August 19th 2011 | Director

Edward Maruska

Ed’s formative years started with a job at Chicago’s Lincoln Park zoo (1955) as an animal keeper and head of the Children’s Zoo.
© Caravette Productions Ltd.

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My name is Ed Maruska. I’m the Director Emeritus of Cincinnati Zoo. I was born in 1934 in Chicago, Illinois.

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What zoos did you see when you were growing up?

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I really began, my career has almost been a inherited interest in any aspect of natural history. My aunt related a story to me about taking me to the Brookfield Zoo when I was seven years old and she couldn’t get me out of the place. And I remember later on, in later life, I would cut school, get on the old 22nd Street street car, It had a pot belly stove, I’d go out to the zoo, sneak underneath the Salt Creek fence and prowl around and follow the curators around all day, Carl Platt, the then director, Robert Bean and Robertson Edegar. And I haunted that place. And being a child in Chicago, when you have an interest in natural history and in wilderness places and the animals that occupy them, pretty hard place living in a large city, but fortunately Chicago, we had some great outlets. Two very fine zoos, a fine natural history museum and a major aquarium, so I essentially haunted all those areas in my growing up period.

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Well, what was your schooling?

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Well, I really, I started out- I started out in, in Chicago and I had to quit school at an early age, but I went back to school nights. It was some family problems and I had to leave high school. But later on, when I got married, I went back and finished up my high school. And then I took some college at Wright University, and then when I went back, then something came up where I was invited to enter in another area of zoo business. Well, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m sorry, am I- Go ahead.

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I just keep going, huh?

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You’ll edit out, I presume?

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Well, it really started when I had to finish Wright because I was heading for another city, and then this is when I was invited to join another zoo in Cincinnati. But I started my zoo career really in Lincoln Park. My first introduction to Marlin Perkins was as a very young man, I kept a number of animals in our garage in the back of our yard, I kept the number of wild animals. I had a red tailed hawk and I had this bird trained and I had it on just a- And the bird flew away from me and eventually newspapers were following it, and they were calling it a bird from Mars. It was purchased on TV antennas, and eventually someone caught it and took it to the zoo. And I found out that the bird had been taken to Lincoln Park Zoo. So I went to reclaim my bird and I was introduced to Marlin Perkins. Little did I know later that he would be the person I would be working for, but we talked and Marlin wanted to use the bird on his television show, “Your Zoo”, which was a very popular Chicago show at that time, and I agreed and eventually I donated the bird to the zoo.

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Now we’ve talked about education.

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You’ve also been given a number of honorary degrees?

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Yes, in Cincinnati, I was given a degree, an honorary degree by the University of Cincinnati and one that I treasure by Xavier University, and they don’t give out very many. I was told that this was indeed a great honor. The Jesuits don’t release those willy-nilly.

00:03:28 - 00:03:34

So you meet Marlin, but how did your zoo career actually start?

00:03:34 - 00:04:33

Well, I followed in that- My zoo career started by me following an ad in the Chicago Sun-Times. There was an ad in the paper, there was a job open if you were not too choosy, and it was a job opening at the reptile house at the Lincoln Park Zoo. So I applied for this job and I had an interview with Marlin, I was hired and somewhere down the line, Marlin called me. Little did I realize that there was more politics involved in the Chicago operation, and apparently I did not have a powerful enough source, and I was told that the job was given to somebody else instead. So I went back and I did some research and my dad knew certain people and finally got in touch with the alderman and we wound up back at the Lincoln Park Zoo, and I was given a job, but it wasn’t at the reptile house. It was at the Veldt at that time, it was a job opening working with hooved animals. And I worked in Lincoln Park for a number of years.

00:04:33 - 00:04:36

What were the early days like at Lincoln Park Zoo as a young keeper?

00:04:36 - 00:04:59

Well, they were fun days. We had a good time, it was a good crew to work with. They weren’t all animal people. In fact, a lot of more political appointees, and obviously the animal people were the people that gathered together, and there was like two sections of the zoo. There were the non-animal people and the animal people, and we kind of did our own thing at that time, but they were fun days.

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Did people mentor you?

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I was mentored by a number of the head keepers. I had a very good friend. He wound up to be one of my dearest friend, Joel McHale, he was a character. He worked as a senior keeper, but I got a lot of good advice from Joel. Just common, plain common sense advice, and you were able to get along in that culture. Without his advice, I think I would have found it difficult, because working with non people that didn’t care about animals and you had to work side-by-side with them at times was a little difficult. You mentioned Marlin Perkins was the director.

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How was it working for this director?

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Marlin Perkins was a very- He was a study in- Observing Marlin and the way he operated was very, very important to me in my later life. Marlin was very unpredictable. He was a good animal man. I mean, I remember a day when he walked by, just to cite an example, Marlin grabbed up these keepers who were trying to trim the hooves of a donkey and the donkey was giving them a bad time, and he got so frustrated. He picked that donkey up, placed it on the ground and he did the hoof trimming himself. That was a kind of individual mark. He was very unpredictable, but he was a good boss, he was a good man to look up to. He tolerated no nonsense, and he was obviously a very intelligent man and a man that, deeply passionate about his work.

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How did he shape your views or did he shape your views a little on zoos and about zoo development?

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Did he help shape any of those that you later had?

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Marlin I think helped shape my views early on because he had a very popular television show, and I watched that every week it was on. In fact, my wife recalls, she was then my fiance, remembers we had to break off what we were doing so I could get back home to watch “Zoo Parade”. So he had a powerful influence. He was a very striking individual, very charismatic individual, and I was delighted to know him and delighted to work for him.

00:07:09 - 00:07:16

Did you learn specific things that shape a future philosophy from him?

00:07:16 - 00:07:53

I think Marlin, I learned- Certain areas were- areas of dedication. Marlin was dedicated to his profession. He ran a very clean operation. I learned cleanliness is important. Cleanliness is next to godliness in a zoo operation, a good zoo, because obviously filth and trash can breed disease. He was very strict about the cleanliness of the grounds and everybody had to pull their load, they had to do their share. So I learned how to manage people. I learned to control my temper.

00:07:53 - 00:08:07

Early on, I had a pretty nasty temper and Marlin told me later in life that that would hurt me and that I could use temper as long as I could control it, and that worked, that was good, sound advice. Probably saved my career.

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Did Marlin have strengths?

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And you’ve mentioned some of his strengths.

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Obviously I was enamored by Marlin. I probably only saw strengths. I didn’t see many weaknesses. If I could only be, I thought to myself, a Marlin Perkins, I’d do all right.

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As you started working at Lincoln Park, how did you start to approach the care of animals?

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What did you start thinking about on that level of keeping them healthy and diet?

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Well, when I started Lincoln Park, I was very fortunate, actually to get into the Veldt area because I also, part of my job was the commissary and we had to prepare foods for animals. So I knew where all the foods were going when animals were eating. I enjoyed, I was very fortunate, I did not really have any specialties. I liked certain animal groups because there was very little known about them in captivity, and that drew my fascination, not necessarily whether they were a reptile or bird or a mammal. It was a difficulty in maintaining them and learning to maintain them properly, that intrigued me, and I learned a lot of that in Lincoln Park. And one thing led to another, and eventually I had a chance of opening up a children’s zoo, the first children’s zoo, and the children’s zoo was an amalgamate of all smaller animals in the zoo. It wasn’t really, it was really Marlin’s pets. I mean, this is where Marlin put his specialties.

00:09:34 - 00:09:54

I mean, things like potholes and galagos really had no business in the children’s zoo the way I thought about it, but they were specifically animals that he was interested in, animals that were difficult in many ways to keep and breed, so I learned a lot about a variety of animals by being the head keeper of that position, and that’s the position I had until I left Lincoln Park.

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So when you were at Lincoln Park, what were the challenges you faced as a keeper and as the head of this children’s zoo?

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Well, the challenges again were, the minute you opened the doors of a children’s- The early design of the children’s zoo was one large building with a few small outside areas. Eventually they developed a larger outdoor area, but the challenge is the minute you open those doors and let the children in, because the children are obviously in large groups in a building, the close proximity of animals, you had to really have your eyes peeled, you know, your ears and eyes peeled to what they were doing. Otherwise you were gonna be- The animals would have been in deep trouble.

00:10:40 - 00:10:46

What were the years that you were at Lincoln Park Zoo?

00:10:48 - 00:11:11

I started Lincoln Park Zoo, I believe it was in 1955, and I probably spent at least six years in that position. Well, I’ll tell you exactly because I went to- I left for Cincinnati in 1961. Okay, now let’s talk about that.

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How did you come to leave Lincoln Park Zoo?

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Why did you leave?

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Where did you go?

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Well, my predecessor Bill Hoff was the assistant director in Lincoln Park. He was under Marlin. I worked very closely with Bill over the years, far closer to build an I did Marlin. Marlin was obviously the larger figure. Bill had an opportunity to obtain the directorship. He applied for and obtained the directorship of Cincinnati. And he needed somebody who was- It was a difficult zoo, the zoo was in poor repair, it had been neglected. The majority of the keeper force was illiterate.

00:11:58 - 00:12:53

The animals were mistreated. The collection was, it was somewhat, they had some interesting animals, but it was an amalgamation of ducks and goats and sheep, and a lot of domestic animals and under very poor conditions. The zoo literally run down. I mean, we had to replace windows literally for lack of paint and the maintenance was zero. So Bill needed somebody that would come in and really shape up the animal department, get the keepers moving in the right direction. He knew my leadership qualities since I was a head keeper and ran the children’s zoo, and I ran it, you know, under a pretty heavy hand and kept it going very well. That was one of Marlin’s very favorite exhibits too, so it had to be good. So Bill knew my qualities and thought I would make an excellent choice and hired me.

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And I remember it was, he sent me a job that, it was gonna be a challenge for $7,200 a year was a magnificent salary increase I remember at that time.

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What made you say I want to go there?

00:13:07 - 00:14:23

Well, my first, when I went in for an interview, my first impression of the zoo was not a very good one. They used to have an annual event called the home and food show, and they would have barkers, they would have canoe salesmen. The first night, it was one of those sultry August evenings at Cincinnati, you know, a high humidity, and the air was bad and it was just not a good evening, and I saw these barkers around and they would pass out yardsticks at the entry and the kids would have yard sticks and they would sell BB guns, and you’re watching the kids pelting the sea lines with BB guns and they sold- The food and home show was started probably during the Depression, and it was probably a good thing at that time because a little lady coming in the zoo was, it was done as a promotion, she could fill up her shopping bag with little food samples. But over a period of years, it deteriorated, and it was an awful thing. They would sell a storm doors, windows and a lot of things that were detrimental to the collection. All I remember once seeing it, why I told my wife we’re gonna turn around and go back to Chicago. Kids were running around putting political stickers on the duck’s backs at the zoo. So I decided we’re gonna go home then.

00:14:24 - 00:14:51

But I came back the following morning and walked around the zoo and I saw a lot of potential. It was a nice hilly atmosphere. It was great for building new exhibits. It was well landscaped. It had some fairly interesting animals, animals I had not had an opportunity in Lincoln Park to work with. Had black rhino, it had gorillas. Although we did have gorillas in Cincinnati, I mean in Lincoln Park as well, this was a nice group of gorillas. They had, as I recall, a giraffe.

00:14:51 - 00:15:06

I had not had an opportunity, giraffe at that time we did not keep in Lincoln Park. So it was a great place. It had a lot of new animals and the grounds, I saw potential. It was bad at that time, so I decided I’m gonna take the job.

00:15:06 - 00:15:09

When you came, what was your-?

00:15:09 - 00:16:10

My first title, I replaced an animal- The title at that time was animal superintendent. And I asked Bill to change the title to general curator. I preferred that title, which he did. I remember those early years, teaching these people to work with animals was another experience altogether. I remember one time I came into an area, it was a rotunda area and the keepers were trying to catch a small cat and they put the box in the middle of the cage, and the animal’s obviously circling around the box. So all I did was kick the box over to the wall and the cat ran in, and boy, that man is smart. And I remember Clarence, the superintendent, the gentleman that I was, he was retiring, I was taking his position, he was just a big old gentle guy, and I remember a fellow- We had a problem with a cat, a tiger. The tiger was ataxic, and I had to go in with a kind of another keeper.

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At that time, we didn’t have a full-time veterinarian in Cincinnati. We had to do a lot of the veterinary work ourselves. So I went in with another individual and we gave the animal an enema, and Clarence is on the outside and he’s watching me do this. And the next day, I come through the basement. Clarence is inside the tiger cage. The tiger by this time had passed the hairball and was fine.

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Tiger was sitting on the shelf and Clarence was inside changing the light bulb, figuring that we had been in the cage the day before, why couldn’t he?

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I gently had to say Clarence, and fortunately nothing happened to him, and the cat was probably as surprised as I was, but it was those kinds of experiences. But eventually I got a good crew together and we got things together and we got it moving in the right direction. But I basically had to train and retrain a lot of the people. I mean, the Cincinnati Zoo for a long period of time was closed during the winter months, which meant that the keepers didn’t have to clean glass and they got kind of lazy. So Bill Hoff changed that, we became a year round operation. And after that, we really had to get them moving in the right direction. Now, you mentioned that when you first came, you were brought in as a hired gun. That’s the word you used.

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What was the charge of your role?

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When I came in, we had a lot of major problems with the keeper staff. To cite examples, they would go out on breaks and they would go to the tavern and they would get liquored up, come back to work, and I found one gentlemen teetering on the edge of a hippo pool as an example, and then male hippo was known to be a pretty nasty animal, or could be. Payday would come and the keepers would gamble their money away, and I had their wives calling me the following day and saying they had nothing to eat for the children. I would have to send food from our commissary over to their homes. So those were the kinds of situations, so I had to be a pretty tough guy at the beginning. Unfortunately, even later on, that kind of stuck with me. They always kind of thought I was a hard head, but I had mellowed as the years gone on, because things started go my way, but initially I had to be a pretty strict individual to get things moving in the right direction. And the zoo was one of the lowest paid zoos in the eastern United States as well at that time.

00:18:33 - 00:18:48

So we got keepers better pay, and they eventually saw what I needed and wanted, and we got rid of the bad elements in the zoo. It took some time. I think the first year I was responsible for 15 people leaving the keeper force, my first year of employment.

00:18:48 - 00:18:51

How long were you general curator?

00:18:51 - 00:19:20

I was general curator until Bill Hoff, Bill Hoff left for St. Louis. I was general curator, yes, until Bill Hoff left for St. Louis. I was placed in as interim director. Bill had an opportunity for the directorship following Marlin in St. Louis. So they put me in as interim, and three months later, they hired me as full-time director. I was one of the youngest directors of a major zoo at that time. I was in my 30s.

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What was the year?

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The year I became the interim director was 1968.

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Why was it possible for you, one of the youngest people that might aspire to that position to be hired at Cincinnati?

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Was it political?

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Did they see something in you?

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What was the process?

00:19:47 - 00:20:52

Well, we had a- I had a distinct advantage in obtaining the directorship in Cincinnati, because the number of board members knew and had observed my operating of the zoo in the curatorial sense for a long time. We had a couple of board members that used to frequent the zoo on weekends with their families, and I would be the one that would take them around and I would explain what we were doing, and I began to improve the exhibits, tremendous improvement in exhibits. We had a lot of cyclone fence, which I don’t think belongs in a zoo. That’s a personal opinion. And so removed a lot of fences. We started to remove- There were a lot of tar and concrete in the zoo. I remember my first introduction to our head gardener, he came out of the greenhouse sleepy-eyed in house slippers, spit-shined house slippers, and he wanted me to blacktop a lovely area that we had flowers. He said he preferred that blacktop.

00:20:53 - 00:21:14

So Howard and I didn’t get along, and he left and I hired our first horticulturist, a professional horticulturist by the name of Dave Ehrlinger and Dave transformed that zoo. It was amazing what he could do with the landscaping. Often we would spend more for landscaping and exhibit than the animals that were occupying the exhibit.

00:21:14 - 00:21:22

For this job, as director, did you jump at it or did you say, hmm, you know, what am I getting into here?

00:21:23 - 00:21:45

When I was offered the position, I didn’t think twice, I accepted it. It was something that had been driving me ever since I was a child. Somehow I knew someday this is what I was going to do. It was just destiny as far as I was concerned and I grabbed it. It was my day in the sun, and I was gonna take it.

00:21:45 - 00:21:47

Did Bill Hoff give you any advice?

00:21:47 - 00:21:57

No Bill Hoff wasn’t in favor of me getting the job. He thought they should seek somebody from the outside. They never even had a search committee put together. I was the interim and the choice.

00:22:00 - 00:22:07

Did you seek any advice from anybody else or did they volunteer any advice for you on this new endeavor?

00:22:07 - 00:23:13

There were a number of people- Fred Z. Hanalar. The person that ran the zoo before Bill Hoff was a gentleman by the name of Jack Huser and Fred Z. Hanalar had a lot to do with Jack Huser. And Jack apparently was driven by- The board was, it was a very strong board and it was a bunch of old gentlemen that appointed themselves and they were appointed for life. There was no rotation of the board. And I remember, just to give you an example of the quality of the board, some of the board members, there was a gentleman by the name of Eugene Zackman, and he was virtually legally blind and his wife couldn’t drive, but he wanted to get to a board meeting, so he would drive and she would point the way. And often he would get lost out in the zoo grounds. I mean, a lot of my board members, I’d have to go out in zoo grounds and retrieve them. So eventually those things changed as time went on, but it was good experience.

00:23:13 - 00:23:34

And I don’t think there was anybody other than- Oh, I’m going back and getting back on myself. Other than Fred Z. Hanalar. Fred Z. Hanalar said the zoo, when Jack Huser ran it, the zoo is run by 22 idiots telling one idiot what to do. So apparently he had some frustrations with the zoo at that time.

