August 19th 2023 | Director

Janice Schweitzer

Jan Schweitzer was associated with one zoo throughout her professional career. Rising through the ranks, she ultimately helped transform the institution, including giving it a new name. In this interview, she provides insights into the all-important role of women in the zoological field.

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Jan Schweitzer. Born March 6th, 1953. Peoria, Illinois.

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And what did your parents do?

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Well they had a full hand raising me, but Dad was a microbiologist by trade. I mean that’s what he did, but he ended up going into the family business which was a canning company that did tomatoes, hominy. And beans.

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How about that?

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And mom was a housewife until they closed the canning company and she went back to work as an art teacher. So you grew up in Peoria. Yes, sir. Tell us a little about growing up in Peoria.

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Were animals part of your life?

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Usually. Yep. My grandpa was really big into nature. So he would take us on little hikes. You know, when mom and dad got tired of us he’d take us on and we’d go for hikes and he was more into lichens and moss. I was picking up the bugs and the animals and that type of stuff. And then we always had puppies. Always.

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And then they would have puppies. And I’d go down to the creek and, or crick if you call it that here, and pick things out of there and bring them home and bring the tadpoles and put them in mom’s kitchen. She loved that. And put up with it, so. Now growing up in Peoria, did you.

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See zoos when you were growing up?

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Did you have any… Not that much that I remember. We were a frugal family. So if we did, we would’ve gone on free day, but I don’t remember going to a lot of zoos.

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As child, do you remember any zoos that made an impression on you?

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None. Mm-mm. Sorry. Zoos didn’t come ’til, I didn’t think about it ’til college.

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You didn’t think about zoos or working with animals?

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I guess I always thought I wanted to work with animals, but you know, a lot of us wanted to grow up and be veterinarians until you found out the amount of work that was involved in it. And there weren’t that many jobs. At that.

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So what was your schooling like?

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You mentioned college.

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Where did you go to college and academic?

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College was University of Illinois in Champaign. ‘Cause it was a family tradition. You know, dad had gone there. Grandpa had gone there. So it was just kind of a thing. My sister had gone there. And it’s an in-state school, so again, costs were down. That helped.

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But it had a good reputation, so.

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What was your degree in?

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Actually I ended up double majoring in Psychology and Zoology. I think I was the last year they actually had a zoo department.

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And then you said in college you were thinking or more aware of zoos?

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How did that come about?

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Actually that was still the – I didn’t know what I was gonna do and I had a great animal science professor who took me aside one day and he thought I should go to grad school. In fact he walked me down to the office to get my papers. And when he went that way, I went the other way. ‘Cause at that time, you know, you had enough of school and I just wanted to get out. But he knew Marlin Perkins. So one day when I was in his office he calls Marlin, who wasn’t home, but he talked to his wife. And at that time it was always on TV The Mutual of Omaha and I’ll stand here while Big Jim goes in and wrestles. And I thought that looks like something interesting.

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So somewhere in my mind I thought I’m gonna go off and do research in Africa and it never materialized, but it did get me thinking more of the exotic animals.

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So you knew who Marlin Perkins was?

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Oh yeah, from TV.

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Had you been to Lincoln Park Zoo or Brookfield?

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Mm-mm, or Sacred.

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Did Peoria have a zoo?

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Yep. I know.

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Never went?

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Not that I remember. Or if I did, it did not click in the head. Ooh, he’s got that look like oh dear. So you mentioned one teacher.

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Did any of your teachers, this one, or any of your teachers in college kind of mentor you in any direction or that made an impression on you?

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I think I took a little bit of something from everybody. It’s like I worked for a professor ’cause I was trying to make some extra money and get into some different fields. And so I worked with cockroaches. And I decided that was one of the things that made me think I don’t like to focus on small things. I like big things that you can see, you know, something go in the front end, go through it, come out the back end. That I could understand. I didn’t understand the microbiology and I didn’t understand some of the, or care about at the time, cockroaches and taking their nerve cords out and preparing them for study. That one just didn’t click with me.

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So I had to see something that was – I could see a result from that you were helping with something. You know, more immediate. I think.

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So when did you decide hey, I want to work in the zoo?

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Because when you were in college you did apply. Yep, senior year of college I decided, while I was trying to figure out what you can do, I did apply to some labs and things like that. Work that were doing research or had animals involved in them. In the animal care part of that. But luckily I didn’t get those jobs. And I ended – in fact I applied for one, Abbott.

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Isn’t that in Chicago?

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I had come up for an interview with Abbott and didn’t get it, but that’s good. Because then I finally got into the Glen Oak Zoo.

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But when you were in college did you not apply at Glen Oak?

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Oh yeah, I applied to – I must have had 50 zoos. And when I got all the rejections I had them on my wall in my apartment. And, you know, they just said there weren’t that many jobs open. There were a lot of people applying. You have to have some experience. So that’s what I tried to do.

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What positions were you applying for?

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Anything at the point, but I was going for a keeper position. Or, yeah, but I ended up in education for a while. Now you’re a bit unique in that you’ve worked your entire career in one institution. Can you take us through your evolution through the positions and maybe a timeline. Okay. That eventually got you to the directorship of the zoo.

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So how did you start and then how was that flowing?

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Okay, out of college, have to get jobs, So I think I had four part-time jobs at one time. I just had to remember where I was going when, but. I had, somebody my mom and dad knew from church had worked at the park district. Had told them there was a position at the Nature Center. And so I applied for, it was a Ranger Rick leader. And so that meant you were like an assistant naturalist. So I did the Ranger Rick program there. At the time there was a volunteer who happened to be the zoo director’s wife.

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So she happened to mention to Chuck Wikenhauser that I was available. And after a few months they were starting some education, they were trying to do the Zoomobiles out into the community. So he hired me at a whopping $2.50 an hour to go out to the different schools with a set of probably five or six animals. And do educational programming. After that, when one of the keepers left, and keep in mind we only had, the zoo only had two full-time keepers at that point. One of them left to get married. So I applied for the job along with lots of other people. Chuck hired me for that one, so I was a keeper in 1976.

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And then. When the curator left I applied for that and became the curator for another three years. And then Chuck had left, Chuck Wikenhauser left, and went to Pittsburgh I think at that time. And so I applied – well I was the acting director for a while. I had applied for the position with several other people and was able to get that job. Let me take a step back. When you were an animal keeper at Glen Oak Zoo. Tell me about what the zoo was like.

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What kind of impression…

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What was their collection like?

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What was your impression of this zoo?

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Well, not having been to a lot of zoos, other than other ones that I had interviewed at, it was… I guess one in transition. The zoo itself had been I think officially – it started in Peoria because somebody donated a herd of elk to the park district. So we’ve got some old pictures of what they were doing back then. Eventually they started collecting on some other ones.

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It went through a phase where there were bird shows, you know?

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Almost like mini little three ring circus type things or big cats. That the director would go in with. And do performances. So. That was the third one. The Joe Frisco era was more circusy. And in fact I think the zoo wasn’t open year round. He would take his baby elephant and go on the road.

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And do his performances and leave the rest of the zoo there just during the winter when it was closed. So it was interesting, when Chuck came it kind of started switching over. AZA was becoming more important. We were trying to get records written, that type of thing. Collection wise, they had a little bit of everything. They had primates, reptiles, some amphibians, some birds. You know, kind of small collections of different things. Big cats, they had lions, tigers, cougars and jaguars.

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But they only had five cages, so I mean they were small barred cages. Same thing on the primates were barred. Most of the rest of them were glass fronted. And then there was an outdoor petting zoo area. You know, the goats and sheep and they had – we used to have a little petting circle under a canopy tent. It was left over from circusy kinda look. And we would have to go down and do educational programs when you were a keeper. And take them around the circle.

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What else?

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Few hoof stock, you know, but. And eagles. We had eagles. But that was about it. It was very tiny.

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So you were one of two keepers?

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So you had to take care of everything?

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I had basically half the zoo. I was, the way it was set up, the zoo actually looked like a big candy cane. The way it was shaped. And the front half had the birds in this big area up front. Some small mammals. So I had all of that all the way back through the primates. And then Barb took care of the other half which was the big cats. I think there were a few small mammals there too.

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Maybe – oh, margays. And then the outside area. The curator also had to assume keeper duties too. Otherwise we’d have never gotten done. Because you’d come in at 8 o’clock and you had to be ready and open by 10 o’clock. So it was a push. So ultimately you’re rising in the hierarchy of zoo. And then the zoo director leaves.

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And. You decide.

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How did you decide that I want to now run this place?

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And how did that come about?

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Well I was encouraged to apply. Chuck said I should apply. But I wanted to keep growing in the business. ‘Cause I was getting, by that time I was getting involved in some of the… With the record keeping and looking forward to what else AZA was doing, and other zoos, and I got to know a lot of mentoring came from Lincoln Park Zoo and the St. Louis Zoo. Because they were our closest “big zoos”. And so, you know, I wanted to be one of the big boys. You know, and grow a little bit and get involved more.

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So it just seemed like the natural next step.

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And was the position called Zoo Director or something else?

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Zoo Manager. At that time politically wise there was only one director in the park district system ’cause we were ruled or budgeted under a park district system. So there was one director and this was a Zoo Manager. And at the time you took over. Were you forming a philosophy – you’d worked at the zoo already.

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Did you have any kind of philosophy about zoo management that now that you’re the boss you wanted to move forward?

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I think more than anything I wanted to continue the flow of what it was and make the zoo a little bit more prominent. Within the Park district system. I just didn’t want it to be. A little side piece. I was more invested in and had a passion for. Doing something that would be welfare for the animals. But also to get it out in the community to help support the zoo a little bit more. So I think it was part of a natural transition that had already been started when Chuck was there.

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I just wanted to keep expanding it. And.

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Did you have any priorities that you want to try and start with now that you’re the boss?

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Well some of my priorities were given to me from those above. And how you had to fit into the system. I think that was my hardest part was learning how to work within a system. But I really wanted to expand the educational part of it. I knew as a small zoo we wanted to be involved in more conservation things, but we didn’t have the funds to do a lot of that, so I felt our intent and our best use of funds and abilities would be through the education department. And whether that’s more graphics for an interaction with the public. To get them to buy on the importance of zoos.

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What did the education department consist of when you started as a director?

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Oh, as director. I think when I was director there was an education curator. They had hired an education curator. And we had some volunteers. So we did expand and tried to get some more volunteers. Some that helped in the animal department, but some that also then helped in the education department. (clears throat) Excuse me. That you would, again, so you had more interaction with the public.

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So they understood a little bit better instead of just rushing through the zoo for a good time before the kids start crying. Let’s get some information into them. That’s all. You mentioned the Zoomobile.

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How important do you think, or did you do anything with ambassador animals in your education program?

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Oh yeah. We started… Obviously the ones that we went out in the community. You know, we had a skunk and a rabbit and snakes. Some owls. There were some injured animals that the zoo would take in, so we would use those as props. Eventually we did some keeper talks in front of certain areas in the zoo. Where you weren’t interacting with them, but then you could point out natural behaviors from them.

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We did eventually get, we built a sea lion pool. And we would do “sea lion shows,” but we always tried to put the conservation bent to it of why we’re training them and making them do certain things was in order to help with their health. And show natural behaviors. I guess. So did you have…

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You had still – you talk about keeper talks, you still had only two keepers?

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Were you able to move forward?

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And how difficult was it getting more staff?

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Well by the time I was director we did get up to three or four, eventually five full-time, but we supplemented with a lot of part-time or seasonal keepers. And yes, it was more difficult to get staff because it’s always hard to expand your budget and probably 40 to 50% of your budget was in the payroll. And, you know, because it was under the park district system you also then had to pay the benefits and it’s not just the salary. Now you’ve got the benefits that you have to pay. And you have to worry about vacation time off and holidays and who does what. So you just had to make it work and stretch that budget as much as you could.

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Were you able to hire your own curator?

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‘Cause you had left that position, or did they hire someone?

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Nope. I was able to do that, so we brought in people. You know, we… Through the park district and the human resources, they were in charge of sending out the notices. And then they would be involved and sitting in to make sure that we did the interviewing process correctly, but eventually I got to hire them with their approval.

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At the time were there amenities for visitors at the zoo?

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Was there concessions and those kind of things for visitors?

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And did you feel it was important to have amenities?

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I think it’s very important to have amenities because it’s the visitor service part. If you don’t make people happy when they’re there, and give them that experience, that’s anywhere from having the bathrooms, nice and clean in bathrooms, and, you know, making them fun where you paint things on the doors. You know, animal butts on the doors. Cleanliness was a big part of things because when I first started at the zoo it kinda smelled and, you know, there were some problems with bugs. So, you know, you clean that part up and you make things smell a lot nicer and cleaner. We did have a concession stand. That was used, and we tried that and some different carts. I’m trying to think what other amenities are you thinking.

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But they were important. Oh yeah, absolutely. Because I guess the whole if mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy applies for visitor services too. Because the mom bringing the kids in, there are certain things they need. Baby changing stations, you know, a place to put the kids, little seating areas, that type of thing are very important.

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How would you describe yourself as director?

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Did it change over the years?

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Oh I’m sure it did. Well it was a learning process for me. I started out quite honestly because I just… I used the knowledge of people I knew. Again, Lincoln Park Zoo and St. Louis Zoo. People I had met at conferences.

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You know, you could call your friends and go okay, I’m dealing with this, what do I do?

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You know, or what did you do?

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And I don’t think anybody has the exact same situation that you can go oh, that worked for them, I’m gonna do that. Because everybody is so different. But you can pick up some little pieces that you can try to use. So yeah, I started out trying my best. And it’s hard going, I think, from a position in a zoo where everybody already knows you and now you gotta be the boss. You gotta get their respect and their trust at that level. And that’s sometimes hard to do. You know, for them to see you, oh, she used to be one of us.

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Now she’s one of them and she’s saying blah blah blah. So some of it you have to let it roll off your back. Some of it you just have to work a little bit more on relationships. A lot on communications. Yeah.

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Did you have like little tricks you would do or things that move these kind of things in a certain direction you wanted?

