April 30th 2022 | General Curator

Jim Doherty

Jim was the General Curator of the world-famous Bronx Zoo, he designed over 21 major exhibits and advises governments and zoos around the world on captivity management.

00:00:00 - 00:00:12

My name is James G. Doherty. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts. My birthday is next week, May 5th, Cinco de Mayo, 1940.

00:00:15 - 00:00:17

What was your childhood like?

00:00:18 - 00:01:39

I was the oldest of six children and probably had the best my parents could offer, seeing as I was the first one and they could spend more time with me when I was the only one, or, almost the only one, there weren’t many of us. But most nuumber were six, there was a lot going on. During the winter, one of two favorite places my father would take us, he wouldn’t take all six of us, he’d take the three oldest or the four oldest, to the zoo nearby us, outside Boston, the Stoneham Zoo, now the Walter Stoneham Zoo because it was free. It was run by the MDC, the Metropolitan District Commission, which was a state-run zoo. We loved to go to the zoo. Of course, I loved it more than anybody. I remember seeing moose there and saw warthogs there and lions, everything else you want in a very small zoo, that was my introduction to zoo’s.

00:01:39 - 00:01:41

What did your parents do?

00:01:44 - 00:02:13

My mother raised the six children. My father worked a lot. My father worked driving a streetcar in Boston. And during the summer and fall and spring, he painted houses on the side, on his days off and during the summer he worked nights driving the street car.

00:02:15 - 00:02:20

When did you first think that you might like to work in a zoo?

00:02:24 - 00:03:50

It’s hard to say, but I remember going to the library with my mother when I was very young and I couldn’t yet write. I wanted to get a library card so I could take out whatever books I wanted and until I could write my name, I couldn’t take out any books, so she would take ’em out for me. Soon as I learned to print my name, then I had my own library card, and I could take out three books at a time and two magazines. Well, the magazines I always took out, I always got one National Geographic and one Bulletin of the New York Zoological Society, which was the Bronx Zoo magazine. That kind of put me up on the way to interest in zoos. I think it had to be more of a dream for me than anything else for a long time. I started off in college and not knowing what I was gonna study. Everybody that I knew, all my friends, were all going to Boston College.

00:03:51 - 00:04:20

I went to Boston College like they did. My mother and father graduated from high school and that was as far as they went. And my mother wanted me to learn a trade. My father wanted me to come and work with him. He had a good pension and good job security and so on. That wasn’t what I wanted. I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I was going to Boston College.

00:04:22 - 00:06:38

When I looked over the program, the only thing I saw that I even closely liked was History. So, I majored in History. One day in my freshman year, my theology professor and I were talking after class and he said, “Why are you majoring in History?” He said, “Do you wanna teach?” I said, “No, I don’t want to teach.” He said, “Do you like to write?” I said, “I have no trouble writing when I have to write.” He said, “Well, you don’t like writing.” He said, “I want you to go back and talk to your advisor about why you’re majoring in History.” My advisor sent me to a guidance counselor in BC and he said, “I’m gonna give you a preference test. Show where your interests are.” I did the test and then he sat down with me and he said, “I’ve never seen a score like this. This is so high in anything to do with the environment, with animals, with plants, the outdoors.” He said, “Do you wanna be a doctor?” I said, “No.” “Do you wanna be a veterinarian?” I said, “No.” He said, “Then we don’t have anything here for you.” He said, “You have to look at the University of Massachusetts and see what they have. They have a lot more to offer someone like you than we have here.” So I looked into the University of Massachusetts to transfer there. And I looked at animal science, which seemed to be the closest that I could get, and I loved it. That got me thinking animal science was mostly for people interested in agriculture, domestic animals.

00:06:43 - 00:07:35

I wasn’t gonna be a farmer or a rancher, or anything like that. But I wanted to use that, I wanted to be around animals. I forgot to mention, I had whatever animals I could get away with at home. I had ducks and chickens in the backyard. I had rabbits and guinea pigs, and down in the cellar after we got an oil burner, we didn’t need a coal bin anymore, and the coal bin became a natural history museum I set up. Anybody that came to see my mother and father had to come down and get a tour of my museum. Everything was labeled with three-by-five cards. They were all things that I had collected or put together or whatever.

00:07:35 - 00:08:38

I had feathers from a gull that I had found that had been killed by something, and I had shed snakeskins, all kinds of things that I found and pupa from or for butterflies. That was something I also, my parents would let me get away with keeping just about whatever I wanted, as long as I took care of it, and I did. Then people in the neighborhood picked up a baby bird that fell out of a nest in the spring. They would bring the birds to me. And I’m not sure how that all started, but anyway, they’d bring the birds to me to raise them. And I wasn’t terribly successful. Maybe I got them too late, I don’t know, but anyway… There was a lot of things like that, that I’d like to tell you.

00:08:38 - 00:09:04

Went to Boston when the Walt Disney True-Life Adventures were playing, all by myself. Nobody that I knew wanted to go to those movies but I did. Well the majority of your career, was spent at the Bronx Zoo and we’re gonna talk about that but I wanted to ask you some questions because of your experience.

00:09:04 - 00:09:13

During your time at the Bronx, what had you hoped to accomplish but you just couldn’t get it finished?

00:09:17 - 00:10:27

I think that, well, one of the things that I really wanted to get to do was after seeing the insect house at Cincinnati Zoo, I said, “We can do that.” They did a wonderful job, but we’ll do it and we’ll put our own seal on it.” And I talked to Conway about it. Conway and I would get together when he was still there. We’d get together for lunch every week, one day, and most of the conversation was about what we would do over or what we hadn’t done. We had enough ideas for things to go on for another career lifetime. We both went the same way. We wanted to do new things, do things better. We wanted to get the World of Darkness. World of darkness was a fine nocturnal exhibit, but we wanted do things that we couldn’t do, what we didn’t know about doing in the late ’60s when I first went to the zoo.