00:23:35 - 00:23:42

Well, what qualities did you have that you felt would make you an effective zoo director?

00:23:47 - 00:24:32

I think to make me an effective zoo director, I had a passion for my charges and the animal collection was paramount and always has been, and always will be. I had an eye for detail and I knew what I wanted. I had management skill, I knew how to work with people. I enjoyed people. That was an important part. I enjoyed being around people. And when you boil it down, the zoo director’s position is a people position. You have to get along with a wide array of people all the way down the line, the whole gamut, politicians, donors, keepers, board members.

00:24:33 - 00:24:37

The zoo was publicly or privately run at the time?

00:24:37 - 00:25:35

The Cincinnati Zoo, when I took it over, we received very little capital money from the city. We received free water and sometimes slight cap- When they were plush and had some capital monies, they would give us a small amount of capital money, but it was a privately run organization, one of the very few of its kind in the country. And that was good and that was bad because a lot of things- When there were bad years, they would have to make it at the gate and they didn’t make budget, they would cut out on maintenance, and that was what took the zoo down. The maintenance, the sewers were collapsing. We still had wood lined sewers if you can imagine that in the 20th century. It was just awful. People wouldn’t begin to realize what a difficult place we walked into. So you came from a public zoo.

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00:25:36 - 00:25:37

To a private zoo?

00:25:37 - 00:26:27

Yes, I came from a zoo that was operated by the city, Lincoln Park Public Zoo, and went into a private org- It was a totally different life experience. Tell me about those differences. Well, the differences of a working in a public zoo, we had departments, we had maintenance departments, we had horticulture departments. The zoo, when we were in the zoo, it was literally the animals and only the animals. We didn’t have to worry about all the sundry, other things. When I found myself in a private zoo environment, it became a whole new world, because we were responsible for every aspect of that zoo other than water. And we had to make our budget. We had to be very creative in getting people through the gates.

00:26:27 - 00:27:26

Sometimes we did things that you might not want to do if you were in a private zoo. We had all kinds of, literally programs that were non-zoo related just to get bodies through the gate. But I realized how important they were. And eventually, we were clever enough and entrepreneurial enough that we narrowed these down, that they became more animal-oriented. When I first came, like the food and home show, I was glad to get- We had literally a group of rides in the zoo, a Ferris wheel, small play land, and the kids would come in and wreak havoc in play land, and then be all wound up to tear the rest of the zoo apart. There was very little supervision. Teachers would come in and they would sit in the restaurant and let the kids run wild. And eventually one child tipped a fountain over on himself and got himself injured, and that really changed things dramatically, as far as supervision, or we weren’t gonna let them in the zoo, it was that simple.

00:27:26 - 00:27:38

We could do that. Being a private zoo, we could select who could come in the zoo or not. So as general curator, you had been starting to make some changes at the zoo. Now you are the zoo director.

00:27:38 - 00:27:41

What was the condition of the zoo when you took it over?

00:27:42 - 00:28:55

The condition of the zoo when I stepped in was still, still bad. There were attempts- I think over the period of years of Bill’s administration, he was just trying to put it back together to make it an institution that was functional. So he was repairing old buildings, but there were still a lot of old buildings and poor exhibits and often, buildings, if you had a choice, you would close rather than keep open, but obviously a business, you still had to open. So when I came in, I think it was in 1970- See the Cincinnati Zoo, I think perhaps why it slid into a zoo of disrepair and very little care was the fact that it was the only show in town. We didn’t have any zoos around us. The closest aquarium was Chicago. The closest zoo was 300, 400 miles away, but all of a sudden there was a zoo developed in Indianapolis. There was a zoo developed in Louisville, and we had a kind of an unusual situation.

00:28:55 - 00:29:37

We have what we call the blue laws. All businesses in Cincinnati when I started, were closed on Sunday by law. So, you know, you had everybody, the only place to go was the zoo. Then King’s Island came in with a brand new lion park, and I said to the board of directors, if we don’t start pouring money into this institution, getting things repaired and competing with the competition, we’re gonna continue to lose attendance. The attendance at the zoo vacillated from 650 to 750,000 people a year, and that was for years. It never got above that. So the board, I had some sharp P&G, Procter and Gamble people on the board. I had a wonderful board of directors.

00:29:38 - 00:30:07

The board finally resolved its own problems. It had limited terms and it started to appoint good people to the board and movers and shakers in the community, and together, we really began to rebuild the zoo. We started major fundraising and capital drives. We developed a master plan and we were moving in the right direction. And that kept our head above water. Our attendance began to increase. I think when I left the zoo, it was a million, 300,000 people. So we were up there.

00:30:07 - 00:30:10

-Came into the zoo. You were the director.

00:30:10 - 00:30:17

What were the top items that you wanted to address or enhance when you first walked in?

00:30:17 - 00:30:18

What was on your list?

00:30:21 - 00:31:16

Some of the first things I addressed when I entered the Cincinnati Zoo, some of the things that bothered me a lot, the zoo had a lot of concrete, had a lot of tarmac, very few planted areas. And over the years they had blacktopped a lot of ground area for wider walkways, walkways that were actually essentially too wide. A lot of concrete stone walls. I just wanted a softer zoo. My dream of the Cincinnati Zoo was to be an oasis in the city, a green area where people would come and not really realize where they were and feel very relaxed. And the only way you can really do that, accomplish that, is by getting rid of a lot of the harder materials and going into more natural. We started with wooden walkways rather than concrete. Rails, we eliminated, we used moating instead of fencing.

00:31:16 - 00:32:27

And in fact, I would really challenged my architects because I didn’t want- We developed moats, but I didn’t want to see the moat. And that would have them with a model on their hands and knees measuring, but we accomplished some of that in an exhibit that we built in later years. But I think we began by- In 1970, I had a real good opportunity. I took a group of our architects and a group of staff people and a few board members, and we visited every major zoo in the United States in preparation for our master plan. Not only did we visit zoos, but we also visited a lot of the theme parks and botanical gardens as well. And I think we gleaned more from the theme park visits than we did the actual, some of the actual zoo visits. And one thing we did notice that a lot of these- We visited many of the major zoos in the United States, and also some of the botanical gardens, as well as the theme parks. And we noticed that zoos and botanical parks that were successful, and in fact, amusement parks were strongly themed.

00:32:27 - 00:33:00

There was a sense of cohesiveness about the organizations and a lot of that was done through landscaping. So we made a commitment that we came back home, we put all our notes together, we made a commitment that we were gonna make the Cincinnati Zoo a botanical garden. Not only a zoological park, but a botanical garden with animals in and among the grounds. But the emphasis would be on landscape. And we began a program of even, we even began to hide the buildings. We landscaped some of the buildings out. The insect billing is a perfect example. It’s bermed.

00:33:00 - 00:33:45

You don’t even see a building, you only see an entryway that’s landscaped. And we did that with the gorilla exhibit. We essentially covered the old lion house with stonework and outdoor caging. So eventually you began to see the loss of a lot of buildings. The zoo over a period of years became very crowded. Our acreage when I started was only around 67 acres, and that was a pretty small park. That was including parking. And when I left, I think we were at about 89, almost 100 acres because we had expanded into the surrounding area and put our parking outside the zoo, that was our plan and began to recover some of those parking areas for exhibits.

00:33:45 - 00:34:29

So that was some of the major changes in the zoo, and they were the ones that were received best by our visiting public too. When I was in Melbourne, I was fascinated by the Melbourne Zoo that they had a special floral festival. So every spring now, and it’s become a tradition in Cincinnati, they will have a spring flower festival. The gardening crew will work hard to plant the lot of tulip bulbs. I don’t know, there’s thousands and thousands of tulip bulbs are planted now, daffodils and special landscaping designs, and that’s a real good promotional item for the zoo and brings in a lot of people in the spring when you need that insurge of bodies into the zoo. So you talked about horticulture and how important it was and what your vision was for horticulture.

00:34:29 - 00:34:33

Was Cincinnati’s hiring of a horticulturist a first in the zoo world?

00:34:34 - 00:35:12

The hiring of Dave Ehrlinger, our first horticulturist, if it wasn’t a first in the zoo world, it was among the very few zoos that had a professional horticulturist on staff, and Dave was an excellent person to work with. He left the zoo after I did. I think he’s working out in a botanical garden in San Diego, in the San Diego area at the present time. But Dave really was a wonderful person to work with. In fact, it was funny. George Rabb, the director of Brookfield hired him away from me, and first thing George did was give him $5,000 for artificial plants for Jungle World, and Dave turned around and came home. He came back to Cincinnati.

00:35:14 - 00:35:16

You changed the name of the zoo, didn’t you?

00:35:16 - 00:35:51

Yes, we were- It was just Cincinnati Zoo. It became the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. We were afforded that status as a botanical garden. We in fact went through a rather difficult process. We had a lot of our landscaping we had to label, which is now labeled. So it is an integral and educative part of the zoo, not just a lot of plants. People could come in- We have professional garden clubs come in now, and it’s really added a whole gamut of new visitors to the zoo.

00:35:53 - 00:36:01

What were the most important factors at the zoo when you came in or as you progressed, was it the public, the animal exhibits, breeding programs, education?

00:36:01 - 00:36:04

How did they start to rank with you?

00:36:04 - 00:36:05

Or was there a rank?

00:36:08 - 00:37:07

They various programs at the zoo, I think the Cincinnati Zoo is as diversified as its collection. As we went along, we began to build- We did not have when I started great community support, we needed to build on that too. We couldn’t survive without that community support, because we were basically almost self-supporting for a number of years. That changed in later years, when we were able to pass a levy to help subsidize some of the areas that we’re involved in at the zoo, but to get that outside support, we had to reach out to the community. And we began that with various programs, mixing animals and people together, developing senior educational programs. Developing an education department, that was an early stage at the Cincinnati Zoo too. I think we had one of the very first directors of education in our zoo. So we realized that is an important component of the collection.

00:37:08 - 00:38:10

I think in our area, in our zoo, the collection has always been the core, it’s our reason for being. It’s the only thing that nobody else can compete with us. I mean, we can have education programs outside the zoo. We could have gardening programs outside, we could have everything, but the collection is what gives the zoo, the city a certain amount of pride, it gives prestige to the collection, it gives us something to hang our hat on, to use as an advertising, marketing, when you get new animals and births. In fact, we capitalize on animal births at the zoo and it’s become a real, a year round, I mean, an annual program is that we advertise our spring births, which occur naturally, but we emphasize them, we mark them and we use that as a marketing tool and we bring in visitors just for that event. And that’s an important part because it’s just before school days. And usually there was a lack of, you know, a drop-off in attendance at that period, and that improved that too. So all of these things I think work together, but the collection has always been the core.

00:38:11 - 00:38:14

How would you describe your style of directing?

00:38:18 - 00:39:09

If I were to explain or try to explain my style of management, I believe I was always, I was firm, but fair. I mean, people, I knew what I wanted, and I think whole trick of management is to get the people to follow you. I think if anything, if there’s any regrets in my management style was I should have become more involved in- Later on in another zoo, I did this. Becoming more involved with my employees, got more into the employee- Perhaps more employee, more solid team building. Although we started to team build, I think we could have done better, or I could have done better.

00:39:10 - 00:39:12

What were some of your management strategies?

00:39:14 - 00:39:50

The element of surprise. I learned that from my mentor. Marlin was- We had a system at the Lincoln Park Zoo. When the old man, as we used to call him, was on the rounds, every building would phone, the old man’s coming, he’s here. We’d have him targeted all over the zoo. But he was a clever old duck because managing the children’s zoo, he would walk in the front door, we were all busy, ’cause we knew he was coming. He’d walk out the back. Five minutes later, he’d come through, we were all laying around or relaxing, he’d come to the back door and he had us clean and dust off the plants and he kept us busy.

00:39:52 - 00:40:28

I believe that- I don’t believe any zoo director that’s worth his salt can operate the zoo behind a desk. I think it’s got to be, that man has to be out in the field. That again, I learned from Marlin. He was always out in the park and you never knew when, but he was there, and you knew you could count on the fact that you better keep things sharp, ’cause the old man will be around and he’s gonna point it out to you. He had a very, you know, he had of a good way of doing that too. You talked a little about your regrets or with the staff or things you might’ve done a little differently.

00:40:28 - 00:40:38

What was your relationship with the staff, the curators and how did you, did it change or how did it develop with their training, their upgrading and working with them?

00:40:40 - 00:41:58

In my development of my staff, I, again, relied a great deal on another mentor, Dr. Charles Schroeder from the San Diego Zoo. I became very good friends with Charlie in my early zoo career. And he would often grab me by the shoulder and he would give me some pointers. And he says you always want to maintain contact with your staff. So he developed meetings that he would have every week with the staff, and I again took that over and I used that strategy and I would have a weekly staff meeting, and all my department heads would be in that meeting and have a chance to air their views and I’d want reports from departments. And another thing I developed and I found very useful is that in order to get my curators and veterinarians to make contact with the collection, I had a sheet made up and it was in triplicate and they would have to visit a department, one of them would have to visit a department every day, the keeper would put down the problems, and that was in triplicate, one for the staff person and one for me. So I always knew what was going on around the whole zoo. And if I found too many things on that sheet at the same time, I knew these guys weren’t doing their job.

00:41:58 - 00:42:02

And we would review these sheets in our staff meetings, so it kept the staff on their toes.

00:42:02 - 00:42:08

Bringing professional staff together to further your vision of what the zoo should be?

00:42:11 - 00:43:08

In order to bring together a good staff, I think you obviously have, if you’re worth any salt, you have to know people and you have to handle an interview properly. And I would glean a lot from an interview, an awful lot. And then the second measure of a control I had was that the person that came on board was on probation. I would have a chance, an opportunity to have our people work with that new person. So it would always be a helpful if that person had some background, obviously you could fall back on that, but that wasn’t always the case. I mean, I brought a young vet right out of Chicago. He was going through a veterinary training program at the Brookfield Zoo, and I just liked his style, I liked his commitment and he’s still there today. He’s a hardworking, sometimes cantankerous individual, but a good vet.

00:43:10 - 00:43:17

As you began to change the direction of the zoo, what hindrances occurred and from whom?

00:43:18 - 00:44:27

When I began to change the direction of zoo, some of my early problems were from interfering board members, and I had to get that eventually resolved. I had board members that would come out, they had a passion for the zoo, so they would come out and they would tell the keepers to replant that area or move the benches over here and then listen to all their complaints and then bring those complaints back into a board meeting, and I had to address them at that time. So eventually I- Again, I developed a very good relationship with a board president, and he began to resolve a lot of these problems. His name was Oliver Gail, Muff Gail, and he was well-respected in the community, a very high mover and shaker. In fact, he was the one that championed our fundraising drives and he got to the various board members that were interfering in my operation and told them hands-off. And from that time, and that helped a lot, but that was something I went through for years, and it was very difficult. You talked about space.

00:44:27 - 00:44:34

To what extent did space constraints, indoors or out, hinder your ability to plan improvements?

00:44:35 - 00:45:34

The problem with the Cincinnati Zoo obviously on very small acreage was a challenge, but it also was an opportunity. I remember I was standing in the parking lot and I remember that morning very vividly. We were contemplating a new exhibit, and I was looking up in that parking lot, looking up to the bird house, and I thought what a marvelous, orang display that would make. You know, I was in my own mind envisioning covering an area with trees, and eventually that became an area we ended up filling and became an area we called Jungle Trails, and it was, for a while it was one of the most, it was one of the best regarded displays in the United States. A submersive exhibit where you could actually interact with the animals. And it became a place where I would go into and you wouldn’t even realize- We’d planted, I think, I don’t know how many thousand trees in the area. Today when I go in there, and obviously these trees have gained size and it was an area developed as an immersive exhibit. You would walk through Africa and Asia.

00:45:34 - 00:45:57

It was to compare two jungle areas. We called it Jungle Trails and it was very effective. And we had some animals sounds piped throughout, and we had a few buildings that you couldn’t, it was a three-story building, if you can imagine, and you didn’t know it was a building. It was that well blended into the environment. So that was an experience in a natural exhibit, that one of my best experiences.

00:45:58 - 00:45:59

You talked about education?

00:45:59 - 00:46:05

What was your vision for the education element of the zoo and how did you start to develop it?

00:46:06 - 00:46:49

Well, I had a young man that I hired out of Oklahoma. In order to develop an education program, I was just thinking to myself, I hired a young man out of Oklahoma, and he was really the inspiration for me because as I observed him- I hired him as a zoologist, his name was Barry Wakeman. And as I watched Barry, he was like the Pied Piper. As he did his rounds through the zoo, he would have children following him all over. He was wonderful and instructive in working with kids. And eventually Barry became- I removed him from the zoologist position and he became our first director of education. And from there on, it exploded. He started working with the schools.

00:46:49 - 00:47:30

We got more, instead of the random, the teacher sitting in the restaurant and letting the kids wild, we got more structured programs and teachers had to actually utilize the zoo and then take that back to the classroom. School days were reformed and became very, very good things, and it gave the zoo, I think, a great deal of prestige in the community. And essentially it went on to some important funding levees, and I think it was a school. The fact that we were such an important, integral part of the Cincinnati school system, which we still are, that the public voted those funds, for those funds, to tax themselves for the zoo.

00:47:31 - 00:47:36

Has the education, the emphasis on education changed since you started?

00:47:36 - 00:47:39

Has it become lesser, more developed?