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Not specifically. I think, again, each situation is so different that you have to just kind of go with the flow and it depends on the exact person and the problems you were having there. There’s a lot of schmoozing. I wish I had done better. You do learn as you go to work with people to get things to be their idea. So that they buy into it more instead of going okay, here’s what I think we need to do. Even though you truly think that’s what you need to do, you gotta get that pull from people to say okay, I think this would be better or this would be better and take it under consideration and try to put little pieces of that in so people feel they were part of that decision. If that makes sense to you.

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What were some of the most frustrating or challenging times that you had as director?

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Hmm. Well back in the day. One of them that popped to mind was we were voted, well it came up in the Parade Magazine.

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Do you remember that?

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That was in the Sunday newspapers?

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And we were listed as one of the 10 worst zoos in the United States. That was a massive blow to me personally.

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I just thought how can that be?

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But then the more research we got into it, we figured out it wasn’t, nobody had come to the zoo. And done an analyzation and gone to all these different zoos and that person writing it. It was they had just put out a survey to people and obviously somebody had a little angst against us for whatever reasons and still having bars on some cages and whatever and they took that and went with it. So that one was hard. But we kind of played on that a little bit and used, we had a pretty good rapport with our newspaper and the TV stations and radios and whatever that we had developed. So we did a Zoo Day campaign where we said everybody bring in your Parade Magazine and we’ll put them in the bird cages so that they can poop on them. It was just kind of a fun thing to do. But it was hard when I had…

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‘Cause I hadn’t, I heard that one. I don’t know if I ever told you that. Bob Wagner took me aside at one of the conferences that we were at. I’m trying to remember where we were. And I thought well this is kind of odd, you know. The big guy usually doesn’t take you aside. But you start thinking and he goes Jan, there’s an article coming out and it’s gonna list you as one of the 10 worst zoos. And I was like oh my gosh.

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And now I’ve gotta call the director of parks and let him know this is coming up and he thought I was kidding and I’m like we’re not kidding. You know, and we had to do some research and come up with a plan of how we were gonna attack it. So that was one. Otherwise, I think the hardest part was learning. The politics and being just frustrated that you know where you want to go and what you need to do and to fit in with how things were on getting conservation programs going and that type thing. And people, it was hard for them not to understand as much as you understood. Why you needed to be certain places. But you deal with it.

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So you’re the director.

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How would you describe your management style?

00:29:27 - 00:30:06

It probably changed. Again, I think I tried to include people. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. And. I’m not sure. It depended on each situation. You know, sometimes you just get real frustrated ’cause you got so much on your plate and you’re having to deal with stuff that you just, okay, if it was a personnel problem and you try to work it out between these two keepers, you just kinda okay, you two guys go in the hospital area. Fight it out.

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Come back in an hour.

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(laughs) You know?

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So sometimes you felt like a mom.

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And sometimes you felt like a friend and sometimes you were the boss and just said hey, this is what we gotta do, you know?

00:30:21 - 00:30:37

Whether it was my decision or it was passed down. You could grumble about it, but this is the way it is and you just do the best you can with what you got and you keep moving forward. You mentioned that you had part-time keepers.

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Did you also have volunteers?

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We did.

00:30:40 - 00:30:41

Who started that?

00:30:41 - 00:30:44

Did you start that as a volunteer program?

00:30:44 - 00:31:49

That one was under Chuck’s. We had some volunteers at the time. We expanded it a lot. Again, we developed more of the docents that would help do educational programming. And then there were some that would be working with the animal keepers. But yeah, it helped a lot to have them. Some we even used in the visitor services department, but it was very important to us when you don’t have enough staff to be able to count on them. And more important in how you train them and what you allow them to do and not do and how you have to almost treat them as, not almost, like employees also because there are only certain things you can do and if they’re not following the protocol you gotta bring them in and set them down and try to explain we don’t do it that way because.

00:31:49 - 00:31:54

So yeah, it’s more communications again.

00:31:57 - 00:32:02

Did you want to build new exhibits and get rid of the bars?

00:32:02 - 00:32:35

We did. It was… At the time Chuck had started a friends group. And so there were, and they had a board. And they had started raising money. You know, they contributed a few thousand dollars. Got some money to do some graphics. We built the eagle cage which worked well because we finally had breeding eagles that we were able to put into the wild.

00:32:35 - 00:33:12

But. They weren’t huge fundraisers. It wasn’t the movers and shakers that you really need if you’re gonna expand. So we had Zoo Days and Zoo Run runs. All the normal things like that. But the expense of trying to do new displays, you had to at the time do a cooperation between the park district and then the Friends of Glen Oak Zoo. FOGOZ at the time. So yes, we did some.

00:33:12 - 00:33:59

We did the sea lion pool. We built Lion’s Trace where we got the big cats. Out of the barred exhibits. We had over the years limited it down instead of having so many species. We only had five “cages,” of barred cages so you could – and four species of animals, so you always had to switch them back and forth. So we finally built an outdoor exhibit for lions. That was, you know, grass and an indoor/outdoor area and a glass viewing area so you could get nose to nose with them. So it was probably our biggest thing as going toward what a “new zoo” should be.

00:34:02 - 00:34:10

How difficult was it to move those exhibits forward in a parks department situation?

00:34:12 - 00:35:10

It took a lot longer than we wanted. The Friends of Glen Oak Zoo were raising money. It took some doing to get some of the park district people on board to help with it. So we were able to get the superintendent of parks at the time involved enough to think some of his guys and his crews, whether it be carpenters, heavy equipment, that type of thing, to get excited about building it. So we, you know, we schmoozed them a little bit too and took them to some other zoos to see what they had done. And got them to buy in on it so it wasn’t, we were able to build it cheaper than what it was gonna have to be if we just went out. And hired the whole thing out. So that was a good lesson in itself.

00:35:10 - 00:35:16

It’s that cooperative level. So during your time at the zoo.

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Are there any major events that you were aware of?

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Or concerned you?

00:35:26 - 00:35:32

Or delighted you, these major events that may have affected zoos in general?

00:35:35 - 00:35:37

Were there any- If I…

00:35:37 - 00:35:42

Events that affected not only your zoo but zoos in general?

00:35:42 - 00:36:51

I think the whole conservation awareness that was taking place. That zoos started to do some joint projects, you know, when they would have. National, you know. Bird Day or whatever they would do that you as a small zoo could come in on “some of their” bigger things and take some of their ideas. I think even some of the, you know, like the education committee, Conservation Education Committee, would come up with oh, here’s, you know, we’re gonna have this day and this is gonna be… They’ll give you some information that you can utilize, so we didn’t have to come up with it all on our own. So I think that and the advertising that they did on that was being a little bit more national. And noticing how people were shifting and becoming more aware of conservation and what you could do individually was a huge thing.

00:36:51 - 00:37:00

At least for the awareness part of what zoos do and what they are and how you can be a part of that.

00:37:00 - 00:37:03

Is that what you were trying to get at with that?

00:37:03 - 00:37:06

Or does that answer a question?

00:37:07 - 00:37:13

You had mentioned you read an article about worst zoos. Oh yeah.

00:37:13 - 00:37:21

What was your relationships to animal rights groups and humane societies over the years?

00:37:22 - 00:38:13

We had a few, a very few. Like five or six people that would come out and protest. I remember one when we had the Wienermobile came to town and they wanted to come to the zoo. So, you know, we’re taking it as a fun event and they were trying to take it into animal abuse and making wieners and I was just totally amazed by that. And, you know, we would take them out some water and say here you go. You know, I’m sorry you don’t believe in this, but, you know, we’re doing good things. We’re trying to work toward whatever. But locally we had a really good relationship with our humane society.

00:38:14 - 00:38:58

In fact there they ended up building a new. Center, and it was right at the bottom of the park area, so it was kind of a close relationship and we worked with them. If we had some animals that needed to be incinerated after death, we were able, smaller ones, we were able to use them. The veterinarians were very… Worked together well. And we just developed a good relationship with them. We would go to some of their meetings. They would come to some of ours.

00:38:58 - 00:39:19

So I think when you do that and you get to know somebody on a one-to-one basis, they can’t be as mad at you about things. And you can go yeah, but they’re trying to do this. Or, you know, and they have their own issues too. But we try to help each other out on those. And I think that’s a good thing.

00:39:19 - 00:39:23

Did you have a full-time vet or a part-time vet?

00:39:24 - 00:40:33

We had, when I started it was a volunteer veterinarian. Which was a concern for the AZA because they thought if they’re volunteering obviously you’re not getting good medical attention, and they’re only doing it when they have time, but we actually did pretty good with that. And we had some people that were very interested and donate a lot of time and were always able and on call, if we didn’t take something there with the smaller ones they could bring bigger. They would come and do, you know, the dental work on the lions. You know, you’d involve them and you’d try to use the press as we were talking about earlier. And you’d get a local dentist to come and, you know, you try to make it a community project of oh isn’t this nice, we’re all working together. So it was kind of that buy-in. But we did end up, after we had that concern with the AZA, we did put them on a part-time retainer.

00:40:35 - 00:40:50

This was a different vet. The first one had already retired, but we got a whole lot more out of them. Than we ever paid them. Unbelievable. You mentioned the Zoo Society. How it started.

00:40:51 - 00:40:59

What was your relationship at the time of being a zoo director with the Zoo Society?

00:40:59 - 00:41:00

Did it change over the years?

00:41:00 - 00:41:04

Did the society evolve and what was all that about?

00:41:04 - 00:41:27

Well we had talked earlier, the Friends of Glen Oak Zoo that was formed were doing small projects. A lot of hands-on and provided a lot of volunteers. That type of thing where they would help with the Zoo Day event where we’d have something fun. It was like a big activity day at the zoo.

00:41:27 - 00:41:37

And you paid to do so much and then you’d get tickets and you could use those tickets for doing the Jello jump, you know?

00:41:37 - 00:42:39

‘Cause kids like to get dirty. And different food activities and whatever. And then we would have a Zoo Run run that was started with our running group in town, The Striders. And they would do a 5K run. And we finally grew that one, so they were running through, or next, right next to the zoo so they could at least get a part – and they would get a feeling of being a part of the zoo then. That one evolved and went from more of a friend’s hands-on, small potatoes kind of thing. We knew that if we wanted to change anything in the zoo, it was gonna take some outside sources because the park district had limited funds based on tax dollars. And there were all these other projects.

00:42:39 - 00:43:37

And rather than just being one of several siblings in this little family, we wanted to stand out a little bit better. So we developed a zoological society. With the hope that someday they would be taking on more and more funding of not only the capital projects, but maybe some of the operations too. So it was a long slow process, but we got some people involved. It did help we had – our director of parks knew some people. And we had got two very prominent women. One was the president of Caterpillar’s wife. And another large foundation, the Bielfeldt Foundation that we had in town.

00:43:39 - 00:44:32

Carlotta Bielfeldt was involved in that. And so we asked them if they would be co-chairs of a fundraising job. And then also put together a zoological board. Made up of some of the big corporations in town. As well as we also brought in people that were on the “friends board” before to keep them inclusive too and just make it one organization, but that’s kind of where we started taking off on our fundraising. Big fundraising. And. You mentioned about fundraising and about talking to people on various levels.

00:44:32 - 00:44:39

Can you speak to your involvement with AZA on a national level?

00:44:39 - 00:44:41

How did that get started?

00:44:44 - 00:45:34

Well I was allowed to go to some of the conferences. It started, the lower I was, I would go to the regional conferences they had back then. And then right before I think Chuck knew he was leaving, I was allowed to go to my first national conference. And so that helped to get to know some people there. And then I think it was when Paul Chaffee was president. And I know Bob Wagner was involved in this. Would get interested people that they thought were coming up. And they wanted to, quite honestly, Bob told me, we’re looking for somebody, you know, we’re trying to get a woman.

00:45:34 - 00:45:36

And we want somebody from a small zoo.

00:45:36 - 00:45:37

You know?

00:45:37 - 00:46:00

Well you had limited, so, but I’m happy to fit that. So Paul Chaffee asked me to be on the membership committee. So that’s where I started was membership committee and that’s probably the one I was on the longest. But it was also good because you learn about the different levels and you meet more people that way and try to get them to increase your membership.

00:46:02 - 00:46:04

In addition, what else?

00:46:06 - 00:46:41

I was on the ethics board. At one time. The Conservation Education Committee. And then I chaired that one year. And then eventually I was asked to be on the board. Meanwhile then they also ask you to do, on these accreditation inspections, to go out as a representative from “the management side” to do inspections on these other zoos. So I got to do a little bit of everything and very pleased for it.

00:46:44 - 00:46:48

Was the zoo accredited with the AZA when you became director?

00:46:48 - 00:47:43

It was just accredited. I was curator at the time. So. I think that was ’81, 1981. So that was the process, you know, of going through that whole – an accreditation process is pretty intense. And worrisome and, you know, you want to pull your hair out, but it was also a good team building exercise and everybody did their part and pulled in and we actually got the park districts to do a little bit more as, you know, we got this big inspection and we got… The PR press from the media got involved in it. Oh, we’re doing this national inspection, so, you know, it was very trying but at the same time very rewarding.

00:47:43 - 00:47:46

And you mentioned you went to conferences.

00:47:46 - 00:47:50

How important was professional growth for your staff?

00:47:50 - 00:48:41

Well I believe in it a lot because, again, the people make all the difference. You can read the newsletter. We tried, we would pay for, if budgets allowed, we would pay for their memberships so that they were trying to get more involved in things. We encouraged the keepers to join AAZK. So that they felt a comradery and would find other people to help them improve on their jobs and bring in ideas. But I think it’s always important, no matter what you read or what you do, it’s the one-on-one with other people that’s gonna make the big difference. So we thought it was very important, as much as we could, we would send people to different things.

00:48:41 - 00:48:47

The problem, again, was when you got a small zoo you can only let so many people go or who’s gonna run the zoo?

00:48:47 - 00:48:54

So it was challenging and you try to make it the best you can and use your resources where you can.

00:48:55 - 00:49:04

How important do you think are, or how involved were you with the day-to-day activities and hands-on when you became director?

00:49:04 - 00:49:06

Were you still cleaning cages?