00:10:31 - 00:10:43

What was the most difficult time at the zoo and can you discuss the keeper tiger, 1985. July 25th.

00:10:43 - 00:10:46

with large carnivores, and what lessons did you learn?

00:10:48 - 00:11:59

That is the most horrible, horrible thing that you can experience, is having someone killed like that young woman was. To this day, we don’t know what was in her head, what she was thinking or maybe she wasn’t thinking at all. But I said, “We can’t have this happen again. We gotta do something to ensure it doesn’t happen.” I had metal boxes made, about a foot wide and two feet high, and hung them at every gate going into where any of the wild, dangerous carnivores were. The boxes held signs. They were sheet metal, painted. One was white and said something like, “Exhibit empty”, then there was the one that was red, “People in exhibit”. There was one, red one, “Animals in exhibit” and the four signs were on one sheet of tin.

00:12:01 - 00:13:15

And you pulled the sign out of the box and put the one in that you wanted to use at that time, “Animals on exhibit” or whatever. And that was something that might have prevented something like that. I also gave them bear spray. Every keeper that worked with wild cats, bears, whatever, had a little CO2 canister on their belt, pepper spray for bears. And thank God as far as I know, to this day, I don’t think anyone’s ever used one. That and then we just reaffirmed our protocols when dealing with the wild animals, the dangerous wild animals; was important. I know that you spent the majority of your career under Bill Conway, who was director.

00:13:15 - 00:13:21

How did the retirement of Bill Conway affect you in a professional manner?

00:13:23 - 00:14:58

That was quite an adjustment. Bill was a, he and I probably worked more closely together than, certainly more closely than I did with the man who followed him. Bill would listen to me, ’cause I was a dreamer I guess and I always had some crazy idea and he always wanted to hear what I was thinking about. And when he was gone, it’s like now. I still, up ’till few weeks before he died, would talk to him every week or so and I’d tell him the latest news I’d heard about animals or zookeepers or whatever, and we would chat along those lines just like we did when we were working. It just wasn’t like that after he was gone. And I think that the person following him wasn’t secure in his plans and I wasn’t looking for his job but I think he probably was a little threatened by me. There’s no reason, I was as loyal to him as I was to Conway.

00:14:59 - 00:15:06

And that was kind of sad because I didn’t have the same kind of relationship I had with him that I had with Conway.

00:15:07 - 00:15:16

You made a statement once, you said “You can’t be a Noah’s Ark and have everything.” What did you mean by that?

00:15:16 - 00:16:30

We had an aardvark at the zoo, that one of the previous curators had purchased, 10, 15 years before I got there and he’d never been on exhibit. He was living in the kangaroo house, in our old kangaroo house there and all those years, he was there, and no one ever saw him. And I was looking at the International Zoo Yearbook, saw Miami Zoo has three or four or seven aardvarks, I forget how many they had but I contacted them. and said, “We’ve got an old aardvark here. Would you be interested in having him we could give him to you?” And they said, “Sure, we’ll take him.” Then the Miami headlines run with, “Old Gentleman Retires from the Bronx to Miami Beach” and we sent the old male aardvark down to Miami. Well, they put him with one or two of their females. He probably bred them. And last I heard, went through something like nine in his final year.

00:16:30 - 00:16:45

I don’t know when he died, but he bred something like nine aardvarks. But when I was sending him, the person who took care of animal records was a woman named Grace Duval.

00:16:49 - 00:17:03

Bill Bridges was the editor of our magazine, and I happened to be with him one day and I said, “We’re sending the old aardvark down to Miami, to the Miami Zoo.” And Bill Bridges said, “You’re sending him to Miami?

00:17:05 - 00:17:17

But we have to have everything from aardvark to zebra!” No, we don’t anymore, Bill. That’s not the way we’re going.” And your statement.

00:17:17 - 00:17:30

How did the evolution of the New York Zoo Society to the new name, The Wildlife Conservation Society happen, and did it change how the zoo was run?

00:17:31 - 00:19:11

No, it didn’t at all change how the zoo ran. Most of us, really were not too happy about the change. We were old school, or whatever you want to call it, stick-in-the-mud, I don’t know. But it was for fundraising. We had developed a development department to raise money for us, and we were the first zoo to do that. It gradually grew from one person to about 50 people. When we had this growing department, we had some people devoted on projects raising money from individuals, and some raising money from corporations, and some were raising money from government sources. The head of the development department at one point said, “Look, this is much too provincial to be saying, ‘New York’s Zoological Society’ if we go to San Francisco.” We had some contacts in San Francisco with our own existing board and said, “Look, if you want to sell the programs in San Francisco or wherever, you gotta have a name that works.” It didn’t affect us at the zoo, we were the Bronx Zoo.

00:19:11 - 00:19:33

We were always gonna be the Zoological Park or the Bronx Zoo. We were never gonna be anything but. But it worked. You’ve worked with a unique director and you’ve been a curator and a general curator.

00:19:35 - 00:19:44

Two questions: What skillset qualities does a curator or a general curator need today, as compared to when you started?