00:47:40 - 00:48:45

Since I started the zoo, obviously we had- When I started the zoo, we had no education program at all. And as we developed the program and I think the program has now continued to grow, and I just attended a lecture where David Western, who is a Kenyan is a very important conservationist that’s well known in the wildlife field emanating out of New York, David now has been working with the Cincinnati Zoo, or the Cincinnati Zoo has been working with David in Africa, and he has been doing, bringing teachers. They’ve been bringing teachers over to Africa and the teachers have been bringing back program students. So those programs have expanded now beyond our boundary fence. So I would say that the edu programs are just beginning. I mean, there’s all kinds of potential. One of the projects in our fundraising effort was a new educational facility, which has been a marvelous tool for our staff to work with. You mentioned while we were talking, you used a cheetah as part of an education program.

00:48:46 - 00:48:48

How was it received?

00:48:51 - 00:50:27

One thing that we wanted to do is bring people and animals together. We often thought that the public seeing an animal behind glass or at a distance, if we could get people and animals to have contact, at least in certain areas, it would improve the visitor’s experience. So we began to develop, rather than- In the early days in Cincinnati, we had the old Barnum kind of animal shows, you know, where chimps were riding bicycles, and they were doing handstands with the keeper and, you know, all kinds of silly things, and I eventually was able to get rid of those shows and replace them with animal demonstrations that were actually- And this is where we had a cheetah, and that cheetah would eventually- A lady by the name of Cathryn Hilker loved cats, and she began to develop a program just emanating around cats, and she would take this animal out to various schools, and began a program that the developed funding for Africa. They’ve done all kinds of marvelous things in setting cheetah areas aside in Namibia. And they’ve had great work with researchers and it’s just gone on beyond. Today, we’ve developed, we just finished a new exhibit where they actually do cheetah races, where they show the cats actually running down an artificial rabbit, and it’s marvelous, the public just loves that. But that’s getting people involved, and that’s what you have to do. A zoo without community support is not, it’s a collection of animals and in today’s world, that’s not enough.

00:50:29 - 00:50:32

You talked about the cheetah and its ability with conservation.

00:50:32 - 00:50:36

How important was conservation to the zoo and to your vision?

00:50:39 - 00:51:39

Conservation in the zoo field is a- it’s a hot word today. One day, I remember I had five staff members and I asked five staff the members to define conservation. All I was hearing was conservation, conservation. Define it for me. Well, four did and the other one didn’t, and all four were different explanations of conservation or different definitions. I believe in today’s world, we’ve got three, as I see, three major issues we have to resolve if we’re gonna deal with animal conservation at all, and they’re all critical. When I started in my profession, the human population was around two and a half billion and population biologists predicted when I retired, the human population would be around 5 billion. Well, my retirement data was closer to six, so those predictions were on target if not beyond.

00:51:40 - 00:52:31

Population biologists are now predicting by the year 2050, we’ll have a population of nine to 10 billion people straining the capabilities of this planet. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for a wild animals or wild places. So we’ve got to address that, and I don’t think any zoo has done that effectively. We’ve got to somehow reduce that population as I’ve been researching by a billion to make it more meaningful. The other problem we have is with climate change. And if we don’t get a handle on climate change and we have to do this sooner than later, because apparently as scientists are now predicting climate change is coming on us more rapidly than they had predicted. The Arctic they figure by 2050 may be devoid of ice totally.

00:52:31 - 00:52:37

Well, what does that do for polar bears and walrus and ring seals and all of these other Arctic animals?

00:52:37 - 00:53:13

Obviously it leaves them at a loss. So somehow we have to control population by at least 40%. We have to cut carbon by the year 2020. That’s half the time, or we may hit the tipping point. And when you hit the tipping point, forget it, there’s no coming back. So we have an opportunity there. And the third and most devastating is we have to somehow control world hunger. And these are daunting tasks, particularly when you think that we can’t control how many hungry children in our country, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we can’t address it here.

00:53:13 - 00:54:15

So, and we know definitely that in studies that have been done in Africa and programs that have been worked in Africa, if you can get a local community involved and somehow benefit from those national parks, as an example, those national parks will be protected. But you can’t tell somebody that’s got a hungry belly, that’s got kids that are starving to conserve, hey, let’s conserve those animals. So if we don’t start looking at the broader picture, as I feel, all our little programs are really for naught. I mean, we’ve got to somehow- And look at what the zoos have. They have a collective audience, they have a more sophisticated audience than they ever had before, a well-educated audience. If we could somehow get our messages across collectively, I think all these little individual programs that everybody has, their little favorite programs of saving the Winnie bird here and doing that, these are all well and fine, but they’re missing the big picture. And if they don’t get their handle on the big picture, we’re gonna lose it all anyway. It’s that simple.

00:54:15 - 00:54:39

And I don’t see any way out. And that’s why I’ve become perhaps a little more less optimistic than I was in my younger years. Talking about conservation, Cincinnati Zoo is famous in a way historically for having the last two species of birds that have gone extinct famously in the United States.

00:54:39 - 00:54:51

How tricky was it to preserve the historical treasures, these monuments to these animals and balance saving the heritage and developing new facilities at the zoo?

00:54:51 - 00:54:54

These were kind of monuments that might not be moved.

00:54:54 - 00:54:59

How did that work in with the whole vision you had for the zoo?

00:55:00 - 00:56:04

The Cincinnati Zoo and we can be perhaps a little closer to extinction than any other zoo, since we had two very highly visible species, the last of which died in our zoo, Martha, the last passenger pigeon, one of the most abundant of all land birds. Audubon and Wilson used to say that they’d fly over the Cincinnati Zoo and Louisville area in flocks that would last for days. Their wing beats would drown out all sound. They’d literally block out the sun, the birds were so vast. Well, the last bird died in our zoo and September 1st, 1914, followed four years later by our only endemic species of parrot, a bird that nested along the eastern United States, all the way into Florida, the Carolina parakeet. The loss of those species were from different reasons. The passenger pigeon was a marketing, hunting, you know, a meat product where they would ship barrels of these birds off to Chicago and New York, and they thought the abundance of the birds, they’d never- They tried to pass legislation. Nah, the birds will be around forever.

00:56:04 - 00:57:29

And the parakeet was because of women’s fashion. At the turn of the century or before the turn of the century, it was very popular for women to wear feathers in their hats, the millinery industry and the birds were killed off and also for the pet industry even even way back when. There’s some way that we had to do something to commemorate those species, and it came to me very sharply when we had a very famous zoo man visit our zoo, Heini Hediger who wrote two zoo man’s Bibles, I think the two Bibles, “Wild Animals in Captivity” and “The Psychology of Animals in Zoos and Circuses.” And I was very proud to have Heini in our zoo, and he came there to see some plaque or some monument of the passenger pigeon. Embarrassingly, there was nothing, not even a mention of the bird, one of the most important zoological occurrences that occurred in our country. So we had an opportunity. We’re developing a new gorilla display, and it was a series of old aviary buildings. We use them later as monkey exhibits that we’re gonna have to raise, and a gentlemen artist in my community, a gentleman by the name of John Ruthven, and he and I decided that Martha had lived in one of those buildings, Martha and the parakeet. So we decided to save one of those buildings.

00:57:29 - 00:58:10

And I think the icing on the cake was that when we began to disassemble the building, we found an original cage plaque of the Carolina parakeet. So we saved one of those buildings, we moved it and we made it a commemorative small museum that commemorates the loss of those two birds. We have some artifacts in there. We have some original nets that they used to net the pigeons and some of the original guns that were used and an explanation and very stark warning that this could continue. And unfortunately, certainly it has, extinction. Since I left Chicago, I’ve Anglo-Saxonized that. Maruska. Maruska.

00:58:10 - 00:59:29

Maruska. Okay, we are all set. Tell me how important science and research was to your vision and generally to zoos in the United States or around the world. I think what zoos do best is to, and what their real purpose and passion, I mean their immediate purpose and passion is that they keep and breed and manage wild animals. They do that very well, but that has to be linked to a broader purpose. That has to come in tandem with the broader picture of global problems and climate, that has to be looked at in terms of the propagation of animals, excelling propagation, particularly in very rare species, a good example being the Sumatran rhino, which is one of the rarest mammals on earth, and an animal that hasn’t got a very bright future. So those are areas that I felt the Cincinnati Zoo needed to begin to develop and widen its scope. And we had a young lady that joined our staff, or she was going to school and would frequent the zoo.

00:59:29 - 01:00:30

Her name was Betsy Dresser. Eventually she got her PhD and she was a reproductive physiologist, and she badly wanted to work in zoos and she badly wanted to work in the Cincinnati Zoo. And she thought there would be great application for reproductive science in zoo animals, that we could accelerate the reproduction of endangered species. So I took a gamble on Betsy, I hired her and she worked out of a little broom closet, I remember, at the old animal hospital. It was a tiny little room and she started to do some remarkable things. And eventually she was able to glean some great community support. A couple of board members thought what she was doing was very impressive and they wrapped their arms around the project, and then we got a very wealthy person in Cincinnati, a gentleman by the name of Carl Lindner. And Carl was able to understand the purpose and understand its importance, and he devoted a sizable amount of money for a new research facility, the lead gift.

01:00:30 - 01:01:25

So we developed a Carl H. Lindner, it’s called CREW, the Center for the Reproduction of Endangered Wildlife. And Betsy was our first director of research. And the first remarkable thing she did was she took- It was the first time it had ever been done, where one species was the mother of another species. And we sent her to New York, oh, I don’t remember if it was New York or Chicago. I don’t remember at the time. It probably was New York, ’cause I don’t remember Chicago having bongo at that time, but they were able to superovulate some bongo, and she had some bongo embryos which he placed under her armpits on the way home in the plane, she had them taped to her armpits to keep them at the right temperature in a specific medium. And at home, we had some common eland superovulated and ready to go. When she hit the ground, we drove her to the zoo and we implanted those eland.

01:01:26 - 01:02:12

One eland got pregnant and developed, one species giving birth to another, it was the first time it was ever done, and it hit the front pages all over the world. And we’ve been able, as time goes on, we’ve been able to really increase our role in that science. And I think the most important probably that’s worth discussing is the Sumatran rhino. I was part of a group, Sumatran Rhino Trust. We brought in a number of Sumatran- Not enough, they had promised us a larger number of animals, but a small core of animal to work with. This was the most difficult animal species I’ve ever worked with in my life. They were difficult in terms of husbandry, diet, and whenever you try to- The Sumatran rhino is a deep forest animal. It’s probably a solitary animal.

01:02:12 - 01:03:15

Whenever you try to put the male and female together, they would about kill each other. And I tried to get Betsy involved in doing more research on it. I thought if you could time the estrus of the rhino, perhaps putting them together at that time, it would be at least they wouldn’t kill each other. Usually when we put the animals together, we would have to be patching animals up and sewing up wounds, and animals were injured in different ways, so it was a risky proposition. Then I hired a young researcher that was interested, and when Betsy left the zoo, she went on to New Orleans to work at the Audobon Park Zoo. They developed a larger facility, reproductive research facility and invited her to become the director and she accepted the position, and I certainly couldn’t blame her. It was a lot more money and it was more prestige. But I hired a young researcher out of the National Zoo, Dr. Terri Roth, and Terri was interested in rhino, and she began a program of developing methods of determining the estrus period.

01:03:15 - 01:04:18

And when we did it, we put those rhinos together and there was no fighting, just love and a lot of love, and that produced the first captive- I think it was probably, in my own mind, they say that there was an animal born in 1888 in Calcutta, but I think that might’ve come from a pregnant animal, an animal that was impregnated in the wild rather than bred in captivity, although they claimed it in Calcutta as a captive birth. But I think our animal probably was the first Sumatran rhino born in captivity, which was again, a real global event and an important one. But the unfortunate thing is there are so few animals, so few rhinos to work with and developing this technology has been hard to replicate in other animals. We’re talking about these Sumatran rhino, and I just was gonna say to you, you obviously put a lot of money into this- (man sneezes) Gesundheit. Thanks. That’s better. You obviously put a lot of money into this project. I mean, this was a big commitment on your part.

01:04:18 - 01:04:24

Did you have to sell this to the people who were helping you with the funding or not?

01:04:24 - 01:05:40

The way I was able to fund the Sumatran rhino project is, a number of years ago, and it didn’t, it took the board a few years to catch on to me in this area, but they eventually caught me. I said that I would not expect any money for the purchase of animals, but any animal that was sold, money went into an animal purchase fund. Well, of course, lo and behold, we developed some white tigers from the National Zoo and those animals were commanding and were in demand, it because they were great at the gate. They turned the turnstiles in our zoo, especially, and then others who saw that. So I was able to sell a number of white tigers, and those monies, which were consideRabble amount of money, went into a fund and that fund couldn’t touched for any other purpose. And that’s how we were able to get engaged in- You know, with the larger zoos, like New York and Los Angeles and San Diego, we were able to join them. I could not have done it by taking it out of a normal budget process. So it was money that was salted away from animals that were- And other animals that we were, we were very successful in Cincinnati in breeding.

01:05:40 - 01:05:55

And at that time, early on animals were sold rather than given away as they are today. So that’s the way we funded that program. You had the vision of changing the exhibits.

01:05:55 - 01:06:00

What did you want to do with exhibitry and how did it change over your time as director?

01:06:07 - 01:06:48

The Cincinnati Zoo, obviously we stepped into an old zoo and it was very popular in zoos to theme their parks. Not only their parks, but their exhibits. They would do an African area in the zoo or an Asian area. This was very difficult in Cincinnati. So I chose something. I mean, the whole world thrust at that time was in the preservation of diversity. So my theme for the Cincinnati Zoo became one of diversity. And we would portray for a community, an urban community, the diversity of life on this planet.

01:06:48 - 01:07:54

And somehow we would, and we never got to that point, but I always wanted to tie the diversity of man into those projects, that that was important as well, and something to be respected. And little by little, we keyed certain areas to certain groups of animals. A good example was the invertebrates. When you look at the world number, the vast number of invertebrates, they certainly outweigh any of the vertebrates. I mean, in mass, in terms of numbers and also diversity, and they weren’t being well-represented in zoos. And one day I visited Lincoln Park and I saw a display that Mark Rosenthal had just completed and really fascinating, it was an inspiration. He installed the leaf cutting ant, an atta display, and I was just particularly fascinated, because those animals were working constantly, it was motion. And one thing about a zoo exhibit that’s popular with the public is when something’s moving, rather than a big old lion sleeping in the corner.

01:07:54 - 01:08:47

If you can keep animals active, obviously they’re better exhibits and are better information for the public. So I went back home and, little by little, I began to experiment. We kept small groups behind the reptile house. We kept small groups of insects and local insects because there were very strict US Department of Agriculture regulations against the importation of exotics, and you can understand why. We have a multi-million dollar agricultural industry that we had to be concerned about, and we well understood that. But eventually we got a little more confident and I kept meeting with agriculture and fish, inviting them in every step of the way of what we were doing, and I think this was very important to educate them and make them feel comfortable at what we were doing. And they were talking about exotics escaping, and we always continued to point out that was never from a zoo. Zoos have not been responsible for the introduction of exotics.

01:08:47 - 01:09:16

It’s been private people or researchers. I mean, we were very competent people and we know what we’re doing in those areas. We don’t want our animals running all over the place. So they got more and more confident with us, and they started allowing me to bring in exotics, but males only. Males one year and females- But we learned, we had to start from the ground up. We had to learn how to keep these animals. I remember I had such terrible, terrible problems. One time we had something hit our colonies, it wiped out everything we had.

01:09:16 - 01:09:23

And I’m thinking to myself during the summer, if you want to operate an insect building, all you have to do is open the windows.

01:09:23 - 01:09:28

But winter time, what are you gonna do if something like that happens and you got a major exhibit in the winter?

01:09:28 - 01:10:12

And we started looking around for people that could work with insects, and the only people we could find were people that were working, that were in college that were working in etymological departments, but their whole design was to kill insects. They would rear them, but to kill them. So eventually we found a couple of guys that were really good. They had a lot of sensitivity and they would- In fact, I’ll relate a story. This is something that while I’m thinking of it, I have to share with you. We had a gentleman, our entomologist was named, his name was Mylon Bushing. And he had a wonderful passion for all these small creatures he was working with. And one day I came into the insect building- This is getting ahead of myself, but we’ll get back to the insect building.

01:10:12 - 01:10:44

And he had a mouse taped, a taped up mouse to a board, and there was a 100 mosquitoes feeding off the, he had shaved the mouse’s belly and a 100 mosquitoes feeding off that mouse. I ran in there, I said, Mylon, you can’t do that. The public will be on my back. You know, I’ll be accused of cruel- He says, but I’m afraid if I let the mouse loose, it would hurt the mosquitoes. So here’s where your values lie. And another time, he came into a staff meeting one time and he was holding his hand like this.

01:10:44 - 01:10:46

And I said, what you got there?

01:10:46 - 01:10:47

He mentioned some sort of beetle.

01:10:47 - 01:10:49

And I says, how is it?

01:10:49 - 01:11:49

He says marginal. He was nursing this beetle on his hand. He was a wonderful man. And they ended- Between Mylon and Randy- Well, getting back, we began to get more and more comfortable. So I approached two ladies from the Crosley- they were sisters of Powel Crosley. Crosley was a very famous name in Cincinnati. They operated the TV network, and they had a lot of appliances, built radios and all kinds of kitchen appliances, so they were a very wealthy family, and Powel died, and he was owner of the Cincinnati Reds, but his sisters were still alive, and I had collected insects when I was a kid in Chicago and I had a preserved insect collection and a lot of beautiful butterflies and I brought them in. They were looking for something to dedicate to Powel, and I convinced them over a period of time, it wasn’t easy, that an insect building might be a unique way of, in memory Powel.