00:49:07 - 00:49:39

No. Well only if somebody didn’t show up. And then you would have to fill in I mean. And that was hard too ’cause you’d get out of the habit of stuff. I remember once I had to fill in, it was a last minute one, you know, and you couldn’t get anybody to come in and sub. And so I was trying to clean a marmoset exhibit. And number one, you have to be small and, you know, scooch in, it had these little tiny doors that were built back in the ’50s. They must have hired all little people.

00:49:39 - 00:50:23

But you got in there and I forgot the marmoset, I had a different hair color than the normal keeper that was there and they just did not like me coming in. And that one, one of them jumped on my head and I started bleeding and, you know, they’re. (animal screech) And screams and I ended up having to go to the hospital and get some stitches, and of course since the media likes to cover those things. They had to come down and say oh, you know, there’s an article in the paper. Jan Schweitzer, zoo manager, bitten by wild marmosets. And the worst part was they put your age in it.

00:50:23 - 00:50:30

You know, Jan Schweitzer, and I can’t remember how old I was then but I’m like do you really have to put all that in there?

00:50:30 - 00:50:58

But it was good. Even bad press can be good press. So yes, sometimes you still did it. You still had to give breaks to the people at the front desk or the concessions or whatever. So yes, part of my job was still to have to go around and do part of that. Between the curator or myself would have to fill in at these different pieces.

00:50:59 - 00:51:01

How big was Glen Oak Zoo in acreage?

00:51:01 - 00:51:05

Seven acres. Back in the day.

00:51:05 - 00:51:08

And did you make rounds of the zoo?

00:51:08 - 00:51:44

Oh, we would have, yeah. Every morning we’d have a meeting. With staff, all of staff, just before we got out. Actually they would come in, everybody had to do a walkthrough first of their areas, come back, have a meeting so everybody knew what was going on or what we had planned for the day or if the vet was coming or… Okay, press is coming, we’re doing this, or this special event and we gotta get this, this and this ready. So oh yeah, it was every day. I saw everybody.

00:51:48 - 00:51:50

Was that important to you?

00:51:50 - 00:51:51

Making rounds?

00:51:51 - 00:52:41

I think, again, it’s… I think staff is very aware if you’re not out there doing something. You know, they would often complain about oh, you know, the parks people don’t know what we have to do. You never see the director of parks over here walking through or doing this or that. And I’m like yeah, we’re the conduit. You know, I have to tell them because I would have to then go to meetings at the recreation department and say here’s what we’re doing, and they would have to then tell the director of parks, so that communication is very important. And the more you can invite other people in to see that and get them involved, the better. It’s just, it’s a hard process.

00:52:41 - 00:52:43

‘Cause people are busy, you know?

00:52:44 - 00:52:51

You were a woman director. Thank you for noticing. In a profession dominated by men.

00:52:51 - 00:52:55

How did that affect you personally?

00:52:56 - 00:53:01

Did you have issues at any level with that?

00:53:03 - 00:53:04


00:53:05 - 00:53:24

You were always aware of it. I think you had to just do what you were supposed to do. You had to do your job and let people know. I’m here. I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do. You can accept me or not. Some people would never.

00:53:28 - 00:53:37

It took a long time I think for men to see women in certain positions, but that was just the way it was then, you know?

00:53:37 - 00:54:28

Most guys are used to, at that point are used to seeing women either I date them, they’re my sister or my mom. You know, it’s not like oh, you can be on the same level as I have and by golly you can actually talk and walk at the same time and you might have an idea. And it might work. So yes, we did a lot of… You just did what you had to. And then sometimes if you wanted to get something across and it wasn’t, you would use a backhanded way of doing it. You might talk to them one-on-one instead of in a big group, you might mention something in the hallway to somebody of I wonder if we did something like that. Well if they came back into that meeting and said it and took credit or, you know, yeah, good idea.

00:54:30 - 00:55:11

The thing is you wanted to get to this outcome and it didn’t matter who got you there. You know, so you did your work professionally and. Called in the favors that you could when you did until people recognize that you had some worth and oh, maybe we can trust them to do it. So it’s a slow relationship. But it’s very worthwhile developing. But on a national level, there weren’t many zoo directors who were women. I think at one time we either had like 10 or 12 of us. Most of them at small zoos.

00:55:12 - 00:55:17

We would get together, some of us, at conference and have a luncheon.

00:55:17 - 00:55:23

You know, just a few friends of, and we would set goals, you know?

00:55:23 - 00:55:50

And they were just our little luncheon go. We divvied it up professionally, what did we want to do. Whether it was through AZA or in our zoos or whatever. Personally what we wanted to do to grow as women. And get along, and it was just a little bonding type thing. That we did and it helped.

00:55:51 - 00:55:54

Did you call each other or commiserate on issues?

00:55:54 - 00:56:36

(Jan laughs) Yeah, I mean you can. I would guess it was no different than guys getting together and saying. Dang, I’m having this problem with staffing and doing this or that. So we talked the normal same things. Only once do I remember, and that was more at a board level because there weren’t a lot of women on the board either and it took a long time to get a woman to be president. Now, you know, there’s several. I was on the executive committee and I know that we were gonna get together and have our little meeting. Well the guys came out, we took a break.

00:56:36 - 00:57:01

People went to the bathroom, you know, came back out, they said well we had the meeting. And I said you didn’t invite me. I didn’t get to go in the bathroom. And they’re like oh it’s okay, Jan. So I don’t think anything huge was decided, but it was a little bit of an eh. But it’s… You don’t take it personally. You gotta let it roll off your back ’cause of the time that it was.

00:57:01 - 00:57:50

And like you say, just kind of keep moving forward. As we reflect on it now, there are so many more women. Mmhm, true. I think, well you know in that era when I first started applying to work at zoos, I remember going to the Minnesota Zoo that I think was just opening. Back in ’74, ’75, ’76, somewhere in there. And, you know, being interviewed by somebody and they said well we want to hire a woman because we think they’ll keep the glass cleaner on the exhibits. And you know, it was a little kick in the butt when you’re like let’s see, I went to school, I did the study, I’m willing to do these things, and that’s what they were looking at. But that’s just individuals.

00:57:50 - 00:58:05

There are some farsighted people out there that, and men, that saw things differently. And it wasn’t man against woman, it was just the way things were at the time and you had to work your way in.

00:58:08 - 00:58:10

And you sit there and laugh don’t you?

00:58:11 - 00:58:14

As you were running the zoo.

00:58:16 - 00:58:21

Did you feel that Glen Oak needed a master plan?

00:58:21 - 00:58:26

And. What’s your opinion about…

00:58:26 - 00:58:27

Master planning?

00:58:27 - 00:58:59

Master plans. Master plans are good to get people to buy into what you wan to do, but they gotta be flexible. They gotta move. Because as much as you like this set plan, things change. Budgets change, people change. Politics change. So the best thing you can do is be flexible. But it is a good process to have a plan.

00:59:00 - 00:59:35

And get everybody involved in it so that they know this is our joint mutual plan. This is what we’re working toward. But again, I mean you can do one. And should. And I think it’s required through accreditation processes. But you just need to update it on a regular basis. And whether that’s a 10 year or a five year or, you know, a new director comes in. And they might have different ideas or…

00:59:35 - 00:59:38

You know, you just gotta manipulate it a little bit.

00:59:41 - 00:59:48

When you say a new director comes in, how long were you director of the Glen Oak Zoo?

00:59:48 - 01:00:51

A long time. I think I was appointed in ’82. 1982. And then when we developed that Zoological Society and we’re doing fundraising, the Zoo Society had hired a development person that came in. And basically the two of us, he would take me as the one who knew the zoo, so as zoo director a lot of my focus at that time shifted more to PR. And the development side. So we would go out and do programs and say here’s where the zoo’s done, here’s where we’ve been, here’s where we want to go, but I was like the sales pitch and he was the one trying to line some of that up and get some of the funding sources ready. I was the okay, Jan, you’re on.

01:00:53 - 01:01:40

That… Let’s see, I’m trying to figure out exact years, so it was probably by… He left in 2005 and at that point the society and the park district said you know, Jan, you’re the one that’s out there in front and already knows all this stuff and is doing it. You take this part on. And so we rearranged staffing and duties. The then curator became zoo manager. Basically our registrar took on some more activities. And we just kind of all shifted a little bit and I became the fundraiser.

01:01:43 - 01:01:47

So that was- So you were zoo director when you were fundraising?

01:01:48 - 01:01:52

Yeah. Well that’s part of – any director should be “selling” the zoo.

01:01:54 - 01:02:01

And can you explain the evolution then of the Zoo Society?

01:02:01 - 01:02:05

You seemed to indicate it was a newer organization.

01:02:05 - 01:02:14

How did that transition take place and what was then your role as zoo director with this new organization?

01:02:15 - 01:02:27

As zoo director we helped form that zoo group first before they hired anybody to come in and be their manager or, you know.

01:02:28 - 01:02:33

So we would set up the meetings, you know?

01:02:33 - 01:03:06

I made the board agendas. We set up the committees. I sat not on the board, but I came to every board meeting and gave the reports. Met with… The society president and others as they needed me. To kind of either educate them on certain things or help them in how they wanted, if they wanted to get something done they told me and we made it happen.

01:03:07 - 01:03:11

But there was an older society became a newer society or was the same one?

01:03:11 - 01:03:13


01:03:13 - 01:03:14

How’d that evolve?

01:03:14 - 01:04:04

That one, well when we knew that we were gonna go on a campaign to do big funding. And this was gonna be our whole kinda shift to try to change the Glen Oak Zoo into the Peoria Zoo. We took… We asked some people in the community to sit on this board, but we also took some people from the friends group and put them on the board to be more of a cohesive group, so it became one. So they still had the representation. But eventually that Zoo Society one took… The friends group actually just kind of disappeared. Eventually.

01:04:04 - 01:04:19

And the volunteers and all that came through under our education coordinator. And they handled that and the Zoo Society was in charge of this “new zoo” then. Or the to be new zoo.

01:04:21 - 01:04:24

And they were friends at the zoo, not running the zoo?

01:04:24 - 01:04:50

Correct – well, right. They were not running the zoo. It was still under the park district. Their job when they started was to raise funds to build a new… To give the zoo a kind of a new facelift. Both publicly, so they hired a marketing department, you know, offsite. Not the park district marketing department. To pull materials together.

01:04:53 - 01:05:08

And kind of give us a different look. And then go out and raise funds. Ultimately you retired as zoo director. And someone else took over as zoo director. Right.

01:05:08 - 01:05:12

Did you give them any advice as you left or did they ask?

01:05:12 - 01:05:51

I don’t think they asked. Because again, it was internal. So they had been a part of the process not unlike when I had gone into directorship from being a curator. So no, they didn’t ask. No, and I tried very hard not to. Step on any toes or give too much advice. Because the same thing held true when I went in. At that time I didn’t want – I’m the director, I don’t want somebody telling me what to do kind of thing.

01:05:51 - 01:06:09

In hindsight, not so good. You should get as much information as you can from anybody you can. But we learn a little slower. So during your tenure as director, a lot of things were going on within the zoo world.

01:06:09 - 01:06:13

What do you feel is the zoo’s responsibility to animal welfare?

01:06:14 - 01:06:16

And what do you think that means?

01:06:18 - 01:07:01

I think, if I’m getting the question right, I think our first and foremost duty is to the animals. In the bigger picture, the welfare is doing the right thing by the animals that you have in your charge. So sometimes it means euthanizing them. Sometimes it means things leaving. You know, going to other zoos. Working in… Through SSPs and that type of thing. Which ones are gonna breed and which ones are not gonna breed.

01:07:01 - 01:07:22

And following through on that. And not bucking the system. You know, if you see where you’re supposed to be going, your job is again a combination, but you should always, always, always be true to your animals. And passionate about what you’re – why you went into the business in the first place.

01:07:22 - 01:07:23

You know?

01:07:23 - 01:07:31

I think a lot of people forget that. But I think you always have to come back to what you’re there for.

01:07:32 - 01:07:41

So when we talk about animals, what would you say is the most significant change in the care of animals under your leadership?

01:07:42 - 01:07:57

Oh. Well we expanded. We did get a new veterinarian who was much more involved in not only just coming in if something was sick, but in setting up.

01:08:00 - 01:08:04

Regular checks on things, you know?

01:08:04 - 01:09:05

That it wasn’t wait ’til an animal gets sick. Let’s do regular exams and have records saying when we did that and what it was at this time and doing weights and all that, so you had a baseline to go with. And then I think because my bent was always on, it was that psych and zoo together, it was always the behavior and wanting to do more enrichment and getting things “more natural.” So we did a lot more of that that we never did. When I first got there. You know, when you took care of primates especially which were my favorite. You went in and when I was a keeper you hosed them out. You know, you fed them, you did whatever. You might get to know some of the animals and they got to know you and you’d try to do something, but they didn’t have the toys or the things to make them work at getting their food or different smells or training them.

01:09:05 - 01:09:20

The only thing we had done was to train them so that we could get them to go into a holding cage so that we could get into the display to clean it. So I think the whole behavioral enrichment was, to me, one of the best things that came around.

01:09:22 - 01:09:32

And talking about education too, within the zoo, should all newly constructed exhibits incorporate a conservation conclusion?

01:09:37 - 01:10:17

I think every exhibit has different uses. You gotta look at the big package. It would be nice if we tried to put a conservation message on each one that we did. You know, if we, say the sea lion pool. You needed something for people to get drawn to them a little bit more, so when we did the animal shows we put a conservation message with it. And talked about things here and things in the wild. And tried to connect them and how you too can fit as a part of that. But.

01:10:19 - 01:10:23

Every exhibit doesn’t have to be the conservation thing, you know?

01:10:23 - 01:10:47

Some can be seen, or maybe priority wise, oh this is fun. We’ll throw in a little education and some conservation with it too. But its main focus may be fun or entertaining or a more active exhibit, but then you try to put something with it, so it’s building on each other. You mentioned animal shows.

01:10:47 - 01:10:50

When you were director, did the zoo have animal shows?

01:10:52 - 01:10:56

And what were they and what was the derivation?

01:10:56 - 01:10:58

What was your thought process?

