keeper

Tom first started working with exotics such as small mammals and fish but specialised in birds and reptiles. This passion led to working in conservation in Costa Rica managing native Macaws. Then arriving back into the UK working in animal rescue. Tom then worked at a Safari Park with large mammals and this where his Hoof stock obsession began. He can often be found in our paddocks or talking anything Herbivore! 


He also has a keen interest in all things veterinary. Body conditioning, mobility, faecal scoring, parasitology and nutrition. As well as working briefly as an animal TB tester.  

Over the years Tom has undergone a zoology degree and many other qualifications in animal psychology, behaviour and training.


Tom enjoys moonlight walks on the beach, and generally living life to the max.  He has a great sense of humour and is a valuable member of the team.  

Education Team

Vicky Ross - Guide

Vicky has extensive knowledge of all animals at the park and is also responsible for running our hugely successful animal encounters during weekends and school holiday periods. Any tour with Vicky is going to leave you with a new love for all things wild. As well as touring visitors, Vicky helps run birthday parties and our popular craft table. She loves interacting with visitors and is always on hand to help wherever needed.

In her own time Vicky enjoys exploring new places with her dogs, spending time with friends and family and as much travel as she can fit in.

Laila Lock - Guide

Having spent many years working with children with learning difficulties, Laila is great with children both young and old. Her calm and collected attitude means that whatever the needs of the children, they can all enjoy a relaxed, educational and most importantly, fun, trip out. Laila is also a member of our encounters team, with her motivated attitude, she makes the happiness of our visitors her biggest priority. 

With a close family, chickens and dogs, Laila loves nothing more than spending time with those she loves in the great outdoors.

Richard Merritt - Guide

Having taught secondary science with a specialism in biology for many years, Richard is a wealth of knowledge. He maintains interest and enthusiasm with everyone he meets and his calm and trouble free attitude makes all children feel comfortable. A tour with Richard is always a success.

Rachel Lewis - Guide

Tours with Rachel are never boring. Her upbeat attitude helps her to draw in a captive audience and no one can leave without having learnt at least one new fact. Rachel has energy to spare but will always have a controlled group behind her.

In her spare time, Rachel can usually be found outside spending time with her chickens, or competing across the country with her horse.

Dominik Reynolds - Guide

He may be young but Dom has a true passion for nature and wildlife. His age puts him at an advantage in our education team as children find it easy to relate to him. For that reason, Dom has had huge success at inspiring the next generation of conservationists.

With university calling, Doms career is set to excel and his experience within the animal industry so far is sure to put him in good stead for the future. Dom has spent time in the Galapagos and uses much of his spare time to volunteer for local wildlife charities.

Michelle Lacey - Administration Officer

Michelle Greenfield - Administration Officer

Karen Pring - Retail & Catering Manager

Karen has worked at New Forest Wildlife Park since 2007 and is very much part of the furniture. She has a keen interest in all aspects of the park but is happiest creating a warm welcome for our many visitors so they too can have a thoroughly enjoyable day and hopefully take home a little knowledge of our native wildlife. She always has a smile and will always be happy to assist.

Jessie McHugh - Catering & Retail Supervisor

Symon Monger - Head of Building and Maintenance

Symon joined us in 2012 and since then his professional skills have enabled us to refurbish enclosures, construct bison pens and build our unique adventure playgrounds. For 2015 he and Ed built the impressive new accommodation for our harvest mice in the glasshouse. Coffee breaks would not be the same without Symon’s sense of humour.

Zoe - Partnership Accountant & HR Manager

Zoe joined us in 2016 at the Chestnut Centre and now at The New Forest Wildlife Park. Having always worked in accountant's practice's she is now able to combine her professional abilities with her love of wildlife and nature.  Zoe is married with two sons and the family enjoy camping and the outdoors.  Zoe's interest in good healthy food and living has raised the standard at our daily staff coffee times!

Ed Heap - General Manager

Ed is a wildlife expert and an all-round fixer, builder and handy man. Like his parents Carol and Roger he’s passionate about conservation and helps to ensure the smooth running of the park and the welfare of all our animals. He is currently working with many others on the conservation of Scottish Wildcats. Ed has been caring for wildlife since he was a young boy, when most of the casualties lived in the family home, and usually the bathroom.

Clare Heap BVSc MRCVS - Vet

Clare and Ed are married and form a formidable team in caring for all our animals and wildlife rescues. Clare divides her time as a vet between small animal clinical work in a local practice in Hythe/Lymington and working at the wildlife park.  At the same time as bringing up two young sons. She says she is married to the business and always on call for the park. Clare has postgraduate qualifications in exotic veterinary practice.