How long have you worked at the Fort Worth Zoo?
Most of my career! I began working at the Zoo in 1980.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that my work is having a lasting impact on the survival of endangered species, and that I am ultimately working to prevent extinctions.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
One of my biggest challenges is not becoming discouraged with all the negative wildlife news today. I stay upbeat because I see real hope for resolving many of the conservation challenges that we face. I believe that the necessary human and financial resources are out there, so my challenge becomes finding the right combination of both to converge on the problem at the right time.
What advice would you give to students who may pursue a job like yours?
A bachelor’s degree in zoology and an advanced degree are preferable. More importantly, get as much exposure to captive wildlife as you can through volunteering, internships, working in pet shops, or whatever you can do to get some experience.
What is the most fascinating animal in your care?
I would have to say the gharial, a very unique crocodilian with a long, thin snout specialized for catching fish. The Fort Worth Zoo has one of the few groups in the United States, and some of the best potential for captive breeding. They have never been bred in captivity outside their native India and Nepal. They are very amazing, charismatic animals, and are one of the largest of the crocs – reaching lengths up to 21 feet.
Can you describe a “typical” day of field research?
Even though my job tasks don’t include much field research anymore, I spend a lot of time working on conservation projects in Jamaica, other Caribbean countries and in Asia. There, I work directly with captive breeding facilities or head-starting (encouraging reproduction) programs in zoos and rescue centers. A typical day may be spent designing or working on new facilities, marking iguanas or turtles, working on husbandry protocols and procedures, or assisting veterinarians with medical procedures.
How do zoos play a role in conservation?
In many ways, zoos play an important role in conservation by educating visitors about threats to wildlife, and inspiring them to care and take action. Collectively, modern zoos are quickly becoming the largest contributors to wildlife conservation in the world. Because zoos often serve as an educational resource for the community, they are also effective at gaining fund-raising support for conservation causes.