01:11:00 - 01:11:46

Part of that was led through our education department at the time. And again, using the people that you have and their skills. At one time our education curator was very much a showman in my opinion. And he was able to work with some animals and do some bird things and have them fly and that type thing which is entertaining. But you can still get the message across. I’m trying to think. And then we had the sea lions. We still did Zoomobile programs out in the community.

01:11:48 - 01:12:33

We got away from going to every school and instead had worked out a thing with the school system where they came to the zoo. That way they could see more and get a better education, number one. It was hard for them because that’s an expense to put them on the bus and get them there. But we worked that out somehow and convinced them of the importance of them coming to the zoo so they got a bigger experience. It was still free. And they would get – but we also had some paid ones that weren’t in the public system, so we got paid by those that wanted to come in and do it.

01:12:35 - 01:12:37

So the zoo was free?

01:12:37 - 01:13:15

No. No, it was a paid zoo, but. There were so many days that we had to have free days. So we would have a free day which, you know, for anybody that works in a zoo, those can be kind of wild days. Because it’s just massive. And you get a lot more… You have to clean a lot more. You have to clean the windows and the bathrooms and you have to be out and about more with your staff to quell anything that they’re gonna do to tease the animals.

01:13:17 - 01:13:32

So it was an experience to go through that. But no, we were not free. We had so many free days per our regulations in order for us to get funding. So that was a requirement.

01:13:32 - 01:13:38

And so bringing people there, what would you say were the keys to maintaining your visitor’s attention?

01:13:42 - 01:14:26

I think, again, the more personable you can, I mean the guided tours were great because then you had them captured and then we’d try to bring an animal out too, so they also got a touch experience with them or something like that. But it was… And it’s kind of an ed-zoo-tation. I guess is what we call it. Education and entertainment at the same time. And I know that can be bad connotations to it, but you have to entertain people to keep them active too. You have to have some quiet spots. You also have to have some active spots.

01:14:26 - 01:14:33

And depending what age you’re working with. You personalize it to them.

01:14:33 - 01:14:43

What you do for a five year old is gonna be different than trying to get a teenager in there, you know?

01:14:43 - 01:14:44

Teens are hard.

01:14:45 - 01:14:50

Do you have any secrets for teens and having them have an interest in the zoo?

01:14:50 - 01:15:20

I think it’s gotten better. But again, depending on what the ages are and what the sexes are in some of them, you can have some date nights at the zoo. Kind of thing. You can do anything that’s a little bit different. You just gotta… It’s a tough one. It is tough. The ones that are really interested will come in through the volunteer program and do a hands-on thing.

01:15:20 - 01:16:04

And if you make it fun for them. And it’s not like something I have to do. It’s like somewhere I can go and feel important. That I’m helping do something and it’s fun. It’s not too long, it’s not stretched out. But you know, we’ve had some people come through our volunteer group that have actually gone on to work in other zoos too. So part of it has to be inbuilt that you have to have a passion for it once you get in it, but I’m not sure that answered your question at all. (laughs) During your tenure, the relationships of zoos and aquariums with animal dealers changed dramatically during your career.

01:16:04 - 01:16:05

It did.

01:16:05 - 01:16:08

What do you see as the cause of this change?

01:16:08 - 01:16:16

And how has the role of individual dealers and companies changed with respect to the development of modern zoos?

01:16:20 - 01:17:07

It did change a lot because you used to get animals you never quite knew ethically where they came from. You had to go with trusting who it was you were working with. But you’re never, you know, they weren’t necessarily keeping records or sharing where they had gotten them from. I think the AZA. Or AAZPA at that time. Was concerned about that. And, you know, people wondering or being more involved in the animal welfare. You had to be very careful and be able to say where you got your animals and which animals went where.

01:17:07 - 01:17:32

But I think it was through the AZA and them setting up some different breeding programs and more cooperation between them that they were able to then move animals around that way versus just going out to the, not that we ever got a lot from the wild but, you know, bringing some of the ones like tigers.

01:17:32 - 01:17:35

Where did some of these baby tigers come from, you know?

01:17:35 - 01:18:18

‘Cause there used to be a lot of those programs where bringing in baby animals was what was helping “sell” the zoo and they just thought it was normal. But then it again took that education to explain you can’t just keep bringing babies in. They gotta go somewhere when they grow up. And it’s your responsibility ethically and morally to follow that animal through. So I think that it changed through the AZA and becoming more scientific and more professional. And. Yeah, the whole… What’s the right – I guess it’s the professionalism of it.

01:18:18 - 01:18:38

It’s not just run by the seat of your pants anymore and do what you can to make your money and then go somewhere else. Now you have to work in that education and the conservation. In addition to just the “fun times” and the recreation. But yeah, some of those dealers went away.

01:18:40 - 01:18:43

Did your zoo deal with animal dealers?

01:18:43 - 01:19:32

Back in the day. We did. We would have one or two. And that was before I was director, and actually some of it before I was curator too, so we had some animals come in and we had one guy that we had always worked with that would bring in stuff for the summer. You know, for the petting zoo, so we’d have the goats and the sheep. He knew somebody who did camel rides and the camel rides would come in. And he might know somebody that knew somebody that you could get something from. But fairly soon, I mean back before our accreditation, we had already trimmed that down where we weren’t doing that anymore.

01:19:33 - 01:19:37

How do you think zoos need to deal with surplus animals?

01:19:39 - 01:19:41

How do – say that one again?

01:19:41 - 01:19:45

How do zoos need to deal with surplus animals?

01:19:45 - 01:20:28

Well hopefully they’re getting better at not having as many surplus through the breeding of who can breed and who cannot breed. But. There’s still gonna be that fine line of what to do with the animals that aren’t in the breeding programs. And hopefully there’s some… Other facilities. Maybe some of the smaller zoos. And whatever that can take on some of those surplus. And not have them be part of the breeding program.

01:20:29 - 01:20:38

But it’s a hard question. You mentioned before. Euthanasia. And.

01:20:40 - 01:20:46

Why do you think – did you ever have to consider that as director?

01:20:46 - 01:20:48

For surplus animals.

01:20:49 - 01:20:57

Why is it a difficult position for a zoo to have to decide that?

01:20:59 - 01:21:36

Luckily we didn’t have to do it for surplus at the time, but I’ve been gone for 15 years. We had to euthanize some animals. Either due to health or age. Or a combination thereof. And. That one took a lot of working with the press. And again, education programs going out. We used to do TV programs on a regular basis with some of the affiliates.

01:21:36 - 01:21:40

And it would be going on with them to say okay.

01:21:40 - 01:21:46

And the newspapers and saying we’re gonna have to put this animal down, you know?

01:21:46 - 01:22:15

And it’s very sad for us. Especially if it was a high profile one. We had a lion named Boomer who had come – when we built the new Lion’s Trace, you know, he came in and I used to play with him on the kitchen floor. You know, at the zoo. Well he grew up and he went into the exhibit, but he kind of became the face of the zoo for a while ’cause he was such a personality.

01:22:15 - 01:22:19

He’d always sleep with his tongue hanging out and everybody knew Boomer, you know?

01:22:19 - 01:23:05

The kids that would come in for their trips. Oh, it’s Boomer! Well when we had to end up putting him down because of his age and some of the complications that he was having, it was very sad. But we tried – one of the saddest days of my life, we worked with next to our, just a side story. We had a cemetery that was at the bottom. Way back at the bottom of the park district area. And kind of came up and around, but we worked with them. They were just putting in a new pet cemetery area for dogs and whatever.

01:23:05 - 01:23:43

They offered to us, because neighbors, to let us put Boomer there. So we had an actual funeral basically. Did press release, invited people if they wanted to come, sent our thing to all our board members and we had a little service for Boomer. But I think those things… It’s, again, part of an education program. You gotta tell people about life and death and we all do it. And it’s sad. But somehow you get through it because it’s for the better of the bigger picture later.

01:23:45 - 01:23:50

You talked about conservation and education.

01:23:50 - 01:23:58

What do you think the role of conservation breeding in zoos relative to other types of conservation activities?

01:24:01 - 01:24:03

Is it the main focus?

01:24:03 - 01:24:43

The breeding or the… Or other activities that involve conservation. Okay. I think, again, it’s an individual thing. There are some zoos I would like, you know, in the perfect world it would be nice if all of your conservation would be you can protect things in the wild where they’re supposed to be. You can’t always do that. And you do need some representative samples so people have a connection to what’s out there that they’re not gonna see on a day-to-day basis. And still know how it affects them or vice versa.

01:24:43 - 01:25:14

What you do affects them. I think. Some conservation things are just better suited for educational wise. Some for breeding obviously. Some are institute, but not everybody, like our zoo can’t… “Our zoo,” I’m not there anymore. At the time our zoo didn’t have a budget to put a lot of money into offsite places.

01:25:14 - 01:25:23

Because, and you’re dealing with a community that’s like why are you taking our tax dollars and putting it out there?

01:25:23 - 01:25:52

They didn’t see that connection yet. We couldn’t do it. So more of ours was in the education. I mean that’s why we felt so strongly with it. But we were part of breeding programs too. And developed those on the basis where we could. If that kind of answers your question. So you were doing new animal exhibits.

01:25:53 - 01:25:58

What was your proudest animal exhibit achievement?

01:26:00 - 01:26:57

The one that I actually saw finished was probably the lion exhibit. Because it was the transformation between bars to natural. Getting people to work together to make that happen. You know, that it wasn’t just oh we raised the money and then we built it. It was actually, I mean the partnership of getting those park district people involved, getting our society at the top, or the friends group to gather money. The park district put in some money too then, you know, so that was probably my favorite. Other than at the very end of my career when I was doing the development. Raising, you know, 30-some million dollars to start the Africa exhibit.

01:26:57 - 01:27:32

Which was started, but I didn’t, I had to come back to it to see it open. That was very proud. Very proud, I mean at the time I wish I had done… That we had enough money to build the new Africa part and do something at the old zoo so they could start seeing that okay, we do something brand new. We fix something old. But again. We weren’t able to do that because we didn’t have enough funds to do both.

01:27:32 - 01:27:34

And what do you take out of what?

01:27:34 - 01:28:15

You have to make a decision. And in my mind I thought until people saw what the zoo could be, they weren’t gonna. Take a lot of money just to take bars out of, you know, this exhibit or to expand this and you had to see something brand brand new to go wow. Look what we could do. So I wish we’d been able to do both, but I just didn’t. I think we got 32 million. We just didn’t get enough. And speaking of spending money, zoos are spending tens of millions of dollars on elephant exhibits.

01:28:15 - 01:28:17

Huge sums of money. Yep.

01:28:17 - 01:28:24

Would this be better spent and sent to conservation of elephants, or what do you see are the issues and problems?

01:28:26 - 01:28:30

Again, it’s a balance between, you’ve gotta have…

01:28:32 - 01:28:35

Some, not everybody has to have an elephant, you know?

01:28:35 - 01:29:19

And shouldn’t have an elephant. So I think the more we can put into “nature” and NC2 conservation the better. But again, it’s a balance because you’re gonna have to show people and have something there that they can relate to. But do it right. You know, you don’t want to have tiny little exhibits and just a little here, stack up, do your hand, do this, put the trunk up. Show kind of things. You want to be able to coordinate and say here’s what we have here to what it should be in the wild.

01:29:19 - 01:29:23

And how do we get from here to here and get people to buy into it?

01:29:24 - 01:29:54

That’s the hard part. It has been said that many newer younger zoo and aquarium professionals are computer curators. With probably little knowledge of the precepts of Heini Hediger. Or Lee Crandell or William Conway. Or knowledge of publications such as the International Zoo Yearbook.

01:29:54 - 01:29:59

How important for the future of zoos is it to keep a link with the past?

01:30:01 - 01:30:08

I might be old fashioned, but I think you have to. I mean if we don’t learn lessons from our past.

01:30:08 - 01:30:11

I mean isn’t that what future is all about?

01:30:14 - 01:30:17

Not unlike slavery and what it went through.

01:30:17 - 01:30:26

You know, if we don’t learn lessons from the past of what we did right or wrong, how are we gonna make the right decisions in the future?

01:30:26 - 01:31:19

So same thing applies with… There’s been a lot of good people that know a lot of good stuff of basic information that you have to have respect for. Because as they say. If you come by and see that turtle sitting on top of a post, he didn’t get there by himself. There’s been other people before all of us that had a lot of good input that we need to take, you know, advice from. Maybe not all of it’s perfect, but you can take what’s good and works for the future and hopefully that next generation’s gonna be even smarter. But I do think. They gotta get out from behind the computers completely.

01:31:19 - 01:31:50

Because to me, the only thing that’s gonna make a difference is people to people. Computers are great. For knowledge and putting all this stuff together, but it’s people that get things done. You worked in a park district system. Correct. Governmental. You also had to deal with a board for the Society. Society, mmhm.

01:31:51 - 01:31:56

What was your philosophy in dealing with the board of directors?

01:31:57 - 01:31:58

Which board?

01:31:58 - 01:32:27

There was a board, the park district board. That we had to answer to also. Well let’s go with the park district board and then go to the society board. You had two different bosses, so to speak. Yeah. I had, yeah, I had a lot of bosses. Okay, my philosophy was… I hate to keep harping on this, was the education.

01:32:27 - 01:33:05

You try to personalize things, do your job the best you can with what you got. And hopefully be training them. Whether it’s straight out training which they don’t always like versus little subversive stuff of oh, pick up that. Oh, that could be good. Oh, I see the kids are really enjoying that. That would be good for… That’s kind of how we got one of our campaign shares is ’cause she used to be a teacher. And has kids and grandkids and she knows the importance of what she was able to see.

01:33:05 - 01:33:52

The importance of what we did and how it made a difference in her or in their lives, of the grandkids lives. And in people that she taught. So. Again, it’s education through them. You just have to put things on a different level depending on who it is ’cause those boards are made up of individual people. That each have their own agenda. You know, you have your agenda, but they’re on that board for a reason. You know, either they were asked to be on it and they’re there ’cause Caterpillar Tractor said you have to sit on this board and, you know, make some money.