00:19:46 - 00:20:58

Well today, you must keep up with what’s going on electronically. You must be aware of how to use what is available to you through computers. That’s not to say that that’s the way to spend your time but you must be aware of it and be prepared to use it when it’s necessary. It’s a wonderful tool to have, to be able to use these stories and records and so on from past history, from whatever. That is really a big, big change in how things are going today, I think. Using that kind of electronic information that’s available to us, can be very helpful to us.

00:21:05 - 00:21:20

Same questions, based on your experience, what skillset qualities, does a zoo director need today as compared to the zoo director when you started?

00:21:20 - 00:21:41

I think the biggest thing today is that we have a lot of animal rights groups that are watching what we do, which isn’t bad, not bad at all. So we have to know what we’re doing and we have to know what we’re doing is the right thing to do.

00:21:41 - 00:22:07

And I think that, if you don’t have good knowledge of what you’re doing and be convinced that you’re doing the best for the animals, then how’re you gonna respond to these animal rights people that are there to find fault with whatever it is you’re doing?

00:22:12 - 00:23:02

And to me, it’s unfortunate that zoo directors are changing now. A lot of zoos are hiring people with varied backgrounds, whether it’s PR or development, or just a general business background, because they don’t have the background to fight as the leader of an organization with animal rights groups when it’s necessary to. I shouldn’t say fight but to discuss what’s going on in zoos and why we’re doing what, (coughing) what we’re doing.

00:23:07 - 00:23:21

What would you say, and you kind of maybe touched on it but what are the largest problem, professional problems that face U.S. zoos today and what might be done to correct the problem?

00:23:21 - 00:24:06

I think that’s one of the big ones, is going out to work with, try and work with these animal rights groups. We did it in New York. There was an animal rights group in Brooklyn. They wanted the Brooklyn Zoo closed. We didn’t disagree with them. It was a terrible little city-run zoo. All the city-run zoos were pretty bad. But there was no reason for a single elephant or single rhino or a single hippo or whatever, to be in a cramped tiny little five-acre zoo.

00:24:09 - 00:24:38

That was wrong. So we had a wonderful cooperation between us and this animal rights group. They said, “Oh you have to take all the animals up to the Bronx.” We said we would. Well after we talked about closing that zoo, then they said, “Okay, well, we’ve done that.

00:24:39 - 00:24:40

Now, what’s next?

00:24:40 - 00:25:24

Close the Bronx Zoo.” They wanted us close everything down and move everything out. So, you know as long as we went with them, when they were leading the way, it was fine but once we were off the track, then we had problems. You kind of just touched on it. Animal activism did affect the Bronx Zoo. Yes, I’m sure it did. I’m sure. You want to be on your toes about whatever it was you were doing, be firm knowing that you were doing the right thing for the animals.

00:25:26 - 00:25:36

Do animal shows, like bird shows in flight, do they get their message across to visitors about a group of animals or conservation?

00:25:37 - 00:25:42

Are animal shows still viable today to teach a message?

00:25:42 - 00:26:53

I believe they are. I certainly support them. I think, the extreme is the orcas. That’s the big one. And Sea World and all the marine parks that have had orcas over the years. I don’t think one person in 100 knew what an orca was prior to marine parks having them and working with them and training them and see what wonderful, intelligent animals they are. But much of what we’ve learned about these animals has come from what we’ve done with them in the shows, in the marine parks and bird shows at Disney or wherever. And I think, if you give the right message and do it right, I think there’s a lot to be said for them.

00:26:55 - 00:27:18

And I hope they will keep doing shows like you see today. I’m not looking for lion and tiger acts, or anything like that. But whatever you can do that will make people more aware of what amazing animals we have here, all around us.

00:27:19 - 00:27:23

When you started at the Bronx, weren’t there elephant rides?

00:27:24 - 00:28:18

No, I started the elephant rides. I started the elephant rides in, I forget what year now but I’ve seen them at various places. What a nice experience for kids, to ride on an elephant. I would love to have ridden on an elephant when I was a seven-year-old or 10-year-old whatever. I started the elephant rides and I brought in some elephants from Texas and so on and it was a great ride for a number of years, but there came a time when it just didn’t seem right anymore, and we stopped it.

00:28:21 - 00:28:26

That comes into the question of why is education so important in zoos?

00:28:31 - 00:29:38

One of our messages, it’s got to be to get out the word about what these animals are doing, what they’re capable of doing and through our education programs and whether it’s dealing with school groups in the school, or when they come to the zoo. We try to give them all tours. All school groups are free in the Bronx Zoo, and we have volunteers and we train ’em. They work with the school groups. Every school group gets one or two volunteers to tour them around. And in our labeling, we try to educate the visitors. Very hard to write a label that can compete with a live animal. And so we know that the messages have to be brief and they have to have something interesting in them.

00:29:40 - 00:30:04

Something we found and I don’t know if they still feel this way now, ’cause I’ve been away for so long, if you ask a question of the visitor and then you provide the answer, just ask them a question. You can get them to think about the answer and they see the answer.

00:30:04 - 00:30:07

Why does the proboscis monkey have such a big nose?

00:30:08 - 00:30:31

Then words explaining how they use their nose. And so, brief messages like this are something that we can do well because we have the animals in there and now we’re learning something about them and you can learn something about them too.

00:30:34 - 00:30:41

Has the role of the curator changed from when you started?

00:30:46 - 00:31:21

I suppose it has. There’s more interest in endangered species. We didn’t have any endangered species list when we started in the zoo field. That drives some of our efforts. Find what’s endangered, don’t lose what’s endangered.

00:31:21 - 00:31:23

What can we do to make their programs better?