01:11:51 - 01:12:38

So they agreed and they gave me $250,000 to build this exhibit. Well, the more we got into the exhibit, the more exciting we got into it. I kept going back to the board and stretching it and stretching it and getting money from here and there. Eventually we spent $1,100,000 on the building, and I’m glad we did what we did, because if we’d had done it any smaller, and one of the challenges of displaying insects, you’ve got a small animal. And I found immediately the way to display them was in large numbers. So if you’ve got a cage crawling with emerald beetles, it’s gonna be very fascinating. If you’ve got one beetle in a cage, ah-ah. And our guys were very good, because the one thing I- There were few zoos that had insect exhibits, you know, small, like I think Brookfield even maintained- But you always see something that was either dead or dying, one animal.

01:12:38 - 01:13:20

And that was something- You might as well have a dead antelope in a cage, I felt, as trying display a dead insect, but these guys were fantastic. And we developed a strong theme in that building, and it was the theme of diversity and how important insects were to our very survival, that we wouldn’t survive as a species if it wasn’t for insects. It became the most popular display we ever- We’ve opened it in 1978, and we had National Geographic. We had visitors from Germany, Paris, France. There were all kinds of people filming there. It became really, a very worldwide popular thing. And then it was emulated all over. We developed one of the early walkthrough butterfly areas.

01:13:20 - 01:14:03

And everybody said it wouldn’t work, that the animals wouldn’t react or people would damage the animals, you know, kids, but it worked beautifully. We used heliconius and the difference between heliconius, in our situation, it’s a forest butterfly and it focuses on the ground or on its surroundings. It’s not light oriented. We tried some of our native butterflies and they just flew to the skylight and were desiccated in a matter of days. So it took some- We had to really reinvent the wheel in this case, or invent the wheel, because we had to develop diets, and reproduction wasn’t always easy. There was periods of diapause necessary. But our guys eventually got it down to a science.

01:14:06 - 01:14:18

In the learning part of the job, what professionals either zoo or aquarium or otherwise did you respect and learn from, and who had the most influence on you?

01:14:22 - 01:15:24

When I think about my zoo career and who had the most influence, I think there were probably two gentlemen that I was enamored with and respected. They were both different, they were like two sides of a coin. One was Marlin because he was very forthright and he did manage to project the zoo out to the community and get the kind of community support. In fact, I think what Marlin did benefited all zoos. And I think Dr. Charles Schroeder, Charlie, because he was so well-organized and I learned organization under Charlie, and if you’re not organized, you’re not gonna go anywhere in a business as complex as the zoo business. So those were two gentlemen. Obviously there were a lot of, in my career, there were a lot of curators and people that I’ve developed friendships with. I learned a lot from a lot of people.

01:15:24 - 01:15:37

It’s hard to pinpoint any one. Those two individuals in the broad sense, but I learned a lot from almost everybody I knew in the field. You learn what you want to learn. You’ve met a lot of people as director. Yes.

01:15:38 - 01:15:40

Who made the biggest impression on you?

01:15:40 - 01:15:45

Were there famous people that made the biggest impression or scientists or ordinary people?

01:15:47 - 01:16:57

The people that most impressed me in the zoo field, in the zoo field were some of the Europeans, because again, they were- Dr. Dotty from Berlin I was impressed with. He was a very powerful individual. He ran a large organization and he ended up a very good friend of mine until he passed away a few years ago. And if I can reflect, there were gentlemen in the research field that I got to know, and then I became very interested in, as an aside, and I developed a lot of friendships. One of my dreams at one time was to develop an amphibian display at the zoo, and I could never glean to support or gather to support to accomplish that. But amphibians have been a sadly- This was about 20 years ago, had been a sadly neglected group in zoos. They’re either relegated to a small exhibit in a reptile house, a frog here and there. There was nothing known.

01:16:57 - 01:18:10

It was like insects, there was no challenge. There was nothing known about the husbandry. On top of my zoo directorship, I had a little area in a little corner in the zoo that I was doing amphibian husbandry research and keeping various species, and eventually was successful in breeding some, which was remarkable, like the Texas blind salamander. This was the first time the eggs or larvae had ever been seen in this particular species, ’cause it was a cave species on the Edwards Plateau and one that’s considered endangered. And we bred some of the plethodons for the first time, and it was a challenge and I kept good notes and wrote a few papers. So I got to know some of David Wake and I got to know a lot of people in the professional field in the amphibian area. Dr. Rabb was interested, George Rabb was interested in what I was doing, and then obviously there are people in, one person that always impressed me is a gentleman I met earlier from Procter and Gamble, Dr. Oliver Gail. He was a strong supporter of mine, and together we worked very well.

01:18:10 - 01:18:23

During his reign as president, I think we accomplished more in the zoo than I had ever accomplished in my remainder or prior to that, because it was just a good combination, good chemistry.

01:18:25 - 01:18:28

What was your relationship with other zoos and their directors?

01:18:30 - 01:18:32

What do you feel that relationship should be?

01:18:35 - 01:19:28

I think there’s always going to be a little bit of competition, which is not a bad thing. I think it’s a good thing between zoological parks. Today I think a good thing that’s come out of the zoo field that I see a massive change in is the ability to cooperate and share knowledge. That wasn’t always the case. In my early years, if a zoo director or his staff, if they were involved in the breeding or maintaining of a rare species, they didn’t want to share that information, because they had it and they were the only ones that wanted to keep this animal. It was their thing, but that has changed dramatically and it’s necessary. My God, we’re all after the same thing, and we’re losing species at an alarming rate and we continue to lose them. And if we didn’t cooperate, shame on us.

01:19:30 - 01:19:34

What was your first big development for Cincinnati Zoo?

01:19:35 - 01:19:35

The first biggie?

01:19:37 - 01:20:30

My first major exhibit, the first major exhibit I developed at the zoo was a flight cage, a free flight for birds of prey, bird of prey flight cage. It was 70 feet tall, 60 feet wide, and 160 feet long. It was built on a hillside. And eventually that cage, that display, we were able to reproduce bald eagles. And at that time there were only a few pairs of bald eagles, because of the use of DDT and transforming to DDE, which produced thin-shelled eggs for bald eagles. Wouldn’t support the bird’s weight. Bald eagle had virtually disappeared from Ohio. There were a few nesting pairs, so we are reproducing bald eagles, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources would come take the chicks out and were replacing them in nests through the community throughout the Ohio area.

01:20:30 - 01:20:44

So that was a valuable part. Later we bred the first Steller’s eagles in that exhibit that were ever bred in the United States. And we continue to breed Steller’s, which is again, a very rare, one of the most magnificent of all the sea eagles.

01:20:46 - 01:20:56

Can you describe visitor services at the Cincinnati zoo when you first came there and how did it change over a period of time, and what were the changes you started to initiate?

01:20:59 - 01:22:01

When I first started, they didn’t think very much of visitors. Visitors were kind of a drag. They would dirty up the grounds and they were a necessary evil. And I was able to over a period of time to convince them that, particularly the junior staff, that because of these visitors, they were able to obtain raises, and this was very important for our continuing existence and little by little, we got them attuned to the fact that visitors are extremely important to our very survival and our reason for being essentially. Without visitors, we don’t have a zoo. That’s how we’re able to do our education, that’s how we’re able to do our conservation programs. It’s turning the turnstiles, because we don’t get a lot of support. We eventually were able to glean, and I think this out, we were able to get a levy passed for the zoo, or I think it brought us in $15 million over a period of, I don’t remember if it was a period of five years.

01:22:01 - 01:22:35

They’ve increased that since, but it was a county wide levy and that had helped the zoo tremendously and taking the edge off of worrying about people at the gate. And, you know, I remember as an example, a zoo director, when you depend on only gate, we had a period where 13 weeks of rain, rainy weekends, and I didn’t know how I was gonna make payroll. So you gotta have a little, you gotta have a mix of funds. You gotta have some community funding as well as private, otherwise it makes it extremely tenable and difficult.

01:22:36 - 01:22:45

During your career, what do you consider to be some of the major events that affected zoos in general and obviously affected Cincinnati?

01:22:48 - 01:23:52

When I started in the business, I guess I can almost say I lived through the golden era of zoos. The AZA was a small organization. The AZAP was a small organization of zoo directors and a few staff people, and we would get around and talk about animal problems and diets, et cetera, et cetera, and the camaraderie was fantastic. There wasn’t the concern at that time of endangered species. We didn’t have the problems, we didn’t have very many regulations. Today zoos are probably have more regula- The only thing that has more regulations than the zoological field is today’s banking. I mean, we’re heavily regulated by many different departments of the government, plus within those departments, there are many regulations. So we have a plethora of regulatory agencies that overshadow us and it makes life much more difficult.

01:23:52 - 01:24:38

The complexity of zoos today, I think, has really changed dramatically partially because of, of the times. The fact that today we’re losing our wildlife. Zoos were, for a while, were threatened by animal rights organizations that they weren’t pulling their weight. They should be doing more than just keeping animals and rightly so. So today I think we’re seeing a more well balanced organization and it makes life for a director far more complex than my early years. Well, even in my latter years, it became far more complex, more dramatic than- The early years were more fun.

01:24:38 - 01:24:41

Did you have to deal with animal rights groups in Cincinnati?

01:24:41 - 01:25:58

At Cincinnati we’re very fortunate. We had no problem- No matter what problems we might’ve had in keeper force or unions, nobody could ever say we were cruel to our, and as I stated earlier, the collection was always paramount in my- We took care of our collection before and anything else. So that was not a problem. Where I faced a problem was, when I retired, about a year after I retired, I became the interim director of the Los Angeles Zoo. So I was there for, oh, I took the assignment from the mayor for three months and I ended up spending 13 months, and there they have a major, major animal rights problem. You know, Bob Barker and the whole- You know, there’s just- You’d resolve one problem, and they’d come up with four more. So my way of dealing with that was to bring in the animal rights people, we would have an animal, kind of a management session, but we’d include animal rights people in that. And it was specifically to deal with their problems that were brought to their attention, and often the keepers would use this as a platform obviously to share their grievances at times, which is unfair.

01:25:58 - 01:26:42

Although, I must say in LA, there were a lot of concerned keepers. I had a marvelous keeper staff in LA. I really enjoyed working there. That was an entirely different experience in my lifetime. It was working for a public institution that had society support. The problem was the society and the city people didn’t speak to each other and that’s not the way you raise money. So I was able to get them working together, and I think, as I understand, they’re still working closely even today many years later. I remember Gretchen Wyler, she was a Broadway actress and she would march across the front of my desk.

01:26:42 - 01:27:02

You’d think she was on Broadway. Her eyes would roll back in her head and she would be going through all these problems. So we had to address them. And there were times I dug in my heels and what they were asking was ridiculous, so they would walk around the parking lot, hanging me in effigy. They had Ed Maruska on a pole.

01:27:03 - 01:27:08

I was gonna say, what were your most frustrating times as director in Cincinnati, but also in Los Angeles?

01:27:08 - 01:27:11

Did you have frustrating times in Cincinnati?

01:27:14 - 01:27:44

Some areas of difficulty in Cincinnati, I had a terrible accident occur in the zoo. I had a young lady, she was my daughter’s best friend, Laurie Stober. They stood up at each other’s wedding. She was coming in my house probably for 20 some years, in and out of my house. And she loved animals. I remember as a little girl, she’d be dragging a stuffed bunny down the street.

01:27:44 - 01:27:45

What you got there?

01:27:45 - 01:28:19

My bunny, you know, so. I says, well, you’re dragging it, Lauren. She said it won’t hurt him. But she was a cute kid. And eventually she begged me, and I eventually, I hired her at the zoo as a keeper. So she became a keeper in the bear area. So one day I got a call, an alarming call that there was an accident at the bear area. Came in there and Lauri was on the ground and a polar bear had taken her arm beyond her elbow and had devoured it inch by inch.

01:28:20 - 01:28:54

And it became a very trying time for me, because a lot of mistruths. You know, when it becomes, it became sort of a legal battle when they were vying for money, and it was a bad time. It was not a time that I enjoyed picking up a newspaper, but I survived it. I’m surprised I survived it, but I did. But it was trying because it was a person that was close to our family, and you just couldn’t imagine the trauma that caused.

01:28:56 - 01:29:02

Were there safety things that were initiated after that, that somehow enforced better things in your mind?

01:29:02 - 01:30:23

Well, OSHA came in and- But see, it was a really- We had a manual and our curator would read the manual to new keepers and it obviously had all the nuts and bolts and you don’t go near bears, cats, tigers, you know, you stay so many feet away from the bars, and the bars were two inches on center, and the way lawyers worked it, it was a fact that she didn’t sign the manual, so therefore she didn’t get the manual. And then they claimed, they brought in an expert from California. I mean, from London, who said that the bear skull is malleable and it can come through two inch bars, grab her and then come back out. And we had no way. I mean, the jury was, was these were experts. So I remember I had Jim Dolan from San Diego and Jim Doherty and it didn’t help. There was a lot of sympathy for, and I can understand that there was a lot of public- For example, they didn’t take sanctions against, I mean, there was a lawsuit and they won the lawsuit, but they didn’t take a punitive action against the zoo, the jury, which they could have if they thought we were in the wrong, but they didn’t. But it was just was one of the most trying times of my zoo life, my career.

01:30:24 - 01:30:34

On another level, you developed, talking education, you developed a docent volunteer program, or was that in place before you came to the zoo?

01:30:34 - 01:31:24

No, that was, it was started by- I remember I had like 1200 volunteers involved in the zoo at one point. It was started in my administration and it was people that were always around. It was probably one of the early docent programs. And again, we had some interesting- First at the zoo, we had one of the first, other than maybe one of the first travel programs, other than Marlin. Marlin started it, but we carried it on and did it bigger and better at Cincinnati, we expanded it. We had one of the first docent programs, some of the early education programs. So we were pioneers in some areas that today have expanded into all zoos worldwide, at least in some areas. So the docent program was developed under my administration, and it became a very powerful element in our success.

01:31:25 - 01:31:56

We couldn’t have afforded to do on a small budget. We had a relatively small, we got a lot of bang for our buck in Cincinnati, we had to. For a relatively small budget, we were able to do a lot of things, and it’s only because of the volunteer help that we had. Give me an example of their significance. Well, they ran for a while, they ran our gift shops. We had a complete docent-based gift shop operation. They were a very important element. We couldn’t have expanded our education programs without them.

01:31:59 - 01:32:34

I’m trying to think of other areas. Oh, we had them out in the park. They were liaisons between the collection and the visitors. We had docent training programs. They would take animals, they’d get outside of the border fence to the schools. In fact, we ended up hiring eventually a director of docents, a volunteer coordinator. The zoo utilized or had access to 100 acre farm in 1982.

01:32:35 - 01:32:36

Was that something you initiated?

01:32:37 - 01:33:32

We had access to a- It was a serendipity, had access to 180 acre farm just outside of Cincinnati in another county. And it was the Mass family, Mr. and Mrs. Mass loved the zoo and their daughter Blanche was given- They gave their property to the zoo and their daughter Blanche was given life- She could stay in the house for the rest of her life. It was a house on the property and we could utilize the rest for whatever we wanted to do with it. So we developed it. I thought it’d make a nice breeding farm and where we could expand. We want to do some crane breeding and we needed more acreage, we wanted to work with cheetah. We needed some area for that. And we developed- We had some areas for hoof stock as well.

01:33:33 - 01:34:10

And it worked very well. I don’t know, today I really am not familiar whether they’re utilizing- Oh, yes, they are, because they’re breeding cheetah out there on a regular basis right now. So it’s still in- Yes, it’s still working. We also had a larger property that was donated in Mason, and I think it may be closer to 500. The zoo still may retain title to that, about 500 acres. The smaller property was nice because it was hilly and forested, it had streams. The Mason property was not conducive to, in my opinion, to developing a zoo. It was just flat.

01:34:11 - 01:34:40

We often talked about, you know, whether we should move the zoo. And we had a lot of discussions and my contention was unless you can come up with the hundreds of millions of dollars, you know, that this plant is probably valued at, it’d be senseless to move it. You had talked a little earlier about the food and home show. Yeah. Kind of its evolution and so forth. There was also a summer opera at the zoo.

01:34:42 - 01:34:45

A question about did it help attendance?

01:34:45 - 01:34:49

And in the way the zoo changed, why weren’t these events appropriate?

01:34:51 - 01:35:51

We had a lot, as I explained in some conversations earlier, we had a lot of events at the zoo that were non-zoo related. Or the earlier boards even before my time used to build attendance. And unfortunately, early on, often at the expense of the collection, because the collection was pushed on us- For example, a food and home show would take all the energies of the board of directors. The whole year they would expend for that two weeks and everything else kind of fell apart around them. And when I pointed out the amount of damage that it left on the property, they would- We were able to finally abandon it. And I got rid of the rides in the zoo by simply converting it to animal rides. At that time we used elephant and camel rides to replace it, to replace the revenue. That’s the only way I could justify in eliminating the circus atmosphere.

01:35:51 - 01:36:48

But we had a facility that I was very proud of. We had an affinity with Grand Opera for oh, I think it was probably back into the 30s. The only bad thing about the opera was it was in a big old building that dominated, it was right in the center of the zoo, but opera was kinda neat, it added a lot of sophistication. First of all, it brought in a whole new gamut of people into the zoo. It was in the evening when the zoo was already closed, so it wasn’t impacting any operating of the zoo. Other than the building itself, it was not impacting our daytime operation, but we got great publicity. I remember Beverly Sills- She just cracked up on- Apparently she just hit this crescendo, and all of a sudden a sea lion would bark or peacocks would start- (laughing) She was on one of Johnny Carson shorts or something. She just started rolling on the floor, and that was kind of a fun place.