01:33:52 - 01:34:26

Do your civic duty. Make some money. You’ve got some people that are there because they like the kids and they see the importance of that. You’ve got other ones that are just budget-minded people that are going what are you doing with this or that, so it’s a juggling act with all of that. It’s not unlike staff. You know, your boards are all different and you cater to the individuals on them, look at them as a whole to kind of guide them. But you still have to work with the individuals.

01:34:26 - 01:34:29

Does that answer your question or was that going the wrong way?

01:34:29 - 01:34:39

No, but did you have to approach the governmental board differently than you approached the society board?

01:34:41 - 01:35:00

Because we developed the society board they were already on board, so to say. They were different. They were looking more to me to come in and say here’s what we’re gonna do. (coughs) Excuse me.

01:35:00 - 01:35:04

How did you get the community to embrace the zoo?

01:35:05 - 01:35:07

Were there some strategies you had?

01:35:09 - 01:35:46

Again, it was using the media. I think the most because, you know, people watch TV, they read the paper. If they didn’t feel it was important, or at least in their purview, they just let it pass by. But again, we tried to take all the pieces of what we were and what we were doing for the community and how we fit into the big picture. And we just did the best we could with that.

01:35:46 - 01:35:48

Whether they embraced it or not?

01:35:50 - 01:36:30

We had not… When we started our campaign for the new zoo, we had gone for the big bucks first. We hadn’t gotten to the point of okay, all the kids putting your pennies in and all that stuff. I hadn’t gotten to that part yet. So. I think them just seeing the improvements is what made them feel a part of it then. You know, we did have the things where you could put your pennies in here and they’d go through the funnel or whatever. And help save, you know, or make a new home for Boomer.

01:36:31 - 01:36:51

So we use those type of things, but we could have used more embracing of the community. And I feel bad that we didn’t get more of that. But you do the best you can with what you got. And with our limited funds and what we were able to get in the community, I thought we did pretty good.

01:36:51 - 01:36:55

Well you mentioned the press, so did you have good relationship with the press?

01:36:55 - 01:36:58

And how did you nurture that relationship?

01:36:59 - 01:37:37

Again, I think it’s one-on-one. You’re always there for if they want to set up an interview, you make it happen. If they want to deal with something that you don’t want to deal with, you figure out how to turn it to your way to say yes, this was bad, but. And, you know, we promise we’re gonna do better and. We are doing what we can, but we need your help. That we’re not in this alone. Media-wise. It was one-on-ones with the individual.

01:37:37 - 01:38:35

You know, you made the newspaper photographer especially feel important and available when you could because anytime then that they needed a filler. They thought oh, I’m gonna call Jan at the zoo ’cause I bet she’ll have something. We did the same thing with the TV stations. We had set up some regular morning shows where we had to take something or talk about something on TV and get there at 6 in the morning, you know, so you’re always your best at that point. But you worked out a relationship with the morning people. The news people we did the same thing with. We had one experience where we had gotten a new zebra was coming in that day and we were gonna put it in the new exhibit we had built. And thought everything was fine.

01:38:35 - 01:39:16

Next thing you know somebody comes running in going the zebra’s out. And took off and it had gone down to the cemetery. Luckily it was the cemetery and not in the middle of the traffic out on the Prospect Road. But I just remember everybody was in different places and, you know, we had our radios. And I happened to run into the newspaper photographer in the middle of the cemetery and it was just him and me. So we kind of joked about it and whatever, but if I hadn’t had that relationship with him. And known I was good. And I would tell the truth and, you know, that we’d work together.

01:39:18 - 01:39:22

I think he could have taken it the bad way of dang, these people don’t know what they’re doing.

01:39:22 - 01:39:25

They can’t keep their own animals in, you know?

01:39:25 - 01:39:33

So they were very kind to us. I don’t know if he just took pity on me that day, but he was a good guy.

01:39:33 - 01:39:37

Did you plan for contingency emergencies?

01:39:37 - 01:39:42

You mentioned an animal getting out. Did the zoo have those kind of…

01:39:42 - 01:39:43

Plans in place?

01:39:43 - 01:40:19

Yeah. We would take – yeah. We had emergency procedures. Every once in a while we’d do an unannounced type thing and I’d go up to the concession stand and get a, or the gift shop, get a stuffed lion and I’d put it somewhere in the zoo. And I’d say okay, code whatever. And we’d let people do their stuff. We’d have regular training on firearms. And what order and who was to go first, second, third.

01:40:20 - 01:40:49

I was always at the bottom of the list because I was too small to get the shotgun very – I had to shoot from the hip. And I was not a very good shot. So thank goodness it was not me. But luckily we didn’t have anything that was that dangerous. We lost some things, as many people do. I didn’t lose them. They came back. When you talked about the press and getting them involved, there’s a lot of new technologies.

01:40:49 - 01:40:57

How do you see the new technologies assisting, if they can, to promote zoos?

01:40:57 - 01:41:03

Twitter, Facebook, remote cameras to draw attention to wildlife.

01:41:03 - 01:41:04

Did you use any of that?

01:41:05 - 01:41:34

Well remember, I’ve been gone 15 years. They do now. We didn’t have all that then. But again, the big thing about all of this is communications. If you’re not talking, whether it’s one-on-one, or if you’re in the media. If you’re out there, number one they gotta know you’re there. Two, they gotta know what you’re doing. Three, they gotta get some kind of a relationship or a comradery with you so they can support you.

01:41:34 - 01:42:02

So those are all very important. So somebody has to be kind of in charge of okay, here’s what we’re gonna do. But they have done that now and so if there’s camera feeds if you’re expecting a birth of something, or they will put things out on Facebook and Twitter and whatever. But I didn’t know all that back then.

01:42:02 - 01:42:05

Did you plan special things for the press?

01:42:05 - 01:42:07

To build relationships?

01:42:07 - 01:43:00

We made sure that if anything happened that we let them know. You know, we tried not to hide anything bad that we – because something always leaks out. So if there was something that you were gonna do. If you had to put, or say you were doing a surgery on an animal and it could be kind of iffy, you tried to prep them before you took them down there to say okay, there might be good and bad outcomes from this. And explain the scientific… The good and the bad, you know, so that they knew what to expect so that they didn’t think you were hiding something. And then anything that we could, we’d get them out for any kind of special events. We’d invite them for if there were births.

01:43:02 - 01:43:31

If we thought there was a cute story on something. You know, some animal was having its 40th birthday. We’d do something. So some of them would take notice. It depended on what else was happening in town that day whether we were newsworthy or not. But we just kept sending stuff out to them to keep them involved. You had talked about that you were involved in fundraising. With the Society.

01:43:32 - 01:43:37

That you were director of the zoo. At the beginning, yeah.

01:43:37 - 01:43:42

And what was the evolution after you left?

01:43:42 - 01:43:44

Did you then become.

01:43:45 - 01:43:49

A member of the Zoo Society in fundraising?

01:43:49 - 01:43:51

What was the evolution of that?

01:43:53 - 01:44:36

Again, it was an individual thing. Normally you work for one or the other. It was difficult, but they put it together ’cause the Zoo Society didn’t want to necessarily… They would pay for my salary and benefits. But they didn’t want to do the actual – they didn’t want to go out and get the health plan and the do all that. So they let the park district do that, so I maintained as a park district employee. Which was nice in some ways ’cause I got to keep my benefits and my retirement fund and all that. And they didn’t have to worry about it.

01:44:36 - 01:45:05

But in essence, I had to keep a lot of people happy. It wasn’t a direct line of authority. But it was new and we were working with it. And I was willing to do whatever we had to do to get where I thought we needed to go. So you’re no longer zoo manager. You’re Zoo Society…

01:45:06 - 01:45:09

Employee raising money for the Zoo Society?

01:45:09 - 01:45:10

For the zoo?

01:45:12 - 01:46:10

It depends, and up until 2005 they had their own employ, the Zoo Society. And I think that’s what they decided. They just didn’t want to worry about all that. So since I was moving into it, they left me in that kinda halfway in between position. So I did some development stuff when I was zoo director. By going out and making the pitches, but I would go with the fundraising person that they had hired. Later it was just me and I would then take usually one of the co-chairs because I can sell the zoo, but my salary did not go and affect the same level of the people we were talking to. So you needed somebody at this level to say, you know, we put in this amount.

01:46:10 - 01:46:12

What are you willing to put in?

01:46:12 - 01:46:16

So did that answer?

01:46:16 - 01:46:22

You talked about… Saying that, you’ve been credited with expanding the zoo.

01:46:24 - 01:46:34

Did you have a strategy for getting the funds for a specific project or generally, or were you just working with other people?

01:46:35 - 01:46:39

And you didn’t have your own… Did you have a…

01:46:39 - 01:46:40

Did I have a staff?

01:46:40 - 01:46:42

Did you have a reason?

01:46:42 - 01:47:55

I know I’m gonna be able to do this with this person, with this company. ‘Cause I have a strategy for selling, as you said, selling the zoo. Again, we would sit down, I worked, we were lucky enough to have somebody from Caterpillar Tractor, is or was Peoria. And that was the big company and they had some human resource people that were well connected in the community. And because one of the co-chairs was the wife of the president, we were able to utilize his services, so we knew some of the people that we were gonna go after. We had one strategy that worked for the Caterpillar Tractor Company VPs and how we were gonna get money all the way down from them. We had a different strategy and tried to get a group that was more into oh, let’s get together for dinner with this group and I would come and make a presentation, but it was using their social “friends” which was on a different level. We did some of those.

01:47:55 - 01:48:30

We did some events at the country club. Again, on a different level, and the people that were there, we would have them come for cocktails and there’d be a presentation either by one of the co-chairs or with me too. If they had any specific questions about what they were gonna get from it, what animals, why you’re doing all this kind of stuff. And then they would play the part of here’s why you need to be involved. You know, so it kind of came from the heart and I was the backup.

01:48:32 - 01:48:36

During this time, were there any surprise donations?

01:48:36 - 01:49:22

Oh yeah. We had… Not in itself, we had the Bielfeldt Foundation which is… They were both U of I grads where I had gone to school. Had made their money in commodities and whatever. Started their own foundation. But the nicest normal people I have ever met on a very real level. And their son was asked to be on our board, so he was on our board, but they were gonna kick off the campaign by making an announcement of what they were gonna donate.

01:49:22 - 01:50:00

And so I didn’t know how much it was gonna be or whatever, so we had set up the little thing and, you know, put these plants up, had a nice little thing, had the plans of what the zoo was gonna be, they got up there and made their presentation and it was all on them. And it turned out to be several, several million. And I was stunned to the point of I was just sitting in the back with little tears running down my face going oh my gosh. So I had to wait ’til all the cameras went away before I went up and gave them a big hug. But yes, some really great ones. Really great ones.

01:50:00 - 01:50:07

Did politics ever, were you ever able to raise funds using the political process?

01:50:07 - 01:50:12

‘Cause you were a park. Entity.

01:50:12 - 01:50:12

Or not?

01:50:15 - 01:51:07

I did not. We would use, well the director of parks. Would go on some of them. And it all depended who you use on how their relationship was politically with the city, the park district. It was kind of touchy on some things, so you would know who to use and who not to use on some things. But it might be that the director of parks didn’t have a good relationship with them ’cause they were fighting over funds on something. But she might give me the directive of okay, I might not be the one to do that, but if you use the former mayor. She was friends with him, so we would use him and he was still big in the community.

01:51:07 - 01:51:15

So he was able to do that. It was very individual. Politics sometimes get in the way and sometimes they help.

01:51:17 - 01:51:27

Did fundraising, as far as you were involved, change over time with your involvement or did it always just stay the same the way you approached it?

01:51:27 - 01:52:01

Oh, the way I approached it, not my involvement. No because our part was pretty much all on raising the big funds for. Africa in the new part of the zoo. We hadn’t got to the next level where it would be different. You know, then you build some of the membership up to help support on a continuing basis kind of thing. I wasn’t around for that part. That was kind of left to the next generation.

01:52:03 - 01:52:08

How would you say your board shaped the zoo?

01:52:09 - 01:52:15

How did personalities or individuals influence the direction or the development the zoo went in?

01:52:17 - 01:52:35

For the most part they let us go, and we involved them in the process of what we were gonna build with the new zoo. So we got their involvement from the beginning. Although we kind of tried to, you know, sell them on why this might be better if we did this.

01:52:35 - 01:52:41

There were always some board members that had special teams you know what we need?

01:52:41 - 01:52:47

You know, this person liked pelicans. And this person liked something or other.

01:52:47 - 01:52:48

Why don’t we do this?

01:52:48 - 01:54:18

And you had to explain, you know, it’s great to get them in, but the ongoing costs were not – you’re gonna have to raise a lot more money to keep something like that. So it was a training process, a give and take on some, so we tried at least in our Africa exhibit to provide some of what they “thought” should be there and some of what we thought would be good for educational purposes, or working with the other zoos, what animals we could get and what animals could be in educational and/or breeding programs. So it was all kind of a… But for the most part they followed what we thought. Their individual thoughts. I think they were so focused on where they were going that once we got past the first plan of here’s what we’re gonna do, until we had to cut out some ’cause we didn’t think we were gonna have enough money in that amount of time, you know, you had to sooth some things over of okay, we’re not gonna be able to do this unless we raise a lot more dollars and they were like well, okay. But yeah, it was a good process of working together. Regarding conservation.

01:54:19 - 01:54:22

And maybe a little something about zoos in the future.

01:54:22 - 01:54:27

Did the Peoria Zoo have a sister zoo relationship?

01:54:27 - 01:54:29

And do you think that’s important?

01:54:31 - 01:54:33

We did not.

01:54:36 - 01:54:41

As far as a sister zoo, you mean more like something in a different country?

01:54:42 - 01:55:25

We did not ’cause honestly, we just weren’t that big yet. We weren’t that involved in offsite that we could support anything like that. You know, ’cause you would think you would want to go to each other’s places and then share animals and do… We just hadn’t gotten to that point where we could logistically do that. And the people that were still. Our supporters. And. Management wise over us working with the park district and the Zoo society, didn’t buy into that yet.

01:55:25 - 01:55:45

They were very focused on home base. You know, they wanted to improve here. We hadn’t gotten them into that next level yet. Which I think should have or will be coming along because of what we did build with the new part. It’s a process.