00:31:25 - 00:32:11

And that, I think has worked out very well. And from that came the species viable plan, taxonomy groups, that are focusing on different species within the species plans. And that was something Bill Conway started and it has worked very well. The species are getting a lot of attention now. Focus directly on a species. Doesn’t matter if it’s a (indistinct) deer or an Indian Condor, or Black-footed Ferret. We’re working towards saving them.

00:32:14 - 00:32:19

Can the animals be reintroduced, into the wild?

00:32:21 - 00:32:22

Is there wild to do that?

00:32:23 - 00:32:25

That’s the big problem today.

00:32:25 - 00:32:30

Is, is there wild zoo places to put these animals?

00:32:32 - 00:33:09

And as we get to know more about them and know more about where they come from, you make determination. But I have a feeling that we’re headed towards a time when there’ll be large national parks that will be zoos. There’ll be fences around them. Keep the animals safe inside the fence and keep people out. Poachers out. So, I think yeah, that’s very important.

00:33:11 - 00:33:24

When you were speaking about the wild, how did the Bronx Choir, the use of St. Catherine’s Island, what was the purpose of it?

00:33:24 - 00:33:29

How much input did you have as to what was gonna be done on this island?

00:33:29 - 00:34:16

Well, I’m sorry. I should have mentioned that in my last little comment to you. We had a wonderful trustee who had his own private bird collection and liked animals, was interested in animals. He was the head of a board that owned an island off the coast of Georgia, southeast of Savannah. They weren’t using the island really at all. They were maintaining it, it had history. Button Gwinnett was the owner of the island at one point. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and his house was still there.

00:34:20 - 00:35:41

We were offered the use of not all, but some part of this island. It had a warm climate and there was no public to deal with. We could do things there that we couldn’t do in New York or couldn’t do expansively. So we went down and we looked at it, we can do something here. And we started with, first animals we sent down there were a group of gemsbok, and then it just went on from there. And the nice thing was, we could do these big enclosures, chain link fence enclosures, to keep the animals in. They were 10 or 20 acres in size, or five acres in size, or one acre in size, do whatever we wanted, which was best for the animals and for what we were doing with the animals. And I was in charge of the island program and we got Don Bruning to come down and talk about putting Psittacines down there, parrots and macaws, and hornbills came and then cranes even.

00:35:41 - 00:37:00

Wonderful place for cranes, they would march the yards and they would do very well, so we had a lot of cranes there. And then John Bailey came down and wanted to put some tortoises down there. And then he did, and he started raising radiated tortoises down there on the island. It was a wonderful place for a lot of good programs and, the foundation that owned the island was paying the bills. It was wonderful. And after about 11 years on the island, I wanted to do just what you just asked me about, about can wild animals in zoos be reintroduced into the wild, if there’s a place. I wanted to try it, ’cause I felt quite confident that animals could be reintroduced. I think one thing that you have to remember is that there’s very high mortality in wild animals, in their youth.

00:37:01 - 00:38:01

In many species, less than 50% reach a year of age. Well, we didn’t give up on the species it’s something we couldn’t do. If the best we could do is 50% survivability after a year, that would not be a winning program for any zoo to want to participate in. But, we were doing much better than that in zoos. Some of them even have close to 100% survivability. So we had the animals and if there’s a place to do it, fine. We had the access to the island and we had some lemurs at the zoo. “Let’s send some lemurs down there.” So we sent six lemurs, six ring-tailed lemurs, three male and three females down there.

00:38:01 - 00:38:56

We radio-collared them, we weighed them. We checked them out for parasites. We built a holding facility for them, for when we were introducing them and then after time, we opened the door so they could go out. They began exploring. And it was wonderful watching them learning where to go and where not to go. I suppose a lot of things they ate were things they’d never seen before. They did that by experiment, I guess. A year later, we sent six more lemurs down and started another group, far away from the others.

00:38:56 - 00:40:04

I didn’t want them to come together too soon. I wanted them to come together the way they might in nature, on Madagascar, which in time they did. But it was wonderful because they were raising babies there. Oh we caught them after a year, we trapped them all and there’s a holding building that we had for them, and weighed them all, and they were all healthy, they were all slimmer, than they were when we sent them down there and generally doing very well. We put radio collars on them again and we did that for many years. There’s still lemurs there, on the island. They’re the descendants from the animals from over 30 years ago. We went along a little farther and I don’t remember the year now, but I wanted to try something really, really different.

00:40:06 - 00:41:07

We released a group of lion-tailed macaques on the island. They had this nice group in New York. Unfortunately, it was heavy on males, but there were females that were breeding. I kept the State of Georgia aware of what we were doing. They had no problem with doing anything because as far as they were concerned, they were on an island out in the Atlantic Ocean and they’re not gonna go anywhere. And that would be true, they weren’t about to leave. Deer swam across between the islands from time to time but there was no reason for these animals to do it. Had us a graduate student watching the macaques, the lion-tailed macaques, when we put them out there, keeping notes on what they did and what they ate and where they went to find food.

00:41:09 - 00:42:10

It was wonderful. And one of the greatest things. Oh, and, I didn’t want them to associate feeding with the keepers. I didn’t want them coming begging for food from keepers, so we supplemented the lemurs and the macaques to make sure they were getting adequate nutrition. So we brought all the food in a pick-up truck, but it was in covered barrels and buckets, and we put the food in the building for them, with the doors closed, they couldn’t come in till we spread the food all out and then they came in and they’d feast. They never associated the keepers with food. My first time down there after they were out was wonderful. I’ve worked with lion-tailed macaques before in New York and in San Francisco Zoo.