01:36:48 - 01:37:53

Oh, and one of my first duties at the zoo, when I came in on as general curator, Bill Hoff, he hadn’t introduced me to the group yet, and he said Ed, Ralph Corbett will give us $5,000 if we can walk a cheetah across the stage in the opera Aida, you know, where they had the grand procession. So he gave me a cheetah to break. So I would work in the evening with the animal and lo and behold, the animal escapes. And I saw this budding young career just go right down the tube. And all I saw was a cat racing across the zoo, and it was in the evening, the was zoo was empty and I’m racing after it, I could visualize the animal running out on the street. “New Employee Lets Wild Cat Loose in the City.” So my heart’s pounding, and I just, at that time, we had railing around the reptile house and I ran up over the hill, and there’s the cheetah sitting there with the chain wrapped around the thing. So I didn’t tell that story till many years later. Now, hey.

01:37:55 - 01:38:44

But the opera was a grand thing for the zoo, and the only reason we lost the opera, Ralph Corbett, who was a benefactor of the opera, provided the money to redo Music Hall and that’s when we really began our rebuilding program, ’cause we could get rid of this big- It was a hideous structure. I would’ve liked to have even seen the opera company build a new building on the periphery of the zoo, because it brought in a sophisticated group of people that often became benefactors. They’d leave us in their will, and so it was a good thing. That was a extracurricular activity that proved to be a solid activity for the zoo. Very unusual for- Very unusual. And we had world acclaim. In 1999, you hosted the seventh world conference on breeding endangered species.

01:38:45 - 01:38:48

Did it meet your expectations?

01:38:49 - 01:38:52

Why was it important for Cincinnati to host it?

01:38:52 - 01:40:15

When we hosted the conference, the 1999 conference for the preservation of endangered species or the captive breeding of dangerous species, it was extremely important for our zoo because we were doing great things, but it wasn’t known out there. It really hadn’t percolated to the zoo community things that were happening in Cincinnati. And we thought that by hosting this, and this is when we just opened our new research center. We had a lot to work in that area, and by bringing in scientists and researchers from around the world, it would have greatly to the knowledge of breeding rare species and how these various countries are cooperating, even some of the things that of- The husbandry that has been developed in the zoo industry now is being used by wildlife communities all over the world. That’s a strong benefit. I was in Tasmania and they’re breeding certain species of parrots for reintroduction that are endangered and captive breeding going on here and there, and those are all husbandry developments, I mean all husbandry techniques that were developed in our field. So that’s a again a plus, but it was nice in my mind to get all these groups together, to share that knowledge, and it worked out very well. It was beyond my fondest expectations and we published the proceedings from that.

01:40:15 - 01:40:18

And I think a few years later, we may have hosted another one.

01:40:20 - 01:40:25

Can you talk about the concept of a frozen zoo and the plant conservation project?

01:40:32 - 01:41:38

Dr. Dresser, one of the areas that she began to develop interests was what Kurt Benirschke was doing in San Diego. It really started in San Diego, the idea of the frozen zoo. Benirschke I think perhaps was doing it more with tissue, animal tissue and Oli Ryder, and Betsy thought of reproductive gametes and fertilized ova being kept in preservation as a bank for more difficult times. So she developed the concept of the frozen zoo and that has gone on under Terri’s belt as well. So, and in fact, they’ve got a lot of Sumatran rhino material in there, and unfortunately, it doesn’t look good for the Sumatran rhino as a species. It’s losing ground rapidly. And well, there was also an area that very few people were working with, and we thought that might be a nice thing to round on. That was plant conservation, that was my idea.

01:41:38 - 01:42:02

I thought we should be developing methods of saving endangered plants as well, and Betsy liked that idea, and she hired a young botanical researcher, Valerie Pence, and Valerie’s still at the zoo and doing some fantastic things with culturing media and freezing and et cetera, that is gonna prove very beneficial for many plant species.

01:42:02 - 01:42:10

How did you develop your relationship with the zoo society that was a major part of the Cincinnati Zoo?

01:42:10 - 01:42:11

And did it change over the years?

01:42:11 - 01:43:57

You indicated there were some golden times. We always had a zoological society, and we received, as I stated, we received probably very little and some years nothing and other times, very little from the city, and working for a society, it presents its own challenges because a society that totally has the governing authority over the place you work, there’s no checks, no balances. There were times when there was some difficulties with board members, infringements on the way we managed the zoo in terms of bidding processes and things like that that we had to contend with and eventually worked through. When Mr. Gail came on board, of course, all of that changed, and he got the job, the society operating at maximum efficiency and cleaned up all the problems that we were facing in the past. So from there on it worked very- The society is, it’s a wonderful- In fact, people clamor to get on that board. It’s well-respected. It’s a high profile board in the city, and they have fiduciary responsibility and they really keep your feet to the fire. I mean, the directors got to produce and keep on target with a budget, produce the revenue and keep on target in the budgeting process.

01:43:58 - 01:44:04

After a few years, did the glamor wear off or was the glamor still there being the zoo director?

01:44:06 - 01:45:03

(Ed laughs) After a few years, the glamor, there were some years that the glamor- A zoo director has to be jack of all trades to be master of one. You have your hat in many different arenas, at least in our zoo because of the society, the original society, and then later on, once the county moved in and it created a lot of other problems, we had a different kind of bookkeeping. I could travel, in the early days, I could travel with my wife. When the county took over, that was a no-no. In fact, there were lots of difficulties that you had to balance out, but eventually these things worked through. I think that the job always had an element of glamor though. It’s a passion, it’s a way of life. It’s in your blood.

01:45:03 - 01:45:47

It’s been in my blood. My father had interest in animals. My uncle in Europe in Czechoslovakia kept birds, so maybe it’s something in the blood, I don’t know, but it seemed like an inherited passion, ’cause I’ve always known what I wanted to be from a little guy on. Sometimes I went about it the wrong, getting there the wrong way, but eventually I got there. So it was a rewarding profession. I enjoyed every bit, even the bad days. There was never a day, I can’t remember a day in my life that I woke up and didn’t want to go to work, and that says a lot. There’s a lot of people that drag theirself out of bed every day and force theirself to their employment, and I’d never had that.

01:45:48 - 01:45:55

The labor of love. There was a main, the AA, American Zoo Association.

01:45:56 - 01:45:59

Were you part of that evolution when it broke away?

01:45:59 - 01:46:00


01:46:00 - 01:46:02

Can you tell me something about?

01:46:02 - 01:46:05

Were people in favor of it, not in favor of it?

01:46:05 - 01:47:03

Like whenever there’s a major change in a organization, when we were part of the American Zoos and Parks, we were part of a larger organization, we were a small element and obviously were a lot of people in our business. I was a youngster at that time coming into the business, but some of the older guys were definitely not interested in being a part of a grander thing and thought we were significant enough that we should have our own organization. In other words, there were so many things about zoo work that were different than parks, you know, that had different requirements than just being plunked in as a park. So eventually there was a breakaway. Not all were in favor of it. I remember there were a number of early, or some of the older directors that were actually frightened of the idea of us going off on our own, but we had what they called at that time, the young Turks and they were the rebels.

01:47:03 - 01:47:04

You were a young Turk?

01:47:04 - 01:47:17

Well, I was- I just really- I don’t think I had that much to contribute. I just was coming into the business at that time, so I was rather young, a young Turk, yes, but a very, very young one learning.

01:47:17 - 01:47:20

Did you serve, have a role in AZA, AAZPA?

01:47:22 - 01:47:37

When I was in a member of AAZPA, I did not participate. Later on in the AZA, I was elected to the board of directors and eventually served as president in ’78, ’79, as president of the organization.

01:47:39 - 01:47:41

What were the strengths and weaknesses of AZA?

01:47:44 - 01:49:45

Well, on a personal note, I think one of the strengths of AZA is the fact that you’re collecting together a group of like individuals and you’re sharing information, you’re sharing problem solving, you’re sharing legislative elements that need need a larger voice in order to be effective. Some of the weaknesses of AZA, I think there’s a tendency by at least some members, they want to run the zoo business and they’re really, they want to take the management aspects away from the people that are hired. I realize that’s a difficult situation because some areas, if a director is responsible or irresponsible, it can reflect on the whole organization, so there’s that delicate balance. But I think there- You still have to depend on reliable people, people that have been hired to do a job and let them do their job and let the organization be the blanket, so to speak, to protect them from the outside world and work in concert, because there are people that want to destroy us and we know that. There are still elements in society that don’t like zoos and zoos are extremely, as we have proven time and time again, they’re important in many ways. And on personal note, I feel they can be even more important considering their constituency, the people, the wonderful, wonderful crowds that we gather globally. I don’t know what the figures are, but in one time, I remember in my younger days, we were outgrowing the three major sports combined in terms of attendance. And so we’re popular organizations.

01:49:45 - 01:49:50

Now, how do we collectively use that power?

01:49:50 - 01:49:54

That’s the trick, and that’s where AZA can play an important role.

01:49:54 - 01:49:57

What do you think, how can they, how can zoos do that?

01:50:02 - 01:50:59

As much as I, I don’t like to manage by committee, I think there’s an area where we really should get some of the sound minds in this organization, define the problems globally and see how we can- We’re certainly not alone gonna solve them, but how we can play our part. And I think a lot of the zoos today are doing that. They’re taking on the green movement. The Cincinnati Zoo is a perfect example. We’ve got our energy down. I mean, we’re actually being an example to our community. We’ve got our energy, we’re solving- We’ve got our parking lot have, our powering, they’ve got a new system that they put in. It’s sun shields and it’s developing power and parked cars parked underneath it, and it’s solving a great part of our energy problems.

01:51:01 - 01:51:10

A lot of our buildings are green buildings. Now they’re renting all kinds of- They’re designed with energy saving in mind, so they’re doing marvelous things in our zoo in terms of energy.

01:51:10 - 01:51:14

But now how do you combine all of that and present that to the public?

01:51:14 - 01:51:21

That’s one way, and the other is how do you deal with- you know what the real crux of it is?

01:51:21 - 01:51:22


01:51:25 - 01:51:43

Again, how do we make that a cohesive- Take that group and work on ways to develop voting for the proper people, or I mean, the why of why you want to vote in a certain direction?

01:51:43 - 01:52:55

Because the power is in the vote, and we don’t have it right now. We’re kind of scrambled out there. I don’t know if I’m, in my own sense, I don’t know if I’m phrasing properly the way I’m- I gotta maybe rethink that for a moment, but if we can gather- And a cohesive visitor group, no, I’m not- I have to think about that a little. I’ll come back to that. We’re talking about people and getting them collectively involved. Appears to me that if the solutions to some of the major issues, global issues like, excuse me, like climate change are political, it seems to me that somehow zoological parks worldwide have to figure out how to rally their interested visitors in affecting change. In order to affect change, sometimes you have to put your feet in the fire.

01:52:58 - 01:53:12

Well, speaking about putting your feet in the fire, what skillset, which you kind of came in with a little, or qualities does the zoo director need today as compared to when you started?

01:53:13 - 01:53:58

Well, when I started in the zoo profession, certainly it was an advantage to have passion, passion for my chosen profession. But today I think it’s obviously, in a more complex world, it requires perhaps a little more. When you consider that communities, municipalities are facing problems in terms of budgetary issues, many zoos are on the bottom end of that when it comes out to issuing taxation money, and even boards today have fiduciary responsibility which they did not have when I came into the business. So a zoo director today has to be more attuned to business. He has to have more business acumen, and he also has to be a good fundraiser because this is where it’s all at.

01:54:00 - 01:54:09

In saying that, should the zoo director, the age old question, should the zoo director be an animal man with a good business person behind him?

01:54:09 - 01:54:13

Or should he be a good business person with a good animal person behind him?

01:54:14 - 01:54:42

Well, when I look at the zoo profession as a whole, and I look around, at least in my era, the major outstanding zoos were led by animal men, people that understood- It’s likened to me if you were to take all your finances, all the money that you had and you were to invest it in a bank, and you found out that that banker knew nothing about finance, would you put your money there?

01:54:42 - 01:55:23

Well, here you’re investing, you’re putting a invaluable, priceless collection of animals to a person that knows nothing about them. So my opinion is that you have a good animal man at the top, and you have a good support system. This is what boards are for, a board of directors or city officials should provide that, that a layer of support. We had it in Los Angeles. I had to deal with animal problems and that’s all. I had a wonderful support staff that dealt with budget and all budgetary manners and all aspects of the city operation, and that was the best combination. There are different size zoos. Cincinnati was a big player.

01:55:23 - 01:55:25

There are medium zoos, small zoos.

01:55:25 - 01:55:36

How can small or medium zoos, we talked about involvement, get involved in wildlife conservation today either nationally or internationally?

01:55:36 - 01:55:38

How can they play their role?

01:55:38 - 01:56:02

Well, I think a smaller zoo, obviously the area they have to be very careful that they don’t use taxation or tax dollars or part of their city budget, but they can rally their community. They can get an interesting project or develop an interesting project and go out to the community and sell it, and I think that’s the best way, sell it to donors, potential donors that are probably people that would not normally even support the zoo.

01:56:04 - 01:56:11

Considering financial resources that are available to these small or medium sized zoos, what should be the focus of their collection?

01:56:11 - 01:56:18

Should it be regional, western hemisphere, should it be endangered species, non endangered species?

01:56:18 - 01:56:22

Should they have a collection focus or does it matter?

01:56:22 - 01:57:21

I think a smaller zoo- I think if a smaller zoo is to focus its collection, it depends on geography. I think if a small zoo is located in a say, ecological zone that’s quite interesting, like Arizona Sonora desert, they could focus on that aspect of their collection, wrap their collection around that ecological area. But if a small zoo is in an urban setting, I think it’s best if they try to sell a diverse collection and show the wonderful animals that are found globally that they can afford to maintain. I always wanted to see a specialization, I always wanted to see a zoo like a Cheyenne Mountain. If they were to specialize just in Montana animals from around the world, mountain animals from all around the world, that could have been a worldwide well-known worldwide facility. I could just imagine that being fantastic, ’cause it had the beautiful setting for that. Instead they chose giraffes.

01:57:24 - 01:57:33

What kind of criteria would you recommend to small again and medium sized zoos when thinking about future exhibits or conservation type exhibits?

01:57:34 - 01:58:20

Well, if you take a small zoo, again, it depends on the geography in some sense, because one can play off the other. Is a zoo is found in a threatened ecological zone, it could put a lot of its emphasis in that threatened ecological zone and work to rebuild it. I’ve seen that happen in communities. Or you could take a situation where again, it’s rallying your community, getting some support from the community and develop along those lines. Today, in many cases, zoos are afraid sometimes to confront animal welfare or animal rights groups that are against zoos.

01:58:20 - 01:58:25

Could you give us your thoughts on how best to deal with these type of groups and did you have to?

01:58:25 - 01:59:18

Well, when I was in Cincinnati, we really did not have to confront- We didn’t have the problem with animal rights groups. Maybe to a small extent, but nothing that was major that we couldn’t handle with good public relations. When I was in Los Angeles, it was a different story. There were obviously a lot of pressure groups, and what we found in Los Angeles is by bringing the heads of these various animal rights groups into our fold, having meetings and hopefully resolving some of the problems, some of the issues that brought they brought forth and some were very sound, some were good ideas and good suggestions that we implemented, but it was keeping them involved, and that seemed to be a way of keeping things a lot calmer. Sometimes we hear from zoo directors that there are too few good curators out there.

01:59:19 - 01:59:26

Do you think that’s a problem or how should curators be trained today with what is expected of them?

01:59:27 - 02:00:30

Well, my observation of present day curators, at least in a number of institutions, is that they spend too much time behind a computer and not enough time in the zoo itself. You cannot operate a zoo nor can you manage a zoo without being involved in the grounds and face-to-face with curators and with the keepers. So it’s going to be a difficult thing, and I think the best training can be, it has to be accomplished by the management staff and bringing your people in and letting them know what’s expected of them. In my situation that I stated earlier, I had worked out a system that they had to get out in the field, they had to get out on the campus and visit various buildings, and then I knew what was going on and they knew it was going on. But too many times I’ve seen it in too many zoos where the the curator rarely goes onto the grounds. He’s behind a computer, and I don’t think that’s the way to operate a railroad or a zoo.

02:00:32 - 02:00:42

What changes have you seen during your years in the zoo field regarding visitor attitudes and administration at the national level?

02:00:45 - 02:01:33

When I started in the zoo business, at least in Cincinnati in Lincoln Park, we had a good visitation. We were a free zoo, municipal zoo. So we didn’t have many of the problems that I faced when I came to Cincinnati. In Cincinnati, we had a situation where we had the attitude for the public, attitude was a very poor. The zoo had a fairly bad reputation. It was a kind of a smelly place and it was dirty, not clean, and eventually that began to hurt the zoo. Our attendance dropped off, we were vacillating from 550 to 750,000 people a year. And we really, if we kept up at that rate with the cost of inflation and everything else going on, we would certainly went a lot poorer.

02:01:33 - 02:02:15

So, but I’ve seen, with good public relations, and we got people out in the field, we started bringing experts in to a kind of look over how we could better bring the public’s awareness of our institution through marketing and advertising and also good public relations, and eventually by developing the volunteer programs, we got volunteers going out into the community, bringing more people in, and we eventually turned that around. And today the Cincinnati Zoo is thought of very highly by its community. It ranks among the top institutions other than perhaps the Cincinnati Reds in terms of visitor popularity.

02:02:17 - 02:02:25

What issues caused you the most concern during your career, and how do you see the future regarding those same type of concerns?

02:02:25 - 02:03:12

Money, money, money. The difficulties of running a zoo obviously haven’t changed much. Dollars are really- You’re competing in many ways with other non-profit institutions for the recreational dollar, so you’ve got to put your best foot forward and keep the people coming through the gate and make them want to come to the zoo, have new things going on. That’s why it’s great to develop new exhibits periodically to keep those- But primarily financial problems were the persistent problems. If you have enough finances, you can usually tackle anything. A sound financial base.

