Monday, July 16, 2012

National Zoo Keeper Week; Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh My

I am a little late, but fashionably so, to the party, but we still have time to celebrate National Zoo Keeper Week which ends Saturday, July 21. The American Association of Zoo Keepers has designated the third week in July each year as such. According to the AAZK website, "As the need to protect and preserve our wildlife and vanishing habitats has increased, our role as educators and wildlife ambassadors has become essential. During the third week of July each year, celebrate National Zoo Keeper Week; both you and your animals deserve the recognition." 

An honorable and worthy endeavor.

About the AAZK

The American Association of Zoo Keepers is a very large organization, with members from 48 0f the 50 United States as well as 24 foreign countries and 5 Canadian Provinces. As you can see, this is a mammoth undertaking with the incumbent responsibilities that are inherent to such a task.

Again from the AAZK website at, "The American Association of Zoo Keepers, Inc. began in 1967 in San Diego, CA with the purpose of promoting professionalism in zoo keeping through education of zoological staff members in the most modern and current techniques of captive exotic animal care. AAZK’s mission is to provide a resource and a forum of continuing education for the animal care professional and to support zoo and aquarium personnel in their roles as animal care givers, scientific researchers, public educators and conservationists; to promote zoos and aquariums as cultural establishments dedicated to the enrichment of human and natural resources; to foster the exchange of research materials, enrichment options and husbandry information through publications and conferences which will lead to a greater understanding of the needs and requirements of all animals. Membership is currently about 2,800 and includes individuals at all levels of zoo staff from directors, curators and veterinarians to zoo keepers, animal health technicians, volunteers and students. Members are from 48 of the 50 States, 5 Canadian  Provinces and 24 foreign countries and represent nearly 250 animal-related facilities."

Cowtown Zoo 

King and His Queen
I remember as a kid a half century ago making regular trips to the Fort Worth (TX) Zoo. The animals were things I had only seen in Tarzan movies until my Dad packed us up and took us to the zoo. Suddenly all those creatures I saw Tarzan confront in movie after movie were real. Up close and personal real. The tigers aglow with their orange and black stripes. The King of Beasts with his rumbling roar. Chimps swinging about in their enclosure like trapeze artists in the circus - except better! Slippery, slimy snakes and hungry "man-eating" alligators also come to mind.

Supper is in Sight
After a tour of the zoo, a trip on the kiddie train was a must. It's whistle blaring during our adventure through Forest Park. Then off to the duck pond putting a sizable  dent in the blue gill and catfish populations to be enjoyed later that night for supper. And I'll never forget sliding down the steep grassy hill on a big piece of cardboard, soaring at breakneck speeds to the bottom, only to lug the hunk of cardboard back up the hill and zipping down the hill time after time.

There are just some of the memories I still carry with me fifty years later, crystal clear in my not so crystal clear mind.

I Saw 'em in Fort Worth in the Summer!
There are great zoos all over the country. Besides Fort Worth, there are Dallas, Houston, San Diego, Columbus, Ohio, St. Louis and Denver immediately present themselves as some of top zoos in these United States.

Grab a Kid

There are a number of ways to support your local zoo for future generations. Make a cash donation to help defray operating costs, for one. But the best and most rewarding way to get behind a zoo near you is to take a kid and let them experience the animal kingdom in all its glory. Face to face with the beasts that will leave a lasting impression on a young, impressionable mind.

One smile or a single grasp of your hand seeking reassurance that you will save them from the savage animals in front of them will plant a seed in your memory garden that will flourish and grow fonder with each passing day.

Yeah, grab a kid and head to a zoo near you. Maybe fifty years from now, he or she will be writing a story similar to this one - inspiring an adult to take a child to the zoo. We will have come full circle at that time.

Say, did I tell you about the time we went to the FW Botanical Gardens after an excursion to the zoo? As usual, Dad piled us all into the car........


  1. Great post, Toby. Never been to the zoos that you listed, but did get to the San Antonio Zoo. On a rainy day. I kept my camera under my sweater, but it didn't matter, the animals were smart enough to stay in out of the rain.

    The Abilene (TX) Zoo is pretty nice. Nice features like having the big cats separated by a huge concrept empty moat. No bars to look through so it's great for photos.

    1. Thanks, Bob! I agree with moat idea 100%. I am a small man, "bite-size" for a hungry big cat. :)