00:42:12 - 00:42:30

They’re a tough monkey. Here we are in the middle of this island and I’m standing there with lion-tailed macaques on the ground all around me, feeding, looking for insects, acorns, or whatever. They paid no attention to me.

00:42:31 - 00:42:33

What could be better than this?

00:42:34 - 00:43:41

It was great, really great and they learned how to forage and learned how to get water. They would take Spanish moss, find a crotch in a tree that had water laying in it from the last rain, put the Spanish moss in there, sponge up the water, put it in their mouth. There was a mushroom, that if you ate the mushroom cap, you would vomit. I forget the name of it now, but it caused vomiting. The macaques learned to eat the stem; they didn’t eat the cap. So the evolution of how that happened, I wish we had better information on. But they learned to pick that mushroom. I have a slide of a pile of mushroom caps that were rejected by the lion-tails.

00:43:43 - 00:44:17

I had been with a group of Indian biologists, and wildlife people and they were very interested in the lion-tails. I wanted to get them to St. Catherine’s Island to “see what you do at zoo.” They were not interested in zoo-born animals. They did not want lion-tailed macaques being in zoos in India. And I wanted to show them what a mistake that was. Unfortunately, we never managed to do all that. It’s too bad.

00:44:17 - 00:44:23

Is St. Catherine’s Island still doing these kind of programs?

00:44:24 - 00:45:04

No, after I left they had the foundation, I don’t know what the relationship was, but it wasn’t a good one, they eventually closed it down. Which never would have happened, if I’d been there but people have different ideas on things. Now, today, the zoo profession has changed greatly in the years that you have been in it.

00:45:04 - 00:45:12

Knowing what you know today, would you have still have entered the field as you did, and why?

00:45:13 - 00:46:04

Oh absolutely. Absolutely; there’s still so much we don’t know about the animals in our care. One of the things I really liked about my work was, it wasn’t work but what I did was, there was always something new that you could learn from them. They always had something to teach you. Because of that, I think, if you’re open-minded and you’re inquisitive and you’re a dreamer, you will see around you, all the time, things going on that will surprise you. Now in your career, you’ve published.

00:46:05 - 00:46:08

Do you feel it’s important for curators to publish?

00:46:08 - 00:46:09


00:46:09 - 00:46:10


00:46:11 - 00:47:06

I think first, to show what they have found. Presumably, what they publish is something worth being published. Yeah, I think, make what you know available to anybody in the field. Let people know that you are there, and you’re doing work with this, that, or the other thing. Just get it out there. Unfortunately today, I’m afraid that AND I don’t this to be a fact, but I don’t think young people read as much as we did, And that’s unfortunate. Lead in to my next question.

00:47:06 - 00:47:26

Do you believe that animal keepers younger curators, are aware of and understand the knowledge of a Heini Hediger, a Lee Crandall, a Bill Conway, and why is this important that they understand those things?

00:47:27 - 00:49:02

They had so much information that they put out there for young people now, if they take advantage of it And I just don’t think they do. I remember when we put some black-backed tigers down on St. Catherine’s Island, and one the people that we had working down there got interested in tigers. He decided he was gonna try and do a stud book on tigers in zoos. He wrote to Marvin Jones. Someone told him, “Write to Marvin Jones, he knows what’s going on.” And Marvin Jones laughed at him. In a nice way, and he said, “Have you read what Lee Crandall has said?” “No, who’s Lee Crandall?” He said, “Well, he wrote the book.” First of the tigers that came into the United States were at the Bronx Zoo in New York. He didn’t know anything about it. Didn’t know who Crandall was, which is unfortunate.

00:49:04 - 00:49:24

Was shocked when he read all that Crandall had to say about tigers. And unfortunately, that’s too much of the attitude today. That people want the information but they don’t wanna run around too much to find it.

00:49:30 - 00:49:38

What was the most important piece of advice you received that stayed with you throughout your career?

00:49:40 - 00:50:47

This goes back to my father. During the summer, in high school, couple of summers, I painted houses with him. I was the only one with six kids that did it, they never worked with him, but we would go and paint houses from like eight in the morning, ’till two in the afternoon. We’d clean up and we’d go home. He would take a bath, put on his uniform, drive a streetcar, crisp blue shirt and necktie and jacket, and he would go drive a streetcar from four in the afternoon till midnight. He did the four-to-twelve. And then he’d come back, he’d come home, one o’clock in the morning, sleep for five or six hours, get up and do it all over again. I remember him early on telling me while painting.

00:50:49 - 00:51:57

At least in probably the first summer, I got the crummy jobs, the junk jobs. If a house had a cellar, then it had cellar door and cellar windows. I painted the windows and I painted the door, and it didn’t matter too much if some of the paint got on the glass there, but you didn’t want the paint on the glass of the windows when you were painting the house. And if there was trellis work or a fence, the kind of painting jobs that had to be done but they didn’t need any sealer. It was just get it on and make them look good. But my father told me, one time, when we were painting, “Always do the hard stuff first, then do the easy stuff.” And I don’t know if he was talking about painting or he was talking about life, I never asked him, but I never forgot that. “Always do the hard stuff first,” and I think that’s what we’ve tried to do, do the hard stuff first.

00:51:59 - 00:52:19

Now you’ve worked for a very large institution, the Bronx Zoo but in your opinion, what can a small or medium zoo, municipal-size zoo, do today to be involved in wildlife conservation nationally, or internationally, or locally?