02:03:13 - 02:03:17

What issues would you like to see zoos in general address in the future?

02:03:21 - 02:04:24

I think I probably have spoken to issues that I’d like to see zoos address in the future, and I think if we don’t address those aspects of environmental change and dealing with the issues like population, we’re gonna lose everything or a good portion of what we have. Good example is that Russia today, I just recently heard on the news, Russia holds the largest of Arctic coastline, hundreds of thousands of miles, and now they’re gonna open that to drilling and oil. And these are issues that they’re gonna impact all of us. Impact particularly us that are in the wildlife business or trade, and we’re close to those issues, so therefore we gotta go beyond our boundary fence. We gotta get away from just the 60 acres or 300 acres and get out there and really work in the community globally to see how we can address these major problems, by example, if nothing else.

02:04:24 - 02:04:37

Did you realize community support was important to the Cincinnati Zoo and other zoos, or did this start to take shape where you realized you had to have that support and how important was it to Cincinnati?

02:04:38 - 02:05:27

You know, in terms of community support, the importance of community support, when I started in the zoo in Cincinnati, I didn’t realize the importance of it. I mean, coming new into the organization, I had enough internal things to correct and to adjust and to get working properly. However, I soon found that I couldn’t do that without outside support. I needed to gain greater community support in order to accomplish, because everything again took financial and took financial means to accomplish, plus, by bringing in people into the community, from the community, they in turn go out and spread more. And when you bring in one volunteer, she’s obviously talking to her neighbors and that all has a way of expanding the interest in the zoo.

02:05:29 - 02:05:40

Do you think a zoo or an aquarium in any way can build insulation against these external political issues or not?

02:05:40 - 02:06:09

No, it shouldn’t, absolutely not. You should face the community. If you’re doing wrong, the zoo should know about it, and the community will let you know. No, I don’t think we should isolate ourselves. I think having that checks and balances is perfect. If you’re not performing your duties properly, the community should let, will let you know. You got to deal with a lot of elected officials or municipal people.

02:06:09 - 02:06:16

What’s the most effective way to develop and manage a zoo today dealing with these kinds of entities?

02:06:16 - 02:07:26

I think Edward Wilson said it best when they asked Ed Wilson at a lecture at the Cincinnati Zoo, how we can deal with environmental problems, and his answer was educate, educate, educate. And I think that’s what you have to do with politicians. You have to bring politicians into your fold, bring them into the institutions, show them the problems of the institution, invite them over for lunch, invite them to zoo events. Not all of them will come, but occasionally you’ll get a person, and then once you’ve got that friend and he can make open doors and help. We’ve done that both in Los Angeles and Cincinnati. Give me an example of how you, that brings to your mind of how you did it. Well, we have a three man city council and we had one councilman that I was able to bring into the zoo, and he helped us obviously when we were having problems with other councilmen when they didn’t want the zoo to receive any tax dollars. So he was able to explain to them why the zoo needed it, how much they contributed to the community, viably, economically.

02:07:26 - 02:08:09

And again, in Los Angeles, we had the same thing. We had high city officials that were very good friends of the zoo. I remember Ron Deaton, he was a very high in the city administration. He was a tremendous friend of the zoo and came out to the zoo often. I would take him on tours, he would bring guests to the zoo and that was building a rapport with the political system and it helped. And when we needed him and had to go to him with a certain problem, we had somebody to go to. So I would strongly advocate that they obviously go out to the politicians and find at least somebody that’s interested in what you’re doing, and he will helpfully bring that issue to other politicians as well.

02:08:10 - 02:08:18

What would you say can be done to make the visitor connection programs with things more meaningful for the visitors?

02:08:20 - 02:09:13

In the Cincinnati Zoo and also, I found this true in Los Angeles as well, the Cincinnati Zoo have some marvelous programs that are community programs that bring people into the zoo for various different events. I mean, we have a speakers program. We have educational programs. We have senior education. There’s something going on in the evenings and off hours at all times at the zoo and particularly on weekends. We bring youngsters in and we train people to take animals out. I know that there are some zoos that don’t believe in that, but I am a strong advocate of bringing animals into the community. These animals are obviously ambassadors for their species, for their kind, and they do help- Bringing in proximity- Bringing an animal closer to a person, you win that person over, you win that person over very quickly.

02:09:13 - 02:09:37

I’ve even done that with reptiles, where people were horrified of snakes, and eventually, when you ease them into it and eventually get them to hold or touch a snake, it turns them around, and that’s the way you develop a strong interest in animals, and obviously that’s what we’re all about. It helps develop a strong interest. There are anti-zoo groups.

02:09:37 - 02:09:47

Is the zoo or zoos doing a good enough job to educate people, to boost the image of zoos against sometimes what is an anti-zoo agenda?

02:09:50 - 02:09:51

Can they do more?

02:09:51 - 02:10:50

There our issues with the anti-zoo groups that I don’t think you will ever pacify or get people to agree with you on. I mean, they’re just dead set- There are certain hardcore groups that you’re gonna have a difficult time turning around. But I think we in the zoo field have done a marvelous job in the past decade in educating our constituents and taking that back into the, and demonstrating to these hardcore groups and some of these anti groups that we are an important part of the community, and we are doing a good job and they can help us do a better job, and I think that has been the whole turnaround. Let them help us do a better job, and that has turned some around. Guidebooks. I know that you’ve been instrumental in writing some. Guidebooks for zoos seem to be a thing of the past.

02:10:50 - 02:10:53

Your opinion on their importance in today’s zoo world, if anything?

02:10:55 - 02:11:41

Well, I’ve been a strong proponent of material going out of the zoo, written material going out of the zoo. I think it keeps the zoo’s name in the community. I’m a strong advocate of guidebooks. I think if a person buys a guidebook, he takes that home, and that’s always a presence if it’s on the coffee table in Cincinnati. So anything you can do to get that zoo name out into the community and keep it out there as a reminder of, hey, this is a good place to come back to. But the problem I think is, again, it’s a matter of financing. I think guidebooks are expensive, as the public and I’ve been away from the business for awhile, I’m curious as to whether the public is willing to pay for guidebooks and pay for- Printing costs have gone up. I don’t know.

02:11:42 - 02:11:48

It would be difficult for me to evaluate the question like that or a subject like that.

02:11:48 - 02:11:54

Any advice for the neophyte zoo director about the importance of marketing zoos?

02:11:54 - 02:11:57

What’s the most important aspect of marketing?

02:11:57 - 02:13:00

Well, in marketing a zoo, we were one of the first zoological parks to develop a marketing program. And our first full-time marketing director is Ted Beattie who’s now the director of the Shedd Aquarium. And the reason for that is when we began to evaluate our, we were having difficulties with attendance, we would put out PSA’s, public service announcements, and then we’d watch for their appearance and they would come on maybe three o’clock in the morning, 2:30, we did not have control over placement. And with marketing, we felt we would develop, one thing, we would develop control. We could place a billboard where we wanted it, not where it was donated out. Sometimes we would get billboards donated and they’d wind up out in cornfields somewhere out in the boonies. Didn’t do us much good, but we had control of placement, and we had control of timing, and marketing turned everything around for us. Good marketing in terms of promoting new births in terms of promoting special events is invaluable.

02:13:02 - 02:13:18

If there was an opportunity to form a consortium with a few select zoos to work with the country, to rescue a species and begin to institute breeding programs, what would you do differently from what was done to try and save the Sumatran rhino?

02:13:22 - 02:14:31

If there was an opportunity to work with a consortium to save a highly endangered species, I would try to be involved with some of the major zoos simply because they have the resources obviously to help in a large project, and a large project like the Sumatran rhino is gonna take a pretty good source of funding. I would- I think if this were to be done over again, I would want to see some structure of leadership in that consortium. In other words, there would have to be a point leader. There would have to be responsibilities in that organization would have to be designated in order to- This way everybody was, again, going off on their own kilter. They were randomly obviously by dollars connected, but everybody was sort of sometimes going off doing their own thing. It wasn’t organized well enough. I would say that I liked the players, they were all great players. I mean, we did a good job.

02:14:31 - 02:15:24

We didn’t fail except on the fact that Indonesia kind of pulled the rug from out underneath. We were supposed to obviously have more animals for that base, and we were building traps and they were logging right next to our traps. So there wasn’t much concern about- Once they had our money, there wasn’t much concern about what we were doing and that was unfortunate. And I think an important part of this, now in hindsight, would have been to try to get some leadership from the country that you’re working with, get them on board. Now, whether that’s a paid position or somebody that is comfortable in moving through government. That’s where we had a lot of roadblocks. Kids and teenagers, different audience. Even kids in going into science.

02:15:24 - 02:15:31

How can zoos improve their connection with this market to make zoos more relevant?

02:15:37 - 02:16:31

Again, my experience has been with only, my work experience has been with, actually, it has been over my lifetime with three zoos, but the two major zoos in recent years of course have been Cincinnati, the longest span and a short span in LA, and both zoos, I felt had good programs, outside programs that brought children in and even teenagers into the zoo. They had environmental workshops, they had field excursions. In fact, the programs are so popular at the Cincinnati Zoo that they have to sign up months in advance before- You know, they fill up quickly. So those programs are- They have overnights at the zoo, they have all kinds of programs that bring a lot of youngsters in and keep them interested. And those are the people in the future that are gonna be the voters and the legislators, so it’s good to keep them on board.

02:16:31 - 02:16:35

-American Zoo Association should be addressing now?

02:16:41 - 02:17:19

I think the American Zoo Association has to again, look at the broad picture and see ways of turning voter apathy in some way, without necessarily lobbying. I think that can be done through educative programs and through the communities that they’re working with, volunteer base so that the zoos and particularly themselves don’t necessarily, aren’t necessarily involved in lobbying, yet they can get that directive out through to their constituents, through their members and through their societies.

02:17:22 - 02:17:28

What’s your view regarding the hot topic of zoos maintaining elephants in their collections?

02:17:31 - 02:18:15

Elephants are a zoo director’s nightmare in general. They’re large animals. They’re destructive. They can be dangerous. Yet they’re the most popular animals that the zoo has. And I think a zoo, if a zoo wants to, first of all, like all other animals that it maintains in houses, it should have proper facilities, large enough that the animals have room to move around and at least have the freedom to go from area to area and not be confined closely. I think that’s what turns off a lot of our visitors. It turns me off.

02:18:15 - 02:18:58

That’s why I looked for expansion in our elephant- We had five elephants living in an area that really was designed for one, and I went to the voters with that and I was able to get that turned around. It took some doing, but we were able to expand our elephant house, plus the help of a number of donors. If you can afford the space and the personnel, and I don’t see any reason why a zoo should not house elephants. They’re popular animals, wonderful animals, they’re extremely intelligent, but you have to go in knowing that you’re dealing with a difficult species or a species that can be difficult. And if you don’t design properly, they can tear a place apart in no time through no fault of their own.

02:19:00 - 02:19:08

Has AZA been supportive of zoos do you feel in this arena of maintaining elephants?

02:19:08 - 02:19:50

Not enough, and I think really in terms of coming in and wanting to manage your animals, I don’t think that’s the way- I think they should the AZA should provide guidance, collective guidance coming from membership, or even from the board we elect, but I don’t think it’s necessary for them coming directly, manage your animals. On the other hand, we run into a double-edged sword, because if a zoo does not properly care for their animals, and something, an accident happens, or a person is injured, it reflects on the whole industry, so it’s really a very complex issue, and perhaps it needs more walking through. I don’t think we’re finished with the issue. And I think it needs more attention.

02:19:52 - 02:20:04

How does the AZA of today that you’ve been associated with compare to the AAZPA, the beginning organization of 30 years ago?

02:20:07 - 02:21:13

There are comparisons- If I were to compare the AAZAP with the AZA today, it would be a night and day issue. The early years, when we were associated with parks, we would come into meetings, we were a small group of directors and few curators, not very many curators, and we would discuss issues of, zoo issues, common issues, and it was a lot of camaraderie and it was not a very effective organization actually. It accomplished very little other than amongst ourselves. The AZA today is a very complex organization, made up of many components that are necessary for a modern zoo to operate. Modern zoos have evolved to keep up with the paces of society. And so the AZA has had to change according to meet those needs.

02:21:13 - 02:21:14

Is it there yet, are we all happy with it?

02:21:14 - 02:21:22

I dunno if all members will ever be happy with it, but that’s part of the process. That’s what executes change.

02:21:23 - 02:21:30

Do you continue- To what extent do you continue to be active in the zoo field or in the conservation field?

02:21:30 - 02:22:31

Well, when I retired, I spent- I was not retired a year I accepted a interim position in Los Angeles for 13 months. That led to an interesting situation where we began to- I was approached by La Sierra University to do some work consulting on a possible museum of natural history they were gonna develop in Palm Springs. It was gonna be an additional institution away from the campus. And they brought me on board. I was involved with that for five years. I’ve also been doing some work, we’ve been doing some work in Chile. My son-in-law is the director of collections at the zoo, and he’s been working with rockhopper penguins and working on a island reserve right off of Punta Arenas. It’s called Isla Noir, it’s not a protected zone, and yet it’s a very big nesting zone for rockhopper and Magellanic penguins.

02:22:31 - 02:23:06

So he’s trying to develop some rapport with the government. So I’ve been involved and we’ve been doing population counts, and I’ve been involved going down to Chile and I’ve done a lot of work in the Arctic. We’ve been working with alcids, and we’ve had scientists from Fairbanks that we’ve been working with doing all kinds of studies and trapping birds. So I’ve been involved in Alaska for a number of years, and it’s only really the last couple of years that I can actually say I feel retired because I’m doing a little more gardening work and you know, staying around and taking the family around, but it’s been a busy retirement period.

02:23:06 - 02:23:09

Do you still have your interest in amphibians?

02:23:09 - 02:23:21

Yes, I have an interest. I haven’t been doing much work with them. I’d like to get more, now that I’ve got a little more time, I’d like to get more involved in amphibian conservation, And I may see Dr. Rabb and see if there’s a place for me.

02:23:22 - 02:23:27

If you could go back in time, what, if anything, would you have done differently?

02:23:27 - 02:23:32

Are there programs, exhibits that you would have implemented during your tenure that just didn’t happen?

02:23:33 - 02:24:35

Well, when I retired, there were a few projects on the drawing board that I never- A few dreams that did not materialize. One major facility that I really wanted to build before I left or be involved in the building was a new reptile, amphibian complex. You know, my experience at the zoo, if I closed a building down, it could be the gorillas, it could be apes, it could have been the bird house, every building, I never received many complaints from the public. But if I closed the reptile house, I actually had many people, not just a few people come in and demand their money back for that day. They did not see the zoo. So reptiles are important and they’re an important zoo exhibit, and yet our facility, we’ve got them in one of the oldest buildings in the park. We’ve remodeled, it’s adequate. I mean, it’s clean and it’s sufficient to keep good health in the animals, but it isn’t what it could be.

02:24:35 - 02:25:02

I envisioned a much fancier building along the lines of the insect building. Another proud accomplishment I had that I did get off the drawing board was Manatee Springs, the manatee exhibit, which is a good ecological exhibit. It’s designed all around the state of Florida. In fact, I personally, I think Florida should have put some funding in, ’cause we’re the gateway to Florida and people stop there, they’re gonna continue to go. But Manatee Springs was a rewarding exhibit too.

02:25:03 - 02:25:06

Does that work with Manatee conservation?

02:25:06 - 02:25:07


02:25:07 - 02:25:08

Going back and forth?

02:25:08 - 02:26:05

Excellent. Now manatees, obviously, Cincinnati Zoo is only one of two zoos outside of Florida that are allowed to keep manatee. And we’re really a holding area, we’re a reservoir and if animals are injured, we bring them back to health and then they’re taken back to the wild. We had two animals that I thought would never leave and they eventually did. We had one was captive born and the other was taken at a very young age, but they were conditioned eventually and returned to the wild, I was very surprised, and far as I’m aware, they’re still doing well. It’s a wonderful system because we had- Our visuals and our supportive exhibits are designed so that people can kind of follow the routine of the manatees in the wild. They’re actually a day behind, the lag, so we don’t want people to know exactly where they are, but they can follow the route of these released animals. It’s a wonderful system, and the whole building is designed- It’s got a few, again, my love of museums.

02:26:05 - 02:26:09

It’s got a few museum elements that I think really add to the exhibit.

02:26:11 - 02:26:20

Aside from the Cincinnati Zoo, are there other zoos in the world that you particularly admire and why, and where are they?

02:26:20 - 02:27:38

There are a few zoos in the world that I have over the years, I’ve seen a lot of zoos that I’ve formed a particular attachment to. One, I think the Singapore Zoo just a gem. It’s a wonderful, got a wonderful climate, a wonderful collection and beautiful grounds, and a good friend of mine who was responsible for a lot of the design, Bernard Harrison, she really deserves a lot of credit for turning that zoo around and bringing it to its present popularity. And a zoo man zoo, a good old animal collector like Ed Maruska likes is the Berlin Zoo because they have a diverse collection and they have a good breeding record. And I think a good zoo man has to have an appreciation for diversity. And if we lose any insect platform we’re losing, we’re taking as I think Ehrlich said it once and said it best, if you’re flying on a ship or an airplane and somebody takes a rivet out, you’re not gonna be concerned, But if Paul Ehrlich said that, but if keep pulling rivets out of that, eventually that plane, you’re not gonna want to get on it. And we’re doing the same thing by weakening the web of life. We keep eliminating animals and that breaks down this and that breaks down that.

