I have loved animals since I was a young boy growing up in Tennessee. I could never have imagined where my life would take me – and it’s only getting wilder! My hope is that together we can appreciate, value, and protect wildlife for generations to come.
The Early Years: Learning the Ropes
I got my first job when I was eleven working for our family veterinarian, Dr. Roberts, in Knoxville, Tennessee. I loved cleaning cages and being around all the animals. I worked with Dr. Roberts for several summers and developed a love and respect for animals.
The Adventure Begins
Soon after Suzi and I were married, we opened a pet shop, Pet Kingdom, in Knoxville. When I received an offer to direct a small zoo in Sanford, Florida in 1973, I jumped at the opportunity. Suzi and I lived in Florida while I worked at the Central Florida Zoo from 1973 until 1975. In 1975, I had to take a break from the animal world because of an illness in my family. I missed working with animals so in 1978 I answered an ad for a zoo director in Columbus, Ohio.
In 1983, I was invited to appear on Good Morning America in New York following the birth of baby twin gorillas at the Columbus Zoo. I eagerly accepted the invitation knowing that this was a great opportunity to educate people across the nation about animals. I have been a regular guest and wildlife correspondent ever since.
Rwanda: Home Away from Home
In 1991, a gorilla zookeeper at the Columbus Zoo discussed starting a grass-roots project that would benefit the mountain gorillas of Rwanda. I was immediately on-board, and Partners in Conservation (PIC) was born – their work in Rwanda quickly became the Zoo’s signature conservation project. Thanks to PIC, we’ve learned more over the past two decades than we could imagine about the mountain gorillas and what it takes to really make a sustainable difference for them in the wild, but also for the people that live around them.
Going Into the Wild
The Columbus Zoo: 35 Years and Counting
My media appearances were taking up so much time that I could no longer manage the day-to-day matters at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. In 1992, I became the Director Emeritus at the Zoo, a job I still enjoy today. Although I am traveling most days of the year, I still call Central Ohio home.
Suzi and I have three daughters. My eldest daughter Kathaleen is married to an Englishman and lives in the United Kingdom. They have two children, Gabriella and Jack. I was so excited to have a child named after me because, until now, my only namesake was a donkey!
My middle daughter Suzanne and her husband Billy live in Cincinnati, Ohio with their four children: Brittany, Blake, Alison, and Caroline. We love spending time with them and watching their sporting events when we’re in town. They also come visit me at the Columbus Zoo where my youngest daughter Julie works.
I have loved animals since I was a young boy growing up in Tennessee. I could never have imagined where my life would take me – and it’s only getting wilder! My hope is that together we can appreciate, value, and protect wildlife for generations to come .
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