A TEESDALE animal sanctuary is offering teenagers the chance to get up close and personal with wildlife while gaining a useful qualification at the same time.

The Ark on the Edge complex includes a wildlife education centre from which City and Guilds Level 1 Lantra animal care courses are run on a franchise basis from East Durham College.

However, Pat Kingsnorth, who runs the Ark, near Woodland, had to cancel her most recent course due to a lack of interest.

The next one is due to start in January 2013 and she is hoping to attract up to ten students aged 16-19.

“We have run these courses for a few years and have had a 100 per cent success rate,” she said.

“It's all hands-on except for a small amount of paper work. Students will work with rabbits, cats, kittens, goats, foxes, sheep, donkeys, ponies and we take birds of prey as well.

“They learn how to handle them, look for signs of illness, basic medication as well as skills such as mending rabbit hutches and building bird tables.”

Ms Kingsnorth added: “If you are not keen on animals, it is not for you. You need to be prepared to get your hands dirty – if you are not prepared to clean out litter trays or muck out horses, this is not for you.”

Once the course starts, students are expected to attend two days a week. For details of the January course, contact Pat on 01833-630505, 07970-802286 or email pat.kingsnorth@btinternet.com.