01:55:48 - 01:56:01

Do you think that zoo education has made any headway in educating the public in the differences between the wellbeing of a creature individual and the survival of a species?

01:56:03 - 01:56:43

I think so. I hope so. Yeah, I do. I think people are more accepting and maybe it’s because there’s just so much more out there with media coverage. That people are seeing bigger pieces. It’s not just this individual animal. Although I mean there’s gonna be a few. On the personal level that people have come, if a kid comes and gosh, you know, Boomer’s been here and he’s my buddy and, you know, I’ve been back for 10 years to see him and celebrated every birthday with him.

01:56:43 - 01:56:52

But I think in the big picture, as people grow, they understand there’s more to it than the individual.

01:56:54 - 01:57:00

When you were director, was the zoo part of the species survival plan?

01:57:00 - 01:57:02

We were. Yep.

01:57:02 - 01:57:07

And was it hard to implement at your zoo?

01:57:07 - 01:57:10

Did everyone buy into the program?

01:57:10 - 01:57:48

On staff they were. The park district wasn’t as involved with, but as long as it fit within our budget, you know, that was their concern of how we fit it in. It worked, and then they were involved with it. They bought onto it when we went through the whole accreditation process and what our programs were. So they were supportive. As long as it fit within our realm. Within our little budget. Has the selection of criteria for SSP.

01:57:50 - 01:57:58

To decide what animal species are gonna be part of the program met with what you were envisioning?

01:58:01 - 01:58:33

It was new enough when I got involved with it that it was still developing. So 15 years ago, it’s changed a lot now. And quite honestly I haven’t kept up with what they’re putting in line now. As far as who they keep and who they don’t keep. I think a lot of it depends on personalities too at the time. Of who’s in there. Whether it should or not, it does.

01:58:33 - 01:58:35

You’re talking about people personnel?

01:58:35 - 01:58:45

Yes I am. (laughs) Yes I am. Many zoos seem to be giving lip service to using money for conservation purposes.

01:58:45 - 01:58:52

Is the conservation issue so big that it might be an unreasonable request to ask of zoos?

01:58:55 - 01:59:51

Again, some zoos can afford it, Some zoos can’t afford the dollars, but there can be other things that they can do. You know, people can, like in fundraising they say you can give, get, or get off. You know, if you’re on the board and trying to do something. If you’re a zoo, even a small zoo, and you want to be involved and you’re doing lip service for it, but you’re not putting money into it, you can still get involved in the breeding programs, in the education part of it. Maybe you don’t have the dollars going into offsite type things, but not everybody has to. I mean everybody plays a different role. And it all comes together as one piece. It’s not like everybody has to do this.

01:59:51 - 02:00:07

I mean everybody’s an individual. Each person’s an individual, each zoo’s an individual. And you got your own things you have to deal with. Whether it’s budgets or people or politics. You do what you can with what you got and make it work.

02:00:12 - 02:00:19

How successful would you say zoos have been in achieving the reintroduction of species back into the wild?

02:00:19 - 02:00:25

And what would you say are some of the more important stories in that regard?

02:00:29 - 02:01:06

You talked about bald eagles. Yeah. In your zoo. I mean for us that was very important. Not only one – that was one of the first things we actually put our mind to and were trying to breed. And so it was very exciting when they hatched and one out of two on the first one made it. And we were actually able then to, that was one of the pictures, take that animal down and put it in a rehab or a release center where they slowly taught it to be a wild eagle. And then it went off.

02:01:06 - 02:01:54

I keep hoping it was coming back and circling around someday. You know, and then it was also disappointing the next year when it didn’t happen. But then the following year it did happen, but with two of them. So it’s… That’s part of the fun part about being in zoos and seeing how things change and what you can put in and out. Our zoo has since then gotten, released more in, you know, not the mega vertebrates. Although some of those are the ones that are carrying the press that the people see and that you need to get them involved. Not as many people care about an amphibian or maybe a snake species that is released.

02:01:56 - 02:02:20

Yes, the mammals do get more credit because they’re cute. But, as I understand it, some reptile people think their animals are cute too. So in any case, it’s nice to be involved in whatever way you can. And the Peoria Zoo has done some of the reptiles and amphibians and gotten involved in that area.

02:02:23 - 02:02:28

Do you think animals should earn their keep in a zoo?

02:02:28 - 02:02:37

You know, thoughts about animal feeding opportunities. Example giraffes. Animals shows, you mentioned those, maybe birds in flight.

02:02:39 - 02:02:41

What’s your thoughts on that?

02:02:43 - 02:02:59

You know, I never thought of it as earning their keep. I don’t think anyone should have to earn their keep other than maybe some of the people that are responsible for them.

02:02:59 - 02:03:01

But animals themselves?

02:03:03 - 02:03:53

I never looked at that, I mean we did, we planned it into our Africa area to have giraffe feeding. But I guess I took it more from the area of connecting people to wildlife. And the experience the first time, you know, a kid goes to feed them a cracker and that big purple tongue comes out and wraps around them and the emotions. And the amount of time that person remembers that. I mean I was an adult the first time that happened to me and I was like oh my gosh. And, you know, stuck with me forever. I think it was the back of the Memphis Zoo that I got to do that and just, you know, peering eye to eye with a giraffe. If that doesn’t do it to you, nothing will.

02:03:55 - 02:04:40

So you look at it from different perspectives I guess. Part of it’s the entertainment. Part of it’s just the connection. If you don’t have the connection, you don’t have anything. So I don’t think they’re keeping their… It’s not their job. I mean they can sit there and look cute, but from a director point you want to be able to bring in some funds one way or another. So whether it’s bringing people to do that, or whether it’s having them spend money to do it, to help balance your budget, you’re there for a main purpose and however it takes you to get there morally, ethically, responsibly, you do it.

02:04:44 - 02:04:47

Does space continue to be a problem for zoos and aquariums?

02:04:49 - 02:04:51

Was space a problem for Peoria?

02:04:52 - 02:05:38

Only if we wanted to house anything bigger. And so I mean we had to divide or, you know, try to get some more space through the park district so that we could expand. So yeah, I mean it was to a certain degree, but not everybody has to be, you know, 50, 100 acre, whatever. You can specialize in all small zoo animals if you wanted to. You could have your small zoo. And do a relational zoo, or we had talked earlier, you could do a black and white zoo. Only black and white animals. So there’s all kinds of things you can do that take different space.

02:05:40 - 02:05:53

We talked about sister zoo relationship. The Adopt-a-Park, a national park, concept seemed like a natural for zoos to assist the wild.

02:05:54 - 02:05:59

Why do you think zoos have not picked up on the challenge in more numbers?

02:06:01 - 02:06:29

Other priorities. I think zoos have to think bigger sometimes too. Out of our scope and know that we’re not the be-all end-all. That there’s other organizations, other things we can partner with. To work together. And again, it’s gonna take communications to get somebody to buy in and work on that.

02:06:32 - 02:06:46

What areas of development, in the ways you talked about education, the way zoos have interpreted their collections to visitors, that you have felt have been strong?

02:06:48 - 02:07:00

That you’ve seen before. Ways of interpreting their collections to the visitors. I’m not sure where you’re going with that one. Well you mentioned graphics as one thing.

02:07:01 - 02:07:13

Are there other ways that a zoo can interpret this collection to the visitors that come there every day and get a message, maybe a conservation message across?

02:07:13 - 02:07:48

Besides just graphics. And again, I always go back to. It’s time and money intensive, but the one-on-ones are the ones that make more… I think that they’ve done more studies with. Make more connection with people. You know, it takes a person talking to another person. And answering questions and making that person feel important that whatever your question is is important. It’s hard to go by and just read a sign.

02:07:48 - 02:08:12

But if you even make an interactive sign. Maybe that’s something that would, you know, encourage them to get more involved. It’s playing tricks with whatever it is you think that age group, that person is gonna be enticed by. But to me it’s always been people to people. That makes the difference.

02:08:13 - 02:08:16

What made you a good zoo director?

02:08:17 - 02:08:19

What made me a good zoo director?

02:08:19 - 02:08:51

I think open-minded. Patience. And flexibility. You may think you know what you want to do, but you have to go with the flow on some things. Things I wish I had done better would’ve been. Letting things roll off my back more. Not taking things personally. Not worrying about them so much.

02:08:51 - 02:09:24

If you can put your foot forward and say I’m doing the best I can, I researched it, I got as much information as I could and this is what we’re gonna do and feel confident about it, then don’t worry about what people are saying. Don’t go home and go oh dang, maybe I should’ve… A lot of sleepless nights on some things I shouldn’t have wasted. But other than that, I think the flexibility’s the biggest part. And caring. I care. Sometimes too much, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

02:09:27 - 02:09:36

What skillset would you say a zoo director needs today as compared to when you started?

02:09:36 - 02:10:22

Hmm. Probably some more technological type things. To be just aware of what your curators are doing. And should be involved in. So much of it is more just managing the parts. And just to know some of the, not just the animal stuff, but the management parts and the curating parts and the education parts just at a broad base, but the technical skills to know what they’re doing. Or get the right people and trust them. If they’ve got the right heart and mission in mind.

02:10:22 - 02:10:29

Then trust them to do their job. When you say know what your curators are doing.

02:10:29 - 02:10:30

What do you mean by that?

02:10:30 - 02:11:06

Only for, you talked earlier about being computer. Too computer organized or whatever. Just to know the skill level that they need. Or that any department needs. Not that you have to know it in depth, but at least a broad view of oh, I understand what you’re dealing with. Because I would doubt that a lot of the zoo directors are gonna be so involved unless they came through that area or that field to know all the details.

02:11:06 - 02:11:08

Does that make sense to you?

02:11:08 - 02:11:15

I mean it’s a… You mentioned, you know, that they may have come through the ranks knowing animals.

02:11:15 - 02:11:29

Do you have an opinion, ’cause it’s gone in many directions, the person heading the zoo being a knowledgeable animal person or being a knowledgeable business person?

02:11:30 - 02:12:15

And again, it depends. It takes a team. One person can’t do it. So. If it’s a certain zoo that needs some financial background and is good at that. Use that as your strong point. But make sure you hire other people that have the good background. I think anybody, and I’m not sure how much they still teach that, when they started management school it used to be that, you know, everybody came up through the ranks and we didn’t know anything about management or business or marketing or education or whatever.

02:12:15 - 02:12:44

But then it kind of flipped and people were coming in that knew how to manage, but didn’t know the animal part. And that’s when I was on the Board of Regents. We had to train those people some of the basic operations of animal care and that type of thing. So I think it’s, again, all a balance. I don’t think one or the other is necessarily better. It just depends on what your community needs.

02:12:44 - 02:12:56

But if one had to be the head of directing all these parks, should it be someone more versed in animals or more versed in business?

02:12:57 - 02:12:59

My personal opinion?

02:12:59 - 02:13:27

I would say more versed in animals because then you’re invested in it. You can learn the management skills. You can’t always learn the passion. Of what you’re trying to do for the animals. Or the, you know, the conservation part or… To me it’s where the heart is. You go for what’s the heart. Now you were in a smaller zoo.

02:13:27 - 02:13:28

True that.

02:13:28 - 02:13:44

So what can a small or a medium-sized municipal zoo do today to be really invested in wildlife conservation either nationally or internationally?

02:13:45 - 02:14:30

I think, you know, even 20 years ago when I was there. I did quite a bit, or I was involved in the AZA. So they’re connected nationally and internationally. You can be in organizations that help with that even if you don’t have the funds to specifically do programs in other areas. It’s just at different levels. I mean you can offer to do bookworking, you can be on the, you know, I’ll be your information person if you’re out there. It’s just a combination of factors, and again, based on what your good skills are.

02:14:32 - 02:14:43

Do you think that small or medium-sized zoos realize that, or do they feel that they’re dwarfed by the bigger zoos with the money?

02:14:43 - 02:15:15

Depends on the individuals. I mean I know a lot of smaller zoos probably think well I can’t do that. But you can do what you put your mind to. I mean there are ways to get involved. If you make an effort at it. But sometimes you have to make the effort. You can’t wait for somebody to come to you, at least offer, and say oh, I’d like to serve on that committee if it’ll help do whatever and here’s what I can do. You gotta put yourself out there a little bit sometimes.

02:15:15 - 02:15:27

Now when you said that you were on, you yourself personally were on a national stage. Because of the work you did with the American Zoo Association.

02:15:30 - 02:15:40

What drove you, being a director of a smaller zoo, to say I want to be involved at a national level?

02:15:41 - 02:15:49

Were there many people like you at smaller markets that were doing this or were you unique?

02:15:49 - 02:16:09

Oh I am unique, but. Not. I don’t think there were a bunch of them, but there were some other smaller zoos that had people on different committees. And stuff. So I think it was out there.

02:16:09 - 02:16:14

I didn’t pay attention to that- But what drove you to do it?

02:16:14 - 02:16:52

I just wanted to be part of the big boy group. You know, to be involved in something bigger than just… Since you – and maybe it was because since you said I spent my whole career in one zoo. And my way of getting out a little bit more was to get involved in those committees. And talk to some of the people and say I’d really like to do that at some point if you’ll let me come in and help you. So I think it’s the willingness. That people will say okay. I mean a lot of people don’t volunteer for things.

02:16:52 - 02:17:01

A lot of people just don’t want to even be involved in things. I think it takes somebody that’s willing to diversify and learn new things.

02:17:01 - 02:17:07

At the time you were doing it, again, were you one of the few women doing this?

02:17:08 - 02:17:40

Because you were on many committees. You were very active. It depended which committee. I would guess the education committee had more women on it. You know, and maybe that’s part of that whole… That we talked about earlier, the difference of looking at women or men, but whatever it was, more women were involved in education at that time than there were men. I think that’s changed a little bit, which is good. But.

02:17:41 - 02:18:03

I’m trying to think. Board of Regents was fairly well diversified. I was one of the few women on the AZA board at the beginning. That changed over. It was kind of a split. I think. On most of the other ones. The membership and the conservation education.

