So much more than that
The zoo world is an interesting organism, both literally and figuratively. From the outside looking in it is entertainment, conservation in action, and passion on display. It is an opportunity for visitors to learn about creatures and ecosystems that are found on the other side of the globe. For Zoo Atlanta’s team members, the zoo world offers other opportunities. We face pressure from a public perspective component to keep the animal care institution that is the Zoo relevant and needed. We face obstacles and challenges as biologists and behaviorists to maintain and sustain genetically diverse populations of animals through breeding programs and scientific research. The zoo world is an ecosystem within itself, where financial stability matters, where conservation is critical, and where both guests and employees often find refuge from the stress and complications of the outside world, often in something as simple as watching elephants engage with their habitat or gorillas socialize with one another.
For almost 20 years I have had the privilege to exist behind the curtain, beyond the pressures of a corporation or business plan. My day honestly is quite simple. There is a pureness to it that I find energizing. The majority of the eight to 10 hours that I spend each day at Zoo Atlanta, I spend with African elephants. A former teammate once wrote that these giant creatures are not passive residents waiting for their care team members to clean and feed them. Elephants are more than that. They are teammates themselves. Each one of them plays an active role in their own care and in the health and success of the team. They are a source of meaning and passion. To put it simply, they are friends. They are funny, sometimes serious, and listen well (most of the time).
As 2022 draws to an end and I look forward, I’m filled with hope and excitement for the future of the elephant program at Zoo Atlanta. In the years to come there will be potential opportunities to expand our herd of three, to welcome new human teammates, and at times we’ll say goodbye to others.
Through all this change, one thing will remain constant. A desire to connect with both animals and people. A desire to protect the natural world and to inspire others to do the same.
For those of us who have the opportunity to call Zoo Atlanta home, we really are quite lucky.
See you in 2023.
We save wildlife and their habitats through conservation, research, education and engaging experiences. Our efforts connect people to animals and inspire conservation action. – Zoo Atlanta’s Mission Statement
Lead Keeper, Elephants and Elephant Program Manager