A young zoo-keeper who will compete against 15 other Kiwis on the new reality TV show Survivor New Zealand hopes her experience with wildlife will give her an edge on the other contestants.

Shannon Quinn has worked with animals - predominantly primates - at both Christchurch's Orana Park and Auckland Zoo, so she'll be in her element when she's in the Nicaraguan jungle - the setting of the first season of the New Zealand version of the hit US programme Survivor which premieres tonight at 7pm on TVNZ 2.

One of the 16 people selected to compete for a $100,000 prize on Survivor New Zealand, Quinn told the Herald on Sunday being observant was important as a zoo keeper and this quality might help her in the game.

"Any animals that we're working with every single day, we have to know if their behaviour has changed, even in the slightest, because that could be a sign that something might be wrong that we need to investigate. So we are always constantly looking for those tiny, tiny little changes in behaviour.


"[That] could definitely help me on the island because I would imagine that if somebody was beginning to lie to you they would start acting a little bit differently and being able to pick up that change in behaviour could actually be something that would help me in the long run."

The 24-year-old, who is originally from Geraldine, said she was looking forward to potentially getting up close to howler monkeys while in Nicaragua.

"I have seen them before in zoos but I have never seen one in the wild and I just think I will lose my mind. I will be so excited, especially if I hear them calling - it will just be the best thing I could imagine."

She was also keen to see some of the country's more dangerous creatures like snakes and tarantualas, but was hoping to avoid scorpions and any animals, other than fish or sea turtles, lurking in the water.

An experienced tramper, Quinn said in Nicaragua she would draw on the basic bush survival skills she learnt in her high school's outdoor education classes and believed this knowledge may give her advantage over other Survivor New Zealand players.

"I think growing up in New Zealand there's actually not a lot that you need to be thinking about when you're walking out in the bush. You can kind of walk out in the bush in jandals as long as it was only for a short walk you'd be okay, whereas in Nicaragua there's so many things that could definitely hurt you.

"So I think being aware of that and sort of knowing what sort of safety aspects you need to be aware of will definitely help because from watching Survivor, the American series, a lot of people get taken out by the smallest things even if it's just a cut on the foot that gets infected."

Survivor New Zealand contestant Shannon Quinn at her previous job as a zoo keeper at Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch. Photo / Supplied
Survivor New Zealand contestant Shannon Quinn at her previous job as a zoo keeper at Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch. Photo / Supplied

Having worked as an actor for a few years before beginning her zoo keeping career, Quinn knows her way around film sets and is ready to use this to her advantage when shooting Survivor New Zealand.

"I think a lot of people will be going into the show just being themselves and seeing how far that can take them, whereas I sort of see it more as I'm playing a game and I think in terms of doing my best at this game I might need to sort of be a bit more of a character than just being my natural self," she said.

"I do think acting will help with that because often we're so fully immersed in the role and I think it will be similar to that."

She said she might keep quiet about her acting history on the show for the first few weeks until she finds where she fits in the tribe.

"I think potentially it might worry [other contestants] a little bit because it may mean that I can possibly lie a little bit easier to people. But I feel like there a lot of different backgrounds that could also help in the aspect."

Survivor New Zealand is on TVNZ 2 on Sundays at 7pm and on Mondays at 7.30pm, starting tonight, May 7.