00:52:20 - 00:53:40

Find a focus. Find something that, when you have some interest, some ability, you can afford to do it, and focus on it. Maybe it’s education, and you get a sister zoo in India or Africa, and you supply them with educational material. Write up material using their language, their wildlife, and work like that. You focus on the species that you can keep reasonably well, you can keep well in your climate, in your environment, in your space. You’re not going to go into a small zoo and expect to see elephants, giraffe, bears, and so on. You’re not gonna see all of the big animals. You see what the zoo focuses on, whether it’s on North America, the Americas, or Africa.

00:53:42 - 00:54:29

Do what you do and do it really well and get into it. Get into it with SSP programs, that’s the Species Survival Programs and get involved, really get into very special efforts and work that way. Then if you want to have a sister park in Africa work on arrangements that you can support. A zoo within a central park in South Africa. Finding a unique special ways to get involved.

00:54:32 - 00:54:35

Should every zoo strive to have a breeding program?

00:54:40 - 00:54:42

I believe so.

00:54:42 - 00:54:45

But where is the breeding program?

00:54:45 - 00:55:25

You’re not going to breed everything. In the Bronx we didn’t attempt to breed everything. It was something, we were just a holding institute. We didn’t have a lot of space for Cheetahs for example. But we got to hold cheetahs, there were more in other zoos. We exhibited the cheetahs and when they needed to be moved; they weren’t ours, when they needed to be moved, we sent them wherever they were supposed to go. Did the same thing with Mexican wolves. We didn’t own the Mexican wolves, they weren’t born in our zoo.

00:55:25 - 00:55:37

We were holding them and we could tell that story while we were holding the Mexican wolves, about you know, hopefully they’ll be heading for (indistinct) and they were.

00:55:37 - 00:55:51

Sent them down from the Bronx, (mumbling) We talked about the zoo director you worked for, Bill Conway, how was it to work for Bill Conway?

00:55:51 - 00:55:53

What were the pros?

00:55:53 - 00:55:54

What were the cons?

00:55:57 - 00:57:14

And you’re smiling. I went after quite a number of years at the Bronx, I went because they called me to the San Diego zoo. They wanted to bring me out there to work in the San Diego zoo and I remember on the plane flying out there thinking, I know the director at San Diego zoo, very nice guy. He’s a business person. Boy, it’d be fun to be in (indistinct) zoo. Where I take all that money for animals and spend it the way I wanted it to be spent. Then I go back to the Bronx, of course and Conway and I didn’t have any great problems between us but sometimes he didn’t like some of my ideas, sometimes I didn’t like some of his. And that was the reason I stayed in New York, why we stayed in New York.

00:57:15 - 00:57:29

But it would have been fun for a time run it my way, if I ran the zoo. (giggling) Did you ever think about wanting to be a zoo director?

00:57:29 - 00:57:31


00:57:31 - 00:57:32


00:57:34 - 00:58:30

I had more going for me in New York than I could have any place in the country. In the world probably. I had a boss who listened to me and we fought. We had our fights but he listened to me. He found money for me. We used to do an operating budget every year for each department. Added an addendum to my budget at the end of every year which was things I wanted to do and it would be a little paragraph or two on doing a new exhibit for snow leopards for instance. Or I wanted to do something Baboons, with shalata baboons and why I wanted to do it, what we’d do with it and then I wanted to do gorillas.

00:58:30 - 00:59:07

A gorilla exhibit. We needed to badly do something for gorillas and I did a big thing every year until I got it. And I did. He would find the money and then we would do them and it was fun doing it that way. A lot of time. You had a unique living situation. You lived in the zoo.

00:59:09 - 00:59:17

How did you come to live in the zoo and what was living in the zoo, what were the good things or the bad things?

00:59:17 - 01:01:08

Well, one of our trustees had been the president of the board was resigning or retiring and he offered Conway a package of money to do with what he wanted and Conway said we’ll fix up the old cow barn at the farm in the zoo we gonna fix up the big tree house then would you want to live in the big tree house. And no no. I immediately thought, I knew the cow barn, that’s where I want to live. Then he said well fix up the cow barn and the big tree house. I said, “I’m getting the cow barn.” (laughing) And I said to him well, if the big tree house is big enough and works right for us we would move into the big tree house, talk (indistinct) about that. She was in agreement after seeing it. And so they remodeled it. It was a two story building, it was actually about 3 stories in height with a 14 foot sealer downstairs and it was a brick building on three sides and glass on five sides and we kept it pretty much all open downstairs and upstairs we had four bedrooms and a bathroom and laundry and it was very cold in winter downstairs, we had heat but we never had it very warm by the windows in the wintertime.

01:01:11 - 01:02:02

Our kids and Elsie would often go upstairs during the early evening in the winter because it was so cold by the glass. My desk was downstairs in the corner kind of brick walls. It was fine. But we were concerned about the kids being isolated. You know when I grew up I came home and changed my clothes went down the street where kids were playing ball in the street and just stood around telling stories or talking or whatever. And then I realized kids in New York don’t do that. Kids in New York get home and stay in the house. They weren’t out on the street like we were.

01:02:05 - 01:02:59

It worked out all right. They had some kids at home with them and we had our own private entrance from our area where we lived and we had electric gate, kids always outside, all of them. Bat cave lets go in the bat cave. And then we would get the the electric gate and it would open automatically. And we go through it and it would close behind us. We had a big field behind the house a four acre field and the kids would be out there just doing whatever they wanted and Conway was next door to us. Conways house was about 20 feet from our house so we were pretty close. We had dogs and children.

01:02:59 - 01:03:13

Neither of which they had nor was there a lot of interest in having them on their part either. But they were wonderful neighbors and we see a lot of them over there where we lived.

