Eleanor Denniss

"There is no better group of lecturers to have behind you to succeed than those at Hadlow.” 

Eleanor Denniss
Level 3 Extended Diploma in Animal Management, BSc(Hons) in Animal Conservation & Biodiversity

Ellie Denniss studied a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Animal Management at Hadlow in 2013 and went on to study a BSc(Hons) in Animal Conservation & Biodiversity, gaining first class honours. She now runs UK Owl and Raptor Displays and lectures in Animal Management at Hadlow.

UK Owl and Raptor Displays specialises in the display and care of Birds of Prey, with services covering everything from educational school and group visits, wedding packages, media production, event demonstrations and even corporate days and team-building activities.

Ellie describes Hadlow College as “A place where I felt at home, safe and comfortable surrounded by people who looked at the world the way I did. Not just the big animals, but the small, and this provided me with a boost of confidence from my previous educational background. I was lost, however, at Hadlow, I was found.”

“The lecturers and the students provided me with plenty of additional activities to allow my skills to develop to their full potential. This included activities outside of Hadlow and meeting people within the industry.”

She recalls her first time visiting Hadlow: “My first ever visit to the College was to undertake work experience at the Animal Management Unit when I was still in secondary school. I thoroughly enjoyed the week and learnt a range of tasks. When I got in the car to go home that Friday afternoon, I knew it was where I wanted to be.”

She continues: “I have so many fond memories of studying at Hadlow, with friends in the HE area or within the classrooms, and we had the greatest of times.”

Asked about her favourite aspect of the course, she says “The ecological side, encompassing the surveying methods, all the practical parts and some of the statistics involved around these. The course allowed me to see a range of areas within the industry, allowing me to focus on the areas that were of main interest to me. It definitely assisted with getting me onto my desired career path.“

Ellie praises the lecturers, who she says worked tirelessly to get her where she needed to be and gave her additional time. She adds, “My peers also provided some amazing times and we all gave each other the support we needed to push ourselves over the boundaries and reach the targets we wanted to.”

An opportunity arose at Hadlow which very much determined her career path: “One of my friends from the Diploma course invited me to go and volunteer with her on a reserve in Africa. Of course, I was thrilled and jumped at the chance. Whilst there, I got to work with some birds of prey and I held my first eagle, a Bateleur Eagle. As soon as I stood with him on the glove, I felt a sense of belonging, an overwhelming feeling and a moment of realisation that this was for me. I have never looked back on working with birds of prey since.”

“After I graduated, I focused on developing my skills in bird ringing and ecological surveys, assisting with the Retrapping Adults for Survival (RAS) scheme as part of the British Trust for Ornithology surveys. I also began to develop my partner’s bird of prey business, focusing on the events side, social media and training the birds.”

“Setting up a bird of prey centre has its ups and downs. However, I’m still a little shocked how I’ve transformed from one person into this other who has achieved a First Class honours degree! I’m now on the starting line for building a bird of prey centre - and as part of that, I can be on the frontline for a mixture of conservation and upholding high levels of welfare that should be met by all bird of prey centres across the world.”

Ellie recently returned to Hadlow to deliver a talk to current students. “I thoroughly enjoyed the session and flew Sasha, my Western Siberian Eagle Owl. He was hand-reared by myself and I was very proud that an animal I had trained myself was working alongside me to allow everyone to understand what an exceptional species they are.”

She concludes: “The greatest opportunity Hadlow provided me was to build on my confidence. I think you’ll know you're heading in the right direction when you have a clearer view of the destination. It is by no means easy, particularly studying at degree level. However, there is no better group of lecturers to have behind you to succeed than those at Hadlow.”