02:18:05 - 02:18:36

And nominating, that’s just a small committee. And that one’s just picked by… I think they were looking for somebody from a small zoo. To represent our whole organization. Instead of just getting somebody from the big zoos to nominate some other people from big zoos. So bless their hearts, I think it was a good thing they involved some of these smaller zoos that way. And that helped diversify things.

02:18:39 - 02:18:52

Considering, and you kind of touched on this, considering the financial resources available to many small or medium-sized zoos, what do you think should be the focus of the collection?

02:18:53 - 02:18:55

Endangered? Non-endangered?

02:18:57 - 02:18:58

North American?

02:19:00 - 02:19:23

Well you wouldn’t want them all to be the same. I think it’s the personality of. Of your individual city or town or area and what they need or want from you that you can provide them. Within a certain budget.

02:19:23 - 02:19:30

I mean I think it’d be great to have an all small zoo run by a small zoo director, you know?

02:19:33 - 02:20:07

On larger scales it’s nice to geographically be in an area where you can go to a larger zoo that has a wide variety, you know, and maybe do them by continents or by, you know, big cats, primates, birds. You want the variety there, but you can’t just say all small zoos have to do this or that. You have to let them pick their own. Specialty and do it and do it well.

02:20:07 - 02:20:11

Should smaller zoos then have a specialty?

02:20:12 - 02:20:51

I think it would behoove them to do it. I don’t think all of them do, but I think it would be wise in their master planning phase to figure out what they’re good at and what they want to concentrate on. Zoos in many cases today are afraid to confront animal welfare rights groups that are against zoos. We even have people in some positions in the field who may be in line with these non-biologists.

02:20:51 - 02:20:55

Could we have your thoughts on how best to deal with these types of groups?

02:20:58 - 02:21:50

Again, I think it’s gonna have to be on a one-to-one basis almost, or small groups. It’s hard to just go in and say now here’s the other side and this is what we think. It’s gonna have to be a person talking to a person. So they’re not looking at oh, you’re that group. And you believe this group. You’re a person who happens to believe this and has some facts backed up either from the zoo standpoint, scientific facts of here’s what we know and why we do what we do. It’s hard to do that, but somehow you gotta kinda work within the groups. Or, you know, ask them.

02:21:50 - 02:21:52

Can we get together and talk about this?

02:21:52 - 02:22:01

And at least put a name to a face so it’s not as easy to classify you as you’re that. If that makes sense.

02:22:03 - 02:22:09

Did you have to deal with this type of issue in any of the national committees that you were involved in?

02:22:15 - 02:22:52

We dealt with how to approach some of it. Like if… Probably most through either marketing or conservation. Or the conservation education committees, but. I never felt the difference there because we were more isolated. We were more zoo people talking among zoo people. I think we should have diversified and hopefully they are now bringing more in. You know, dealing with US Fish and Wildlife.

02:22:52 - 02:23:15

Dealing with humane organizations, PETA, any of the outside groups. And working to see what kind of common thoughts you have, or common threads that you can work on. Although you’ve been out of the profession a number of years.

02:23:17 - 02:23:26

Would you say that there are good middle management curatorial level people today?

02:23:27 - 02:23:29

Or even within your sphere.

02:23:30 - 02:23:33

How would you like to see curators trained?

02:23:36 - 02:23:51

Does management school play the role of AZA or some of those to make it mandatory that people at a certain mid-level get the same training as maybe potential directors?

02:23:52 - 02:24:36

Now there’s a good thought. I don’t think you can make anything mandatory like that, but I think it’s a good idea to offer it. So that people who want to have that kind of training can get it. You know, if you’re at a keeper level and want to learn. Or have that desire to be a curator or go up to a level, then there ought to be something out there, whether it’s an individual institution or several institutions or through the AZA, that can offer that. Otherwise you gotta go out and find your own mentors and learn that way.

02:24:38 - 02:24:49

So since you’ve been invested in education for much of your career, what would you include in a training program for curators?

02:24:51 - 02:25:27

Well, depending which… I think they’d need a broad base knowledge, but I think whatever their specialty is there ought to be, if it was the animal department, there ought to be some training in records. Always communications in everything. Of how to deal with other zoos. How to deal with public. How to put… The right foot forward. I’m not sure how to say this, how to…

02:25:27 - 02:25:45

How to interact with people on different levels. A basic management type course that gives you a broad view of how to work with other people in the most appropriate way. A communications kind of review.

02:25:48 - 02:25:55

In your years in the profession, what changes have you seen regarding visitor attitudes?

02:25:56 - 02:26:31

And administration at the national level. In any of the professional groups. Especially visitor attitudes about zoos. I think it’s gotten better. I think we were good and then as knowledge was out there more about what zoos were doing and there was more reporting on it, I think we did a dip. As in oh, people started to question things. So then we had, because they just liked zoos because they were fun.

02:26:31 - 02:26:39

And then when some of the public started to go huh, are they treating the animals right?

02:26:39 - 02:26:41

Are we doing this? Are we doing that?

02:26:41 - 02:26:44

Are they spending the money in the right places?

02:26:44 - 02:26:57

I think we kind of went like this and now we’re on the training, or were in the training, to get them back. I think it’s at a higher level now where the general public appreciates zoos more.

02:27:02 - 02:27:05

What issues caused you the most concern during your career?

02:27:06 - 02:27:10

And how do you see the future regarding these same concerns?

02:27:14 - 02:27:17

I hate to get back to- What kept you up at night?

02:27:18 - 02:27:52

Money. (laughs) Worrying about getting enough money to do what you wanted to do or how to do it best. And. That was probably one of the biggest ones. That and. Probably staff and public relations. You know, how you dealt in-house and how you dealt out-house. Well not out-house, but you know, the general public.

02:27:53 - 02:28:10

Your boards. The politicians in your city. The people with – the movers and shakers that had the money. And how to make that all work. Right. Yeah.

02:28:11 - 02:28:22

Do you think there there is undue pressure on directors to raise money to be part of the major force in raising money?

02:28:22 - 02:28:24

Did you feel that pressure?

02:28:27 - 02:29:03

I didn’t feel it as pressure. Because I thought that’s what I was there to do. I was there to do whatever I needed to do to make it better. You know, as long as you’re… I didn’t want to just be a manager. A manager can operate a zoo. A director takes that zoo and keeps it running. And goes out and does what they need to do to help get the funds to keep that running.

02:29:03 - 02:29:13

Or to run the programs, not only the zoo, but the programs to pay your staff to keep them “happy,” you know?

02:29:13 - 02:29:38

And help their level grow up too. Give them the means so that they can expand their knowledge, get more involved in some of these other projects. So this thought process about what a director should do, which you just talked about, you kind of evolved that thinking over the years that you were director or… Yep.

02:29:38 - 02:29:41

Or you knew that’s what it was?

02:29:44 - 02:30:32

I guess I didn’t have a specific idea of what a director was. Per se. And maybe it’s different at different places. I just knew where I was. We needed to do something to change some of what we had. So if that meant me going out and doing fundraising. I could do that above and beyond my 8-to-5 job running the zoo. You know, there’s a lot of weekends and nights and shaking hands and showing up at special events or other community events just so that they see you and know that you’re out there, so I think that’s all a part of what anybody that’s committed to what they’re doing is willing to do.

02:30:36 - 02:30:44

If you could give zoos a directive. And have them address certain issues in the future.

02:30:45 - 02:30:50

Based on your history, what would you want zoos to address in the future?

02:30:52 - 02:30:53

What issues?

02:30:56 - 02:31:25

How to work better together with different organizations. Not to be an isolationist, but to work with different groups for a common cause. If that makes sense to you, that’s just… I think we gotta do better at what we’re doing. And keep looking for new ways to keep getting better.

02:31:29 - 02:31:33

Is that a major direction that you think zoos should be taking in their future?

02:31:33 - 02:31:39

Are there some other items that might serve them well in the future?

02:31:41 - 02:32:18

Other things. Help me with this and what you’re talking about. We were talking about issues you’d want to see zoos address in the future. Is that the only major direction you’d want them to be taking or were there some other things that- Oh. No, there’s lots of things. Give me an example. I think we oughta be doing as much as we can for the conservation part of it. And figuring out what we can do, number one, to save our planet type thing.

02:32:19 - 02:33:09

Whether it’s, you know, global warming. How we can interact with governmental officials on a larger level on things like that that are gonna affect everybody. I think if we can make enough of a stance, because all the zoos together make a pretty big impact. If they all go together and can use that influence on the, not movers and shakers, the people making decisions. To help our world in so many ways. Whether it’s humanitarianism, animal, whatever. I just think there’s more we could do together than individually.

02:33:11 - 02:33:22

Do you feel that education as your proponent is doing any good particularly in boosting the images of zoos among the public?

02:33:22 - 02:33:25

In the face of anti-zoo groups?

02:33:25 - 02:33:27

Is education doing enough?

02:33:28 - 02:34:03

I think they’re doing as much as they can right now. I think that’s one of the main places. I think education is the… You know, when we were talking about the one-on-one. The way to reach people is more one-on-one. I think that is one of the more direct routes is through education to reach those people. So more power to them. Is the visitor connection, as you mentioned.

02:34:07 - 02:34:11

What can be done to make that visitor connection even more meaningful?

02:34:14 - 02:34:18

Are there other things that zoos could be doing to make that visitor.

02:34:20 - 02:34:25

Connection more meaningful for a buy-in from the visitors?

02:34:30 - 02:35:01

I can’t think of anything right off hand, but I know if you sat down – I mean maybe that’s where you get some focus groups to figure out how to do that. ‘Cause we should be making it more… Be making more of an impact on the people coming in. Some people are just gonna come in for fun. And maybe fun is good. I mean fun and relaxation and family time. And, you know, wholesome activities. That’s a good thing.

02:35:01 - 02:35:28

So maybe. You know, sometimes that’s part of it, but if you want to… It depends what you’re trying to teach them. There’s nothing wrong with just coming in, having a good time, and this is a great thing to support. As. What’s normal in life. I know I’m not explaining this right. There’s something at a level that is like going out in nature.

02:35:28 - 02:35:45

It gets you back to what’s real. Well I think zoos do that. I think zoos are what’s real. And it’s good for. Families together to come in and appreciate that.

02:35:47 - 02:35:51

Do you think they’re missing the opportunity to get on message?

02:35:54 - 02:36:08

I think they’re doing it and some people will get the message and some people may not. I think the… The message is there. We just need to expand it more and get it out.

02:36:11 - 02:36:21

Would you have any advice to the neophyte zoo director about the importance of marketing their zoos?

02:36:23 - 02:36:26

And what do you think is the most important aspects of marketing?

02:36:28 - 02:36:30

Did you have to deal with that?

02:36:30 - 02:37:12

Oh yeah. Marketing’s a hard one. I think you do have to market what you have. I mean what you have is good, but if nobody knows about it, it’s not gonna make any difference. You’ve gotta get whatever your goodness is out of what you’re doing. And get that message out to the people. So yeah, we dealt with some, but I’m not an expert on marketing. You know, I think it’s a combination of, you know, print and TV and some of the other things we talked about with, you know, getting on Facebook and Twitter and any of the social media.

02:37:14 - 02:37:40

It’s a whole combination package that you have to put together. And every market, or every market for the zoo, is gonna be a little bit different. What works in one place may not work in someplace else. But I think you do the best you can and try different things and see what makes an impact. And then try to go farther that way.

02:37:40 - 02:37:43

What would you say your strong point was in marketing the Peoria Zoo?

02:37:45 - 02:38:42

Ours was actually just based on. Doing the best we could with very little. You know, and that’s why it was important to get out and meet the people that were in the TV stations. Develop some relationships with them and the newspaper and radio. Try to get as many of those free things as you could. Take what monies you did set aside for advertising. And hopefully use your experts that know your marketing and know that they’ve done research on most people listen to this radio station or more people are watching TV now at this time and you’d be better spending your money that way. But I think it all depends on where you are and what your market is.

02:38:46 - 02:38:58

We talked a little about it, but can you expand or talk about how zoos can improve their connection with kids and teenagers to heighten their awareness about the natural world?

02:39:02 - 02:39:48

Kids are so impressionable. And I know they, you know, starting I think it’s like at age two or three, if you can kind of get them involved. Even some of the – like the children’s museums kind of aim at that three to six or three to seven level because they need a lot more hands-on activity type things. So if you can get more. Activities like that. For them. And then you might have the next group as more technologically. You know, now that kids have so many computers and games and whatever, maybe you’re doing something at that group.

02:39:48 - 02:40:15

So again, I wish I knew more about the different ages, but there are people out there that do that. So use that expertise and try to incorporate that in. To certain age groups or families with different groups. And use that in your zoo. If kids were visiting your zoo.

02:40:16 - 02:40:23

What would you want the main thing you’d want them to feel about your zoo or zoos in general?

02:40:25 - 02:41:02

I’d want them to think it’s a safe place for them. And for the animals. And that you have a trust. That this is an organization that’s out there trying to do something good for them. And their world that they’re coming into. You know, kids now are faced with a lot of stuff and they need a base that’s just gonna say okay, this is a safe place. You can learn some things here that are gonna help you. And we’re your resource.

02:41:06 - 02:41:18

When you opened a new exhibit at the zoo or even walked through exhibits at other zoos, but specifically your zoo, what did you want people to feel?

02:41:20 - 02:41:28

What kind of emotion were you looking for when they left an exhibit you created or in other zoos?

02:41:28 - 02:41:33

What exhibits, what did you want people to feel after they’ve left?

02:41:36 - 02:42:05

A sense of belonging. A sense of wow. Like. Wow, I never looked at this. And really saw that before. You know, the uniqueness of each creature. Whether it’s the species itself and what that animal does or do to survive. It could be the individual animals and how they interact.

02:42:05 - 02:42:21

But just to take one little bit of information and think wow, isn’t that nifty, of how that creature behaves or acts with the other ones and how it fits into the bigger picture. And oh by the way, I’m part of that picture.

02:42:21 - 02:42:24

Where do I fit in all that?

02:42:24 - 02:42:43

So I want them to feel like they’re part of a bigger, it’s a big universe. And little old me can be like this little old bug. And it has a part in this big world too. And what happens to him may be dependent on me. So.