02:27:38 - 02:28:15

And ultimately, we may be the ones to face extinction if we’re not very, very careful. And there doesn’t seem to be the public will to change these things, and somehow we’ve got to be thinking politically, and I don’t know how we do that without getting involved in areas that really shouldn’t concern us, because we’re public institutions, many of us, and we depend on tax revenues and getting political can be kind of- It has to be carefully done, but I think it can be done because the only answers are political ones.

02:28:15 - 02:28:26

You know about the profession that you’ve devoted so many years of your life, what do you know it if you could give me up capsulate, what do you know about that profession?

02:28:26 - 02:29:45

Well, being in the profession that I’ve spent the greater part of my life in has led me to, to research the history of the management of animals in captivity, how that has vastly changed from menageries to institutions that- From privately held menageries, which is where it all started, and these were turned into the public, given back to the public in many cases. They became some of our early zoos like Schönbrunn in Austria. And as these institutions developed, and after a while, a certain population in a city, it had deserved to have a zoological park or a zoo. And not even a zoological park. It seemed like it was a population of over a couple of hundred thousand, before you know it, they were thinking zoo or an animal exhibit. Some of them were single animal exhibits. And that evolved and later it became, we became more public institutions and city-wide and countrywide. And then eventually we ran in, by not our own doing, but a sign of the times, we became very important repositories for highly endangered animals.

02:29:45 - 02:30:06

I think that has entirely changed our whole role of what we are. We still have to be popular places, still have to be places that are fun to come to, but we have to add the underlying areas that we have to be certainly more scientific in our approach to things, and we have to be great, great community leaders.

02:30:07 - 02:30:11

How would you like to be remembered?

02:30:11 - 02:30:29

I’d like to be remembered as he cared, and that he took the Cincinnati Zoo from one of the worst, one of the lowliest zoos in the country when he came in to one of the top rated zoos in the country.

02:30:32 - 02:30:36

When you were at Cincinnati Zoo, did you have a favorite animal?

02:30:37 - 02:31:40

When I was at the zoo, I was a very fortunate individual. I was enamored with life, it could be an insect or it could be an elephant. I had no specific animals that I was- if I did specialize in an animal, or I took a great interest in an animal, like I was interested for a while in fossorial animals. I wanted to design at one time an exhibit around ground-living animals, or animals that lived in, you know. The Hidden World, that was going to be the name of the exhibit, and it was gonna deal with moles and shrews, animals are rarely seen and do it in an exciting way, and I think by doing things like that, it kept the creative juices flowing, and it was a way of, I don’t know, fulfilling dreams and desires and getting things really rolling in the right direction. The Cincinnati Zoo had some collecting trips and ’65 and ’66.

02:31:40 - 02:31:42

Was this your idea?

02:31:43 - 02:31:44

Could it be done today?

02:31:44 - 02:33:06

Well, we were building a new nocturnal exhibit in Cincinnati, and I had visited Houston at a conference, and Houston was displaying vampire bats. Again, I know vampire bats were displayed by or kept by Dent Myers many, many years ago, but I hadn’t seen, his were the first vampire bats I had ever seen. And knowing that we were going to do a nocturnal exhibit, I thought this would be a marvelous animal to exhibit, ’cause they were active, and, you know, and just the reputation alone was worthy of exhibition. And there was no way to get vampire bats. I had checked with Houston, they didn’t have surplus and the way they collected, they got their bats is they went across into Mexico and collected them. So I got a hold of Bob Dooley who was then curator. John Whirler was the director and we met with them and they said they would go partway with us into Tamaulipas and show us how to collect bats and where to collect them and which we did. We designed a trip that would take us into Mexico for seven weeks, both two years in a row, one six weeks and the other seven weeks, and that was to collect Mexican animals, and part of the program was to portray the sonar- We videotaped, I mean, we filmed everything and we had a show in Cincinnati.

02:33:06 - 02:34:19

It was a local zoo show that Bill Hoff, who was then the director, hosted along with our veterinarian, and I was to film things and they were gonna use that as part of their TV experience, the way zoos collect animals. So we went all along the east coast of Mexico all the way down to Yucatan and we collected more or less crocs, we collected birds. We had permits, it was interesting though, the zoo back then, zoos were still not thought of very highly. I also had a university gentlemen with me that was collecting birds for the university collection. And I applied to the phone on Sylvester for permits to collect hummingbirds and orioles, and I was not allowed to, I was refused on those species. Yet the gentleman I had with me, he shot 30 hummingbirds and they were two blocks away from the department’s offices. There was a woman sitting there with a cage full of orioles, and was pinching them, killing them and stuffing them with straw, wiring them and selling them to tourists. So zoos did not, zoos still had that image of, they weren’t scientific institutions, they weren’t worthy of a permit.

02:34:19 - 02:34:29

That has changed today thankfully. You put a lot of resources into having a giant panda at Cincinnati for a short amount of time.

02:34:29 - 02:34:30

How difficult was that?

02:34:32 - 02:34:35

Do you feel the funding was well spent and how did that evolve?

02:34:37 - 02:35:37

Well, I attended a giant panda conference with Warren Thomas in Beijing. And my reasons for going to China were not necessarily involving at that time giant pandas, they were involving the lesser panda, the red panda. I was gonna meet with officials to find out how we could acquire some of the Sinai race of the giant panda. But I went to the conference with Warren, and during the conference, David Jones, a director of the London Zoo offered (speaking foreign language) who was the director of Chapultepec in Mexico, their male giant panda. She had two females, but lo and behold, she had to refuse that offer. She didn’t have the space to house the male. So flying home, all of a sudden a light bulb went off, and I thought maybe I have a way of making this a good marriage.

02:35:39 - 02:35:59

I got back home, I called David in London and I said, David, what if, when you’re on your way to Mexico City with the giant panda, you stop in Cincinnati, and with the increased attendance, we raised the money to build a facility in Mexico City to house your male?

02:35:59 - 02:36:03

You know, expand their facility so they can house your male?

02:36:03 - 02:37:00

And he thought about it for awhile, and then he puts a lot of checks and balances. You know, he didn’t want us going off and raising a bunch of money to build a new facility in our zoo, but he wanted to make sure those funds were designated, and we worked out a program and we made that happen the following year, and the giant panda came in September and we broke the bank. That year we did 1,400,00 people, and most of the attendance came from that September through December, the poor months of the year in reality in Cincinnati. And it turned out to be a win-win situation. We did build a facility, they did send their animal there and they had numerous births, so it was a wonderful conservation effort by the three zoos combined, and we’re very proud of that. So we had a giant panda and we even had George Schaller give us some very high commendations for that project.

02:37:00 - 02:37:06

As an aside, when you got the giant panda, did all of a sudden you discover you had a lot of friends?

02:37:06 - 02:37:11

(Ed laughs) When we received the giant panda?

02:37:11 - 02:37:25

Yes, we did develop a good relationship, following, wondering if they could somehow get in on the action. You were also chair of the rhinoceros SSP program.

02:37:25 - 02:37:31

How important were and are the Texas ranchers for long-term rhino conservation?

02:37:33 - 02:38:33

I was chairman of the black rhino SSP and early on in our efforts, I was having some difficulties or they were having difficulties with me as well, because the earlier concepts of the ranchers in Texas, the ranchers in Texas wanted to expand the black rhino program by bringing animals in from the wild, and of course, some of their ultimate goals was in rhino hunting, and that’s where I had my real problems. You know, shooting a domestic rhino, you might as well be shooting a barn, into a barn. You got the same effect. We finally resolved those issues. There were a number of ranchers that I felt had far deeper interests than hunting, and they wanted actual conservation of these magnificent animals, and we worked out our problems. We had worked with some of the Texas zoos. We originally had some difficulties and we ironed them all out. And I was SSP chairman for the black rhino.

02:38:34 - 02:38:37

You said to us, there’s always something happening at the zoo.

02:38:37 - 02:38:40

Can you give us a few that are kind of very memorable to you?

02:38:47 - 02:39:50

There was another species that came out of China that we had a lot of fun with and proved very popular and helped us essentially build a new building. We had a pair of snow monkeys or golden monkeys from China, snub nose langur, and they proved very popular and we ended up building a wonderful display that now houses our Komodo dragons. So they were a good, exciting part of our zoo venture. We did a number of programs involving various countries. We did Africa. We had the local community and the African community involved heavily, and we brought in African dancers and we had, it was fun time. But one thing that, one memorable thing for me of course, was I, again, visited- Picking up on an idea, I visited Indianapolis in the early years and it was December, a cold winter day, and had a few lights out and they had people, so I took that home and talked to our people. We expanded that.

02:39:50 - 02:40:25

Ted Beattie was there at that time. We began a program called the Festival of Lights, which now represents 25% of our attendance in any given year, and it brings in a great number of dollars. So that was a winter festival, of course, around the holidays when nobody normally would come to the zoo. There were days when we actually had more attendance from the Festival- Our highest attendance days in the zoo were doing a Festival of Lights in one given day. So it’s pretty remarkable. You could hardly walk down on the zoo path. That has become a tradition in Cincinnati. You mentioned Komodo dragons.

02:40:25 - 02:40:29

Were you one of the first zoos to have them?

02:40:29 - 02:41:40

No. Komodo dragons were a highlight for our zoo. I was visiting Indonesia and became very good friends with the director, and I saw that they had a number of Komodo dragons and we worked out a situation and I asked if it would be possible for Cincinnati zoo to acquire. And he gave us a pair of Komodos. Well, coming home I had, and I went to apply for permits, I had all kinds of problems because there was a consortium that blocked my permits. It was headed up by John Baylor and Jim Murphy, and they claimed we didn’t have enough experience in handling monitor lizards and et cetera, et cetera. So I went another route and through some board members, and the animals were then gifted to then President Bush and with the designation that they were to come to the Cincinnati Zoo, so that sort of circumvented that process. And later on, it gave me great pleasure when we bred the animals, and I was sent those individuals, the front page of the Cincinnati news.

02:41:40 - 02:42:12

And I says, apparently we know how to take care of them. And the first zoo, I guess National Zoo also had, and they were given as a presidential gift as a state gift, and they bred them first and we bred them the following year. The second brood was ours, using their female and our male. Speaking about different types of animals, some of the zoo profession have criticized the reproduction and keeping of white tigers in general.

02:42:12 - 02:42:17

Can you tell us the story of your white tigers and what they meant to the Cincinnati Zoo?

02:42:17 - 02:43:27

This I think came from directly from Yuli Seal or indirectly. He never approached me directly with this, but he, you know, he approached Bill Conway and Bill Conway came out and stated that white tigers were freaks, but Bill had a short memory because a few years before that, he had a ricketic white tiger on display in his lion house, and he had a full purple banner going all the full length of the building, white tiger on display before we had a white tiger, so that was kind of dirty pool, I felt. I mean, it wasn’t discussed with me. The history of our animals came through actually the National Zoo. We held two of their cats while they were remodeling two heterozygous, two orange, an orange female an an orange male, Ramana and Kasari, and they had never bred, the National Zoo hadn’t bred them. They tried, but they hadn’t bred them. They were offspring of Mohan, apparently had some, way back to the first white tiger that the National Zoo received during the Eisenhower administration. So we bred them in our zoo.

02:43:27 - 02:44:34

They produced two white offspring, that were heterozygous and one orange or, or two homozygous white and one hetero. And we thought that the National Zoo was gonna give us an offspring and they chose not to, they kept them. But they said we could take, they had another white tiger and we could take him on loan, and we brought him to John Cuneo who ran a circus. He was ready to cross the border into Alabama. Oh, I’m getting ahead of myself. We knew that Cuneo had a white tiger, a male, and we decided that possibly we could get his male, bring him back and breed- National Zoo allowed us to breed Kasari. So we caught Cuneo at the Alabama border. We talked him into allowing us to take his male, he agreed with obviously getting a portion of the offspring, brought them back and we bred Kasari, and out of this breeding, we were to get a portion of the offspring, which we did, and that was the beginning of our white tiger line.

02:44:34 - 02:44:59

Now I know white tigers have been criticized, but white tigers had been reported in the wild very frequently. In fact, in Nepal, I think that at one time there was probably 16 animals in the wild and these animals were shot off by the Maharajas. White tigers have occurred free. If you go through the history of Nepal and India, they’ve occurred quite frequently in wild populations.

02:44:59 - 02:45:02

And who knows if it isn’t maybe a hidden reservoir?

02:45:02 - 02:45:37

They were always larger than the normal tiger. May have been a hidden reservoir for some beneficial factor. They were mutants, certainly, but they did, and they had survivability because they probably learned to hunt at night, so color wasn’t, you know, color wasn’t a problem. color didn’t ward off- If they were probably hunting during the day, birds or monkeys would see them and warn, you know, the hooved animals they were preying upon. But in this case, they probably learned to hunt at night, so they did survive into adulthood, anumber were shot as adults. So my point was at least manage a small population.

02:45:37 - 02:45:45

You can control it, but it’s a part of- What would you do if you had a highly endangered pair of animals and it had a white offspring in your Bengal line?

02:45:45 - 02:45:47

Would you euthanize it?

02:45:47 - 02:45:53

Zoos keep black jaguar. The Bronx Zoo was full of albino snakes.

02:45:53 - 02:45:55

Why is a tiger any different?

02:45:55 - 02:46:11

We just got singled out because they thought we were taking up space, and instead of doing what they should have done from the very beginning, control them as a population, they didn’t, and they’ve now got into private hands and they’ve exploded and they’re all over the place.

02:46:11 - 02:46:13

So what did they mean to your zoo?

02:46:13 - 02:46:49

They meant to our zoo, they meant bongo, they meant okapi, they meant Sumatran rhino. We were a zoo that had no money and they were a good financial resource and they were great to turn the turnstiles. We had some banner years the first years when we exhibited white tigers and we depended on, at that time, with no city support, we depended on our gate to keep us open and to keep the ability to improve the zoo. Everything that we derived from them went back in either to the collection or the zoo itself. You’ve been called a collector of species.

02:46:49 - 02:46:54

How did this affect the collection at the zoo during your tenure?

02:46:55 - 02:47:39

Well, I’ve been referred to as a collector. I won’t deny that. You know, I appreciate diversity. I think that’s the bottom line. I think anybody that even collects stamps appreciates the difference in a particular thing, and I’m very keen in terms of looking at a well-balanced collection, but the collection wasn’t a postage stamp collection. They were breeding animals. They were animals that, the majority have added to the SSP programs. It’s just that we selected maybe some of the gems of the animal kingdom to display, but they bred well in our collection.

02:47:41 - 02:47:48

What species- We’ve kind of talked about some things, but what species that you bred were you the proudest of?

02:47:48 - 02:47:51

Was it Sumatran rhino or other things?

02:47:51 - 02:48:39

I think my most happiest day I had in my life was when our gorillas bred. We had two gorillas born in a nine day period. We had front page for 14 days in the Cincinnati newspapers. We had volunteers involved. It was a fantastic day for the community. I mean, it was just as an upbringing- It essentially built us a new gorilla display, ultimately, ’cause we kept expanding to the point we didn’t have any more room in our old building and we had to expand, and that became a high priority to the board, and we got it done. Worked up into one of the finer gorilla collections in the country.

02:48:39 - 02:48:42

-Sparked your interest in amphibians?

02:48:46 - 02:49:52

My interest developed in amphibians- We were on a collecting trip to central Ohio and I brought out a couple of plethodons and one of the herps with me said you can’t keep them alive, they don’t live, and well, for a zoo man, there’s the first challenge. Make them live or get them to live or to get them to thrive. So I took them home. There were a couple of species of plethodon. I don’t remember specifically- Maybe they were glutinosus, and then there was even a smaller species, I don’t remember exactly. There’s a number of smaller little brown things that occur there. So I took them and I kept them, and one was alive 25 years later. So I had an established- And then on the more I looked into zoos, there was very little being done, so I was ahead of my time, because all of a sudden amphibians were on the front line.

02:49:52 - 02:50:53

They were the group of animals that were being highly threatened. So that general interest started me into a really intensive- I tried a number of species and worked out husbandry, and I even broke it down into sort of three areas that you, temperature zones. Amphibians I found were very sensitive and vulnerable to the narrow ranges of temperatures that they could tolerate, that was one factor. So it worked out very well. And once I established all of that, then the interest waned. One thing I was going to do, and I’m sorry now- I had my hands on, you wouldn’t believe the number of species of salamanders. I had run into Mexico and collected and I had collectors collecting for me. I had about everything you could describe, some of which weren’t even described, and I was going to photograph every one and then do a book and I never, never made that happen.

02:50:53 - 02:51:08

So I’m sorry, that’s a regret, but I should have done more with the camera. The writing could have come later, but now the animals are gone and I may never see them again. I had all the Texas cave species, I had examples of them.

02:51:10 - 02:51:12

What happened to the salamander initiative?

02:51:14 - 02:52:10

The salamanders were- The salamander initiative came as a result of not many people being able to keep them. The challenge was there to develop husbandry protocols and get them going. And I accomplished that, published a lot of information that I had. Bred some very, very difficult species. And I was on the road to the giant salamander and we had two tragedies happen. One, somebody who was in- We had a salamander room where I got some Japanese giant salamanders from Hiroshima and the aquarium, and I had a nice setup. I followed the director’s advice, I had a captive breeding setup. It was quite elaborate, it was in a basement of our gorilla center.

02:52:11 - 02:53:14

And somebody came along and was cleaning the floor and had a hot water hose and left it in the tank and killed three animals, and one of which was a male and two females, and I had one male left. So we had a breeding- We took them through different temperature periods like occurs in the wild. We dropped the temperature and then we gradually raised it. And we had them, I think in good breeding condition. And the male had set up his, we set up a den for him, and he had guarded his den and we had two females that were periodically, showed interest in going there. Then I told our keeper to be very careful, and she went in to retrieve a dead goldfish with a net and the male lunged out and bit the side of the net, and he was dead 50 hours later from septicemia, and he was the only male in the country at that time. So that shot my hopes of breeding giant- I was right on the verge, I think I could have done it. I still think I could do it if I had the proper animals.