01:03:15 - 01:03:20

Did you talk about different things other than the zoo because you were neighbors?

01:03:20 - 01:03:22

Or was it strictly business?

01:03:23 - 01:04:33

Well Elsie and Conways wife got into talking a lot more about other things than Bill and I did. Sue was a lovely lady, I would love to be able to show her some of what he has written. She doesn’t even have a computer. She never learned to use a computer. And they were wonderful neighbors. They were very private people and we didn’t see a lot of them. Today, there seems to be a complaint from zoo directors that there are too few good curators in the community today. What do you think is the problem and how should curators be trained today to do what is expected of them.

01:04:36 - 01:07:30

Well I trained a few trainees over the years and one of the first things I did with them was I made up a schedule for them to work with the keepers re installation of the park so there was 3 days one building one keeper and 5 days or maybe 10 days in bigger facility where there was more keepers. And it was important for us top know what people who came from other zoos and I would do the same thing with the zoo director the get more than the keepers they also know the animals know where they coming from know how to keep the animals know who the keepers are know what the keepers think and I think its important I mean I was other than Conway at that time I was the only one that had been in another zoo so I knew a lot like he did about how people think what you expect from them and so on. I think it was always important to start them off that way I did it with everybody that came in and went from there to doing whatever we could as far as trying to get across what we were doing, why we were there and it changed a lot when we started getting more and more people with education and when we got women. Having women keepers, that was a no no for a long time actually I don’t think women even applied for the jobs but we got them and they worked out. They worked out very well. Because you’ve mentioned that did you hire the first women keepers and why was there a boycott or that they weren’t hired before. Well they weren’t hired in the mammal department. They weren’t hired because it was a mans work it was tough work.

01:07:34 - 01:08:01

I brought women in when after interviews could not send them away. I only invite to them was that I had to ask them the question, you got a hundred and fifty pound bale of hay or a hundred pound bag of grain. You gotta take it from point a to point b to feed the animals.

01:08:02 - 01:08:03

How you going to do it?

01:08:07 - 01:08:54

They would try and (making mumbling sounds) and I say, “I don’t care how you doing, you’ll do it.” The bale is 150 pounds. Break it open. Take a wheelbarrow, put half in it at a time in the wheelbarrow you can just push it yourself. Don’t ask men to help you do the job, that’s what they waiting for. You do it. 100 pound bag of grain. Open the bag and do the same thing. Fill some buckets and put the bucket in the wheelbarrow but don’t ask men to carry that bag of grain for you. Then that worked, that worked.

01:08:55 - 01:09:37

They did it better than some of the men carrying 150 pound bale of hay or bag of grain or whatever it was and now both zoos, high proportion of the staff are women keepers. What is your view regarding the hot topic of zoos maintaining elephants in their collection as we’ve talked about activism they seem to focus on zoos doing that or keeping elephants.

01:09:37 - 01:09:42

What’s your position on zoos maintaining elephants?

01:09:47 - 01:10:50

There’s no reason why we can’t keep elephants. I don’t think we too far off, too many generations away from people not having elephants to see in Africa or Asia. There won’t be any left. They’ll be gone and maybe the only place you’ll see them is in zoos. But we have a lot to do to I think meet our own standards but at the same time we have to br prepared to stand up for what we think is the right way to do it and I hear people and they often think you have to have lots and lots of space because they travel 30 miles a day for water. Yeah sure they travel 30 miles a day if they have to. They don’t do it for exercise. They travel if they have to travel.

01:10:50 - 01:11:34

If water is abundantly available then no. Years ago, a few zoos did exhibits for cheetahs. Then they did these long race track exhibits for cheetahs and cheetahs can run. Them not thinking, when do cheetahs run. The only time they running is when they hunting. Now unless you’re gonna have them hunting out there, they’re wasting a lot of space. It’s not taking advantage of it. And when I went back to the elephants.

01:11:36 - 01:13:09

Elephants are social animals, very social animals. They continue to amaze us with what they do. They don’t need tremendous space but they need space and so no one should exhibit them in small yards anymore. We know more than that. Because we want to keep more elephants together. That’s they way they live, heard animal or family animal. And we should have them so they can live like that and until we get there, we’re going to be fighting these battles with the animal rights people and welfare people but be prepared to fight and don’t let them tell you that the animals need miles and miles of track in order to run or be content. What are some of the more dramatic or important changes that you have witnessed in animal management in your career I think probably the thing that has hit me the most was working with the gorillas.

01:13:14 - 01:14:22

When I was a little boy my father took me to the circus. I was about seven. We went to see (indistinct) circus in Boston and Ill never forget seeing Gargantua, it was glass box I was in or it was a cage it wasn’t a glass box. It was pretty scary but I never forgot him. When we had gorillas and they were old enough to breed some of them were not breeding at all and then some of them were not very successful parenting. We rebuilt a state of the art ape house opened in 1950. We did some modern home big tiled bathrooms for the gorillas. During that time we had the gorillas and we had chimp and we had orangutans in the building.

01:14:22 - 01:15:59

But we didn’t have a helluva lot of space but outside we had mostly enclosures those were the first enclosures for the great apes but before we decided to focus on the gorillas, we sent the orange (indistinct) we sent the chimpanzees down to Louisiana and we were gonna focus on the gorillas at some point, I don’t know who it was or how it happened but we had a thing about the gorillas. Raising gorillas in pairs, wouldn’t breed. But then they didn’t breed at all and so few zoos decided to keep more gorillas together. We had park zoo, Cincinnati zoo and the Bronx zoo. Example of zoos who kept more than two gorillas together. They were successful in breeding them too and we still had the problem that they didn’t have in that our females were not keeping their babies alive. We lost the first few babies that were born. And it was terribly heartbreaking.