02:42:47 - 02:42:53

Should zoos be doing anything to help governments protect landmass?

02:42:56 - 02:43:04

I think they can be a resource of information. And politically…

02:43:04 - 02:43:09

Are you thinking, are you saying monetarily?

02:43:09 - 02:43:47

Are you thinking… I don’t think you can do it. I think it’s all gotta be a political influence to know the importance of needing those land masses to save what we’re probably decimating on a regular basis. So you need that political push, that power. You’ve been in AZA a long time. And served on a lot of national committees. What issue.

02:43:48 - 02:44:01

Or issues do you think AZA, and for that matter the Zoological Association of America, another national organization, what should they be addressing now?

02:44:07 - 02:44:38

Of importance. Of importance. Yeah. Everything’s important. Probably. Global warming would be a big one. And effects of… Overall, big effects of what man is doing to the planet and how we’re gonna work that one through to maybe save something for future generations.

02:44:41 - 02:44:43

You’re aware of the Zoological Association of America?

02:44:44 - 02:44:52

It’s another national zoo. They’re a grant organization. There are these two professional zoo associations.

02:44:52 - 02:44:54

Is there room for both of them?

02:44:55 - 02:44:56

Oh I believe so.

02:44:57 - 02:44:58

Why not?

02:44:59 - 02:45:11

I think they can each serve their own purpose. They could do some things together too. It’s never always them and us.

02:45:13 - 02:45:20

It’s groups that are basically going for the same purpose, correct?

02:45:20 - 02:45:21

I mean isn’t it…

02:45:22 - 02:45:26

Aren’t we all trying to make things better?

02:45:26 - 02:45:32

So why can’t you have two organizations working toward it instead of against each other?

02:45:33 - 02:45:35

But that’s in my happy world.

02:45:38 - 02:45:45

To what extent, if any, do you continue to be active in the zoological field?

02:45:45 - 02:46:27

Conservation field. I honestly, when I left I figured out there was a whole nother world out there. And it’s okay. I like zoos, I like the animals. I’m still a member of the AZA. I’ll support them because I think they’re doing something good. But I think there’s a whole new generation that needs to be involved and do what they’re doing and progressing. And us old silverback gorillas can kinda not fade away, but be there as support for those coming up.

02:46:30 - 02:46:36

In your career. If you could go back in time.

02:46:36 - 02:46:38

What if anything would you have done differently?

02:46:42 - 02:46:47

I think I would have learned some better ways to…

02:46:50 - 02:46:51

What’s the word?

02:46:51 - 02:47:44

Manipulate, but in a nice way. To get some things done instead of trying… Sometimes I was a little too head to head on some stuff of trying to explain no, this is the way we should do things. I think I should have been the one to sit down and be flexible and learn the individual that I was talking to and find out their beliefs of what they thought and then throw in some things that meant something to them that would have worked with the zoo better. You know, just… I think I could have gotten more people to buy in on things better than I did. But that’s, you know, you do the best you can with what you got when you got it. So.

02:47:45 - 02:47:52

Are there any exhibits you would’ve implemented during your tenure that just didn’t happen?

02:47:54 - 02:48:30

Yeah, just due to funding. Exhibits. I would’ve liked to do a lot more interactive things. You know, at one time when we were there, you know, the pop-up prairie dog exhibits. I always wanted to do one of those with meerkats. Anything that would engage people in different ways would’ve been more… Fun I guess. But you could only have so much money, so you do, again, what you can.

02:48:33 - 02:48:40

Is there one thing within your zoo career that stands as one of your proudest accomplishments?

02:48:43 - 02:49:44

I’m glad we raised that money to put in the Africa piece. I’m glad we expanded education. I think the impact that we made. It doesn’t show up right away, but I think it comes back in future. I mean we had a conversation the other day about, you know, somebody that you hired at the zoo and has gone on to be a zoo director somewhere else. And whatever you taught them, whether it was good or bad, they can use that in the future. And the same thing goes with any little kid that happened to come to the zoo. If you can make some impact on them, you don’t know where that’s gonna show up 15, 20, 30 years down the road.

02:49:44 - 02:50:03

You know, there may have been some troubled kids that only knew certain ways. Well they came to the zoo and they found out oh. These animals can live together, we can live together. It’s just a different appreciation of where you’re at and what you’ve got for the future.

02:50:05 - 02:50:10

Are there any zoos in the world you particularly admire?

02:50:13 - 02:50:19

And if so, I mean you have seen other zoos, why might you admire them and where are they?

02:50:22 - 02:50:31

You know, they used to say what’s your favorite zoo and you were always supposed to say it’s whatever your zoo is. But I think…

02:50:32 - 02:50:40

Like in life, I think if you take, there’s a little bit of good that you can find in everyone, you know?

02:50:40 - 02:51:09

Everybody talks about San Diego. Well they do a wonderful job with their landscaping. But they have beautiful weather that maintains that at all times. There’s other places that. I like their programming. I liked the Seattle Zoo. I just liked the way it was laid out. There was…

02:51:10 - 02:51:30

Every place you went you learned something. Oh, somebody did these graphics there and that was kind of cool. Maybe we could do that. Or there wasn’t one… I could say the Lincoln Park Zoo and the St. Louis Zoo ’cause they helped us so much, but I think. I think overall each one had something special to offer.

02:51:33 - 02:51:42

Do you think, in exhibitry and in management, do you think zoos are maintaining elephants correctly?

02:51:45 - 02:51:48

At this point in time, or is there still more to do?

02:51:50 - 02:52:15

I think there’s always more to do. If you gave up or you thought okay, we’ve achieved it, then something’s wrong. ‘Cause you should always be trying to do something better. I think they’ve done a great job. Getting there through the process. But I don’t think you should ever stop. It’s like you should never stop learning. As soon as you stop learning you might as well die.

02:52:15 - 02:52:25

So you keep doing whatever you can, for whether it’s the individual animal or the species, and keep moving forward.

02:52:30 - 02:52:40

What’s the most important piece of advice that you receive that has stayed with you throughout your career?

02:52:44 - 02:52:52

Mostly just keep smiling. Just put the face on and keep smiling. Move it forward. That’s all you can do.

02:52:52 - 02:52:54

Did somebody actually give you that piece of advice?

02:52:54 - 02:52:55

Yeah, mmhm.

02:52:55 - 02:52:58

Who was that?

02:52:58 - 02:53:10

Not saying. Just saying. You can smile in different ways, you know. But anyway, it’s keeping a positive front.

02:53:10 - 02:53:18

You know, you might get discouraged on certain days or certain times, but in the big picture?

02:53:19 - 02:53:21

You’re moving forward, you know?

02:53:21 - 02:53:41

And as long as you’re moving forward that means you’re not moving backwards, so that’s okay. In your career you’ve had a number of mentors. One of which we talked about briefly was Gary Clark, director of the Topeka Zoo.

02:53:41 - 02:53:42

What did he teach you?

02:53:43 - 02:54:33

To have fun with it. He tried to make, you know, when they did an exhibit they tried to make it exciting. I also, when we were trying to do, or we were gonna design our lion exhibit. And they had done one, so we took our parks people there and whatever and I just remember you want to create that excitement so when people come around the corner it’s like (gasps). And he just had that way of looking at life as everything’s a new adventure. And you gotta appreciate it and have fun with it. I mean it’s a job, it’s a career, but it’s fun. So that makes it all worthwhile.

02:54:35 - 02:54:38

I learned different things from different people. That was the fun one.

02:54:40 - 02:54:48

Saying that, would you recommend the zoo/aquarium field to a young person with sincere interest in wildlife and conservation today?

02:54:48 - 02:54:50

And why would you?

02:54:50 - 02:55:21

Absolutely. Because if they think they have something to contribute, you know, you can warn them about the hazards. The pluses, the minuses. So that they have a real factor of it. You know, a lot of people when they go oh, I want to go into the zoo business and play with all the animals. And you gotta say it’s not just playing with animals. There’s a bigger part. There’s, you know, you could go into this, this, this.

02:55:21 - 02:55:34

There’s some downfalls. And I think, but if your heart’s in it, go for it. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever been involved with.

02:55:37 - 02:55:47

What can or should US zoos and aquariums do to affordably help upgrade developing countries with their zoos?

02:55:48 - 02:55:54

Where sometimes zoos are not a profession, but just a job filled by working people.

02:55:54 - 02:55:59

How can zoos help those in developing countries?

02:56:01 - 02:56:38

Again, it’s gonna have to be with people going in and. Not just showing them here’s what we do. It’s working with them to use what they do have so they feel like they’re making a difference. That it’s not just a job. That it’s something bigger than that. That we’re all involved, you know. You don’t want feel like I’m just going in and I’m cleaning poop today and I’m getting the, you know, and I’ll pick up my paycheck Friday, blah blah blah. You want to feel like you’re actually contributing something to make the world a better place.

02:56:40 - 02:56:46

It’s gotta come from inside and I think the only way you can do that is people to people.

02:56:51 - 02:57:05

In zoos does the euthanizing, you talked about, of endangered species, whether they’re surplus or genetic issue, still pose a political problem for zoos and aquariums?

02:57:06 - 02:57:44

Probably. Any time you’re gonna. Euthanize something, people are gonna. Wonder why you get to play God and kill that animal. And you know, I’m not sure what’s all right and wrong, but you’ve got to explain the reasoning why you’re doing it for the bigger picture. Sometimes you’re euthanizing an animal for its betterment. You know, it’s suffering. You don’t want it to suffer.

02:57:46 - 02:58:05

But if you’re talking about euthanizing for. The betterment of the species. That’s a harder one to sell because people connect with individuals more than they do the big picture. But all you can do is try.

02:58:08 - 02:58:19

Do you think we need, or do we have any charismatic and committed heroes to help shift public opinion for conservation?

02:58:19 - 02:58:23

Examples might be Jane Goodall or Jacques Cousteau or Jack Hanna.

02:58:23 - 02:58:25

Do we have any of those people?

02:58:27 - 02:58:54

I have – no, but let’s hope for the future that we do. You never know, you might be available. When a zoo spends, and we discussed it a little, spends multi-millions of dollars on a gorilla. Or an elephant or a tiger exhibit. And critics ask why this money is not used to help animals in the wild.

02:58:54 - 02:58:55

You say what?

02:58:59 - 02:59:41

Part of it is the “ambassadorship”. That it’s to help you make that connection. Hopefully, and something, you know, I wish we had done more of too is when you build something new you also put something aside for the wild. And we didn’t do that back in the day. You know, I wish we could have somehow worked that into the program where we’re doing this to meet the needs here. But we’re putting something over here too. But again, hindsight.

02:59:43 - 02:59:45

Do you know of any zoos who do that?

02:59:48 - 02:59:51

That put something here and there?

02:59:52 - 02:59:57

I think there – I mean a lot of zoos have other programs.

02:59:57 - 03:00:02

I don’t know if it’s specifically when they build a new exhibit, do they take that?

03:00:02 - 03:00:04

I don’t know of which ones do.

03:00:05 - 03:00:06

Do they?

03:00:08 - 03:00:09

Do you know of some?

03:00:09 - 03:00:10


03:00:10 - 03:00:20

Are you concerned about zoos and aquariums staying viable and pertinent and relevant in the next 25 years?

03:00:21 - 03:00:24

What direction do you think will help them stay relevant?

03:00:27 - 03:00:58

I think they’re gonna have to change with the times. We just don’t know what all those times are yet. But I think they have to be aware of it. That times are changing. And you know, a lot of the studies that are done on behaviors and people visiting zoos and what they’re looking for, I think, can be used for that. So that they do stay viable.

03:00:58 - 03:01:06

That you do a check every five years or so and see are we really meeting the needs of the community?

03:01:06 - 03:01:09

Are we getting our word across?

03:01:09 - 03:01:11

Is there anything we can do different?

03:01:11 - 03:01:25

I mean you have to question yourself. There are a number of private zoos. Not municipal. Not government.

03:01:25 - 03:01:30

What are your thoughts about these private zoos owned by people means?

03:01:31 - 03:01:38

Will they survive the length of a time that municipal zoos have?

03:01:38 - 03:02:25

In some instances they have very large and valuable collections. And do much for conservation. Yep. And again, I would hope that. We’re smart enough as an organization. To work with those groups. I don’t know if the heart… If somebody is in a private zoo, as long as their board of directors or whoever’s helping make the decision, as long as they buy into it as a long term we’re committed to it project, then I think they’re okay.

03:02:25 - 03:02:38

However, I don’t know if they can do that without the whole organization of all of them together working together. I know that didn’t make sense.

03:02:38 - 03:02:40

How do I say this differently?

03:02:41 - 03:03:08

It’s gonna take some cooperation. To keep things moving forward. And I would hope that that openness and that willingness to communicate and see how you can work together is gonna maintain zoos. You’ve been in the profession a number of years.

03:03:10 - 03:03:17

What do you know about this profession that you have devoted so many years of your life to?

03:03:19 - 03:03:20

What do I know of it?

03:03:20 - 03:03:45

Yeah. I know it’s good at the base. I mean it’s… It’s got a good heart. I think it can do so much. As we move forward. I think we gotta, we can always improve. I think.

03:03:48 - 03:04:19

I think anybody that gets involved with it should feel the passion that many of us do. I mean like any career or job, some people come and go. But I think there’s a core group of people that truly care about animals. Truly care about people. Truly want to do what’s right for the future. So that’s what I know. I believe.

03:04:19 - 03:04:21

How would you like to be remembered?

03:04:21 - 03:04:47

Your legacy. Maybe that I cared too. That I was one of a group. And of a lot of people that really do care. That’s all I need. Or to be recognized that you did do something. Toward making things better. There, that’s it.

03:04:50 - 03:04:52

Thank you. Thank you.

About Janice Schweitzer

Janice Schweitzer
Download Curricula Vitae


Peoria Zoo, Illinois


Jan developed an interesting perspective as to what smaller zoos can do to contribute not only to the community, but to larger zoos, as well.  Although she worked exclusively at one zoo, her knowledge is extensive at a national level. She is a pioneer for women working at senior levels of the profession.

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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.