02:53:14 - 02:53:23

I mean, I could make it happen. I have the knowledge to make it happen thanks to the Japanese. Little change of subject.

02:53:24 - 02:53:31

What new ideas did you bring to get people to come to the Cincinnati Zoo?

02:53:34 - 02:53:35

How’d you get them in the door?

02:53:41 - 02:54:00

To generate ideas on bringing new people in the zoo, I depended largely on a good marketing department. We would do this basically at staff level.

02:54:00 - 02:54:04

We would think of ideas, you know, how are we gonna program the zoo for that year?

02:54:04 - 02:54:06

What were we gonna use?

02:54:06 - 02:54:40

We were gonna bring in a group of- Sometimes it would be non-zoo affairs. We started bringing in singers, popular singers at night. Anything that we could turn those turnstiles and keep the attendance above budget level. Therefore when we had enough funds, we could do other things with them. So it was a creative group that we worked in. And then we used outside consultants too to bring in special events and special events were a big part of the zoo’s summer programs, and they could vary from zoo activities to non-zoo activities.

02:54:40 - 02:54:42

What were the strengths of your marketing department?

02:54:44 - 02:55:17

My first marketing director was Ted. He was good and my daughter worked under him and she eventually took over the marketing part. I did not hire her. The marketing committee suggested that we hire her. So it was just to keep, you know, the nepotism out of the picture, although that always is a problem when you’re working with relatives, but she turned out to be a pretty sharp gal and kept our attendance at pretty high levels, and she left shortly after I did.

02:55:17 - 02:55:25

Were there certain strategies for getting community involved in the zoo that you remember that were really well done?

02:55:25 - 02:56:29

Well, as I stated earlier, the Festival of Lights was a good one because that brought in attendance at a time when our attendance would have been the lowest and days became the highest in zoo attendance history. We also had- I think when we had, obviously, the giant panda, we promoted not only a giant panda, but we did a big Chinese program. We did the same thing with the golden monkeys. We had Chinese dancers, we had the dragons, we had quite an event. Even fireworks, believe it or not, but carefully, carefully done away from animals, and it was done on a large lawn surface, and there were fireworks that were not the explosive kind, but just to add the crackers to the Chinese dragon dance. They had a hard time convincing me of that, but they finally did and it worked out well. And always tried to do creative things that would keep them coming. And once they’re there, they’re a captive audience, then you’ve got to keep them there so, and keep them coming back.

02:56:29 - 02:56:33

How did politics, either city or state, affect the working of the zoo?

02:56:35 - 02:57:59

Politics, we really- As a preface society, we had very little pressure from the politicians, but of course, when we went to pass a levy and we started getting county tax dollars, we then started to feel some, ’cause politicians started getting pressure. So we had to provide certain free days. Well, they weren’t necessarily, they were half price days, but, and then that was a new thing for us, and then we had to do other things and they were strictly- It was different than working for a society. Society, you had a little freer hand, than politically working from- And I worked on the political spectrum and I worked on a political spectrum in Los Angeles and I kind of took a shine to it. I liked the crossing with the, you know, crossing words and working with politicians. I’d rather enjoyed that in LA basically because there were a number of them that had a good interest in the zoo. That makes a difference. But we tried to create that interest in Cincinnati too, but we never were able to do it to the extent, because LA is very, you know, at the time, at least when I was there, was very obviously very political and run by the city.

02:57:59 - 02:58:39

Most of the employees were city employees. But it was a good place to work because you had enough layers of people to do the grunt work, and I didn’t have to bother with a lot of the nitty-gritty that I did in Cincinnati. Cincinnati I had to watch the bottom line and all the lines in between, and I was responsible to the board president. And we’d have meetings, he’d want to know and I’d own up, I’d own up on everything, and he’d always invariably ask the question that I was not familiar with. So that happened. What kind of presence did the zoo- You mentioned the many days with the gorillas and the public relations.

02:58:39 - 02:58:41

What kind of presence did you have in the media?

02:58:45 - 02:59:36

I had a good- The bear accident changed things, but until the bear accident, I had a pretty good rapport with the politicals, with the newspapers, the media. And the bear accident, I got a couple people on my case and eventually, you know, these things worked out, but for a while I was getting some heat on. They tried to pick everything, you know, pick me apart for everything I did. I never had experienced that before. It was always positive, positive, positive. And then that turned itself around too, and they finally- One gal had left the paper, actually, in fact, I think she got fired for something else, and I don’t know what it was, but it worked itself out. And then I had good rapport with the press. In fact, when I retired, it was front page.

02:59:36 - 02:59:42

Both newspapers at the time, we had two newspapers and it was front page, big front page spread.

02:59:42 - 02:59:44

Did you plan events around the press?

02:59:44 - 03:00:50

Yes, absolutely. And in fact, when we had certain things that we wanted to do, we’d have a press release, we’d invite the press in and I or somebody from the board would speak if it was dealing with a political issue or if it was dealing with some animal occurrence or animals were getting in, or we even had press releases before we got the giant panda, just inform, to get them all hyped up. We did the same thing with the koala. The koala was a wonderful marketing venture. There was another marketing director I had by the name of Glen Ekey, and Glen I think wound up someplace in Florida, one of the Florida zoos. I don’t know if he’s still there or not, but we built up a hype on the pan- You know, we had a campaign that would just kind of entice, you know, we’d maybe have a few hairs of tips of the ears and we just kept building on that until, and boy, that was beautiful. I think we attracted 100,000 extra people with the koalas at that year. 100,000 extra bodies came to the zoo.

03:00:50 - 03:01:09

So that was a marvelous success. And then we had, we had supervision by some of the San Diego people they would allow us, we’d have donors for $1000 be able to hold a koala, $1000 a hold, and boy, they were lined up.

03:01:09 - 03:01:10


03:01:10 - 03:01:16

Yeah, it was a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, successful venture or promotion.

03:01:17 - 03:01:19

Were there certain things you didn’t want the press involved in?

03:01:19 - 03:01:52

You mentioned moving animals. Yes. I had an early an early experience as a neophyte zoo director. I think it was my first month on board. I probably wouldn’t have done it if I was curator, but as zoo director, I thought oh boy, this’ll make great press and show me a hero. I’m gonna move out an old male giraffe that doesn’t do anything and bring in a young pair and start a giraffe family. Well, about a hour before he split the board, he dropped dead. And I had all the press there.

03:01:52 - 03:02:06

I had media, I had television, everything. I thought that was again, the end of a promising career, but it worked out. Eventually I survived it. The board supported me, and that was important.

03:02:07 - 03:02:16

When you talk about the board and fundraising, what were your major fundraisers for bringing money into the organization?

03:02:18 - 03:03:25

Our fundraising, we started out our initial fundraising back in the 70s using key board people that were movers and shakers. Bill Williams, who was one of the former owners of the Cincinnati Reds, Southern Insurance Company and Oliver Gail, and they would go out and they would find a prospect, they’d bring them back to the zoo, we would dine. I was at the zoo, I was waiting for them, we would have a little lunch for them. Then I would explain the project and they would ask them for a certain dollar amount where they thought they were comfortable and could support us. And at that first drive, we raised $15,000, which was big money for us at that time. And that started off our capital program. Later, as we began to get a little more sophisticated and our need for larger amounts of money developed, we hired a professional marketing director, I mean a development director, I’m sorry. And then we hired an marketing firm when we began a campaign.

03:03:25 - 03:03:37

And a marketing firm worked very well. For example, I went into a donor and personally, I would have never asked, I asked for certain amounts, I would have never gone over that.

03:03:37 - 03:03:42

And this gal says, no, you’re gonna ask for a million and a half, I said, what?

03:03:42 - 03:04:12

They’ll kick me out, throw me out. I asked for a million and a half and I got a million. So she said right there, she more than paid her way. She brought us in an extra half a million dollars. So they were quite instrumental. They knew the community, they knew the people, they knew how to put these- I would advocate that or to anybody that’s gonna handle a big campaign that they get outside, an outside good development firm. They work well. Particularly best that they can get a firm that’s located in their own community, then they know their community.

03:04:14 - 03:04:25

Was it hard to sell, when you talk about funding, was it hard to sell the public on funding for sewer renovation, underground renovations that had nothing to do with animal exhibits?

03:04:25 - 03:05:24

The most difficult areas to get the public to respond to, of course, were sewer renovation and underground repairs and the nuts and bolts of the zoo operation. Our zoo had been so neglected. We still had, if you can believe this, and probably we should have preserved them, we could have probably put them in the Smithsonian. We had wood lined sewers in parts of the park. Well, you know, if a server collapses in a zoo on an August day, you’re in real deep trouble. I was gonna use another word, but we’ll just say trouble. Particularly even hard, difficult with the politicians that they would get that on a ballot, but we brought them over and we demonstrated the problems and they were not problems that were directly a result of our operation, but they were problems we inherited and needed to be addressed.

03:05:24 - 03:05:26

And if we didn’t address them, who would?

03:05:26 - 03:05:34

So we got them passed, but it is difficult. You mentioned a zoo director has to wear many hats.

03:05:34 - 03:05:36

How did you adjust to fundraising hat?

03:05:37 - 03:06:07

One of the things I really enjoyed and not many zoo directors do, but I really enjoyed fundraising. I love to ask for money. That was a fun part of my job. Really, when you think about it, most of them are flattered. You know, all they can do is say no. I even went into this project in Palm Desert with my project in Palm Desert, California. I did a little bit of that in California, and I enjoy raising money. I enjoy asking for money.

03:06:09 - 03:06:20

And I found that over a period of years that you’re not gonna make any enemies. In fact, you’re probably, even if they don’t give you anything, they still think it was nice of you to ask them.

03:06:22 - 03:06:28

How has fundraising changed in the director’s involvement today as to when you started?

03:06:28 - 03:07:05

Fundraising is more difficult today than it was when I started, and I started this aspect of my career or my zoo professional job. It’s difficult because you’re competing now because of the problems in municipalities, the demand for dollars for all the non-profits, you’re competing with the arts, you’re competing with the museums, you’re competing with the parks, and everybody’s going after those same dollars, because it’s more and more difficult for them to get tax-based dollars. So you really have to have a good product.

03:07:05 - 03:07:10

And, you know, in fact, at times we were running into the situation are you back here again?

03:07:10 - 03:07:31

You know, it’s that kind of, ’cause they’re getting the corporations and donors are getting hit from so many different sides. So it’s more difficult. It takes a more organized plan, and that’s why I again emphasize outside professional help. An organization cannot or should not attempt this just with a development person.

03:07:32 - 03:07:35

Were you able to use the political process to get money?

03:07:35 - 03:08:50

You’ve mentioned tax levies. We were in a quandary for a long time on moving the zoo forward. And the only way I saw out of this dilemma was that we had to go after tax dollars. Now my board then was composed of many conservatives, and conservatives don’t like taxes. And they think they’re not a likely group to vote for you to even to go out and ask for taxes. So I had that selling job to do, but I told them, I kind of, we’d made our graphs and details that if we didn’t somehow generate additional revenues outside of our gate and obviously the concession monies and membership that we were gonna start sliding backwards. So I got them to agree, and we went to the county commissioners and I got a county commissioner that was on our side and he helped sell it to the other commissioners, and we were able to pass, I forget what the amount of levy was, but I think it was somewhere like a $15 million period over a five-year period, something like that. I don’t remember exactly at this point.

03:08:50 - 03:08:53

Did the voters ever turn you down?

03:08:53 - 03:09:52

Once. We got into a situation with the elephants. It was blamed on my- Well, we attended a newspaper briefing, you know, where the staff were, were sitting down to deal with the news of the day, and we were asked to appear and present. We were gonna go for a levy, but our board at that time was thinking of a parking garage within the zoo. We were suffering from lack of parking, and they were thinking of a multi structured parking garage sitting right in our zoo, which I never was in favor of. I thought that would have been hideous, that we should go out. Well at any rate, they decided that the board was obviously- Overruled me and decided we’re gonna go, and it was gonna be $20 million or something to build this facility. So they tacked that onto our operating levy.

03:09:52 - 03:10:21

Well, in a time when the public was, they had just funded a new stadium and they found that they had to pay additional sales tax, it was a tax-resistant period in time. Well, at any rate, I had gone into the meeting with the press and one of the reporters asked me what would happen- We were asking for monies, part of the levy was to rebuild our elephant house.

03:10:21 - 03:10:25

What would happen if you don’t get the levy passed?

03:10:25 - 03:11:03

I says, well, get rid of the elephants, which was, I had to, I had a pregnant animal in an area- I had three elephants living in an area for one. Well, four elephants, that would’ve made the fifth. It would’ve been impossible. Well, they took that and they ran with it, cartoons. See, I had gone to a conference in Arizona and this gal called me, reporter, and I didn’t answer her call or didn’t get it, and she took it and she ran with it and they had cartoons with me holding the elephants as hostage in it. It just was a bad time when we lost our operating levy, and boy did we sweat that year. I lost $5 million I think that we had to scramble for.

03:11:04 - 03:11:05

Lessons learned were?

03:11:05 - 03:11:14

Lessons learned were be very, very careful and plan your strategy before you go into a meeting with the press.

03:11:16 - 03:11:18

Do you ever have any surprise donations?

03:11:18 - 03:11:21

Anybody bowl you over?

03:11:21 - 03:11:52

Yes, we had a two and a half- Gave us two and a half million dollars for a new children’s zoo. That was a windfall that came from Spalding’s. They were lighting manufacturer, husband died. She liked the zoo. She liked the number of board members and she wrote Spalding and made that generous gift. That was a good surprise. So we developed our new children’s zoo. Or a children’s zoo renovation.

03:11:52 - 03:11:53

Did you have a vision for the children’s zoo?

03:11:53 - 03:12:41

You had run one. Well, I, and personally, I don’t believe in children’s zoos. I believe the whole zoo should be for children. And that came to me very clearly when I took my grandson and I was visiting a few zoos and my arms at the end of the day were pretty heavy from lifting him up and museum from lifting him up to see things, and he’s like me, very curious, and he wanted to see everything, so grandpa had to lift him, that came out very clearly that we should be designing zoos that are good for children in all aspects where they can see exhibits, and we should have perhaps participatory placements throughout the zoo. So children’s zoos, eh, I’m not a great fan of a children’s zoo.

03:12:43 - 03:12:49

What would you say that zoos can do to enhance their attendance regarding exhibits?

03:12:49 - 03:14:00

You’ve mentioned a little about making it better for everybody. In our zoo, in order to enhance attendance through exhibitry, we found that by being very creative, working outside the box often paid in big dividends. Jungle Trails was a classic example of a good exhibit, an immersion exhibit that worked out for us very well. Unfortunately, the year that Jungle Trails opened, it was a summer, like we had a very, like we recently had a very, or are still experiencing a very hot summer in that it didn’t get the attendance, the bang that we thought it would, but later, it proved to be during a normal summer a big attendance boost. So being innovative and letting the public know that they’re seeing something that’s out of the box and it’s not been- The manatee is a good example of that. The insect building was a cash exhibit. I mean that, and that has continued to be one of our most popular displays in the zoo even today. You talked about fundraising and so forth.

03:14:00 - 03:14:05

Did you have a travel program at the zoo to bring people out into the wilderness?

03:14:05 - 03:15:14

Well, I worked for Marlin Perkins. I came out of Lincoln Park and Marlin was I think the first person to take people back into areas of Africa, and Bill Hoff, my predecessor, came into Cincinnati and he developed a similar program and he expanded on what Marlin was doing. I mean, he opened it up, he brought in some travel agencies and gave him his program. Nobody was doing this in Cincinnati and at the time, I don’t think anybody was doing it in the zoo world. Maybe New York might’ve been doing something, but very few people were taking people out, making it popular. And Bill built on that program. In fact, my first trip to Africa as curator was 1967 and I took a group over and that was part of our travel program. He already just came back and then that became very popular, and became so popular it was taking a drain on our time and then we start letting it- Delegating it to curatorial staff and letting them go out.

03:15:14 - 03:15:32

And it’s still popular today. I think they send two or three trips out a year. We’ve talked about so many different subjects here from the press to politics to animal exhibits and board membership and so many things. Jack of all trades and be master of one.

03:15:32 - 03:15:42

Do you have anything that we’ve kind of missed or something that you’d like to expand upon that we’ve talked about?

03:15:44 - 03:15:45

Anything that-?

03:15:48 - 03:16:31

My zoo experience for me has been a very rich and rewarding life. I have no regrets. I have, I have no visions of grandeur. I think I’ve took it, and many times it was, it was a difficult road, but we took it up a notch or two, and I’m certain I left Cincinnati Zoo a lot better than I found it, and the only aspirations I probably had were some of the exhibits I never had a chance to get involved in. I think they could have been great and it would have been great, fun working experiences.

About Edward Maruska

Edward Maruska
In Memoriam
Feb 19, 1934 - Jun 14, 2022
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Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens: Cincinnati, Ohio

Director Emeritus

Ed’s formative years started with a job at Chicago’s Lincoln Park zoo (1955) as an animal keeper and head of the Children’s Zoo. The director of the zoo, and his mentor was Marlin Perkins.

In 1961 he moved to the Cincinnati Zoo as General Curator. He became director of the zoo in 1968. After retiring from Cincinnati he served as interim zoo director for the Los Angeles Zoo.

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The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Zoo & Aquarium Video Archive or those acting under their authority.