01:16:00 - 01:16:57

Females carrying a dead baby and we don’t know why they’d died. But carrying it around for a couple of days after its dead. So we had to think about what we were doing we had to do something different. Some people had hand raised gorillas we were going to try and take the babies away when they were born from these females that were not being good mothers. We tried every arrangement possible. We left the females and their babies in their group, we separated the mom and the male, we put her along with her closest female. We kept them alone by themselves with their babies. Nothing worked.

01:16:57 - 01:18:00

We lost 4 or 5 babies and you can’t put up with that. So we had top change something. So we were going to take all the babies and hand raise them at birth and we did. We got a lot of criticism for doing it but we gad babies that were alive. We never just had one baby alone. We always had more than one baby. At least 2 babies together when we were hand raising them so it meant bring babies from other zoos sending our gorillas to other zoos, doing whatever was necessary to ensure that babies were not raised alone. It started off keeping them till they were two or three years old by themselves then they would be able to handle themselves in a group.

01:18:02 - 01:19:28

We did that and that gave mixed results. It probably easier to get them into the group, but after time they appeared to not be doing well. We had health issues which were a problem. But at the same time we were raising others that weren’t in the groups at a younger age because whenever we added one to the group, it didn’t go into the group alone. One time we had five babies that were all being hand raised at the same time and the youngest one was nine months old and she was part of the group of 5 and she went in. She probably did the best of any of them. We were very careful about how we did it, we had one of them, a female who was kind of a surrogate mother for all of them whether it was one or two or whatever and she was the first adult they saw. Introduction was gradual over two weeks she would get them ready to go into a big group and we did.

01:19:28 - 01:20:04

We got them up to that point and they went in with this one female and she got along with them fine. They were content being around her and then we had another female and told her that everybody was in there except the male. Oh I’m sorry, and the juvenilis. The male was the last one before the juvenilis to be introduced. The males were always fine with the babies.

01:20:04 - 01:20:28

Fine with them they never bothered them, played with them, protected them and the juvenilis were last because they were juvenilis and they were the ones that would be most likely to grab the baby and make it scream and cry and tease them, you know?

01:20:29 - 01:22:09

So once we knew that the females were going to protect them, and that the males were going to protect them then the juvenilis went in. And we raised we had two women that were raising the babies they had raised thirty babies and that added to a lot of visitors and people there saying, “You shouldn’t be doing that, its wrong.” But after you’ve seen a few babies die and there’s nothing you can do about it and then we blamed the old building but that was all we had we had to do with what we had. Then once we had a new building, moved them, never had any more problems. As far as I know there hasn’t been a hand raised baby in the gorillas 20 years. They’re doing it very well. And I think something that’s nice is that we had a closer relationship with the gorillas than what we had previously and they were more trusting of us. I know of the one female all the females were raising their own babies, there was no problems at all. We had one female and she raised her first one, he was close to four years old, he was pretty independent, then she had another baby and now the older one sees the baby nursing, he wants to nurse.

01:22:10 - 01:23:24

And I was afraid he would take the nursing away from the infant and she had tried everything she could do in the book to distract him, tease him, play with him, turn her back on him do whatever she could, move away from him, to keep him from nursing but finally she gave up and I said look lets try offering them a bottle. She’ll come right over and let us see the baby. See if we can offer the baby a bottle. If the baby is getting enough nourishment it won’t be interested if its not then it will probably just suckle. We fed her treats. The four year old was nursing on one of her breasts and the infant was sucking on a bottle. And the baby did just fine, did just fine. I don’t know what’s happened since then but far as I know they’ve never hand raised another baby but there was some, basically it wasn’t enough space.

01:23:26 - 01:23:27

But now all in a group.

01:23:28 - 01:23:36

What would you say to those people who still believe than zoos are nothing more than places where they cage animals?

01:23:38 - 01:23:59

I think look at the species like California cronder, black footed ferret, those are two American animals. Shame on us for having endangered species in this country.

01:23:59 - 01:24:07

Why does a country like America, the United States have species that are endangered?

01:24:12 - 01:25:43

We shouldn’t. We should be a role model. Its because of our success with them that these animals survived today. Père David’s deer, there are thousands of Père David deer in China and a hundred years ago, fifty years ago, there were no Père David deer in China. This is an animal found only in China. Or Mongolia wild horse only survived because of zoo programs and (indistinct) another species totally surviving because of zoos. There are more like that and if we can’t exhibit them and give a message to our visitors about what were doing for these animals and how its important that they support us in what were doing. Its more than just exhibition.

01:25:46 - 01:25:57

What issues caused you the most concern during your career and how do you see the future regarding these concerns?

01:25:58 - 01:27:17

I think the biggest concern today is for the elephants. I think were in better shape with the rhinos although Sumatran rhinos are gonna be an animal were gonna lose in our lifetime I’m afraid. If there are any left today its not more than a handful as far as we know left. I don’t know if there are any left in Sumatra at all. But elephants are a big issue. They’re a high priority animals and you see a lot of a range of zoos keeping them from single animal groups of animals. One acre, quarter of an acre, to many many acres. And I think we need to get some people involved in our elephant program and really turn it around I don’t think we are where we should be yet with the elephants.

01:27:17 - 01:27:49

And that to me is my biggest concern that I would have today for the species. In the past, there have been private individuals that have sponsored through their wealth their own nature preserves, their own zoos.

01:27:50 - 01:28:07

Do you see that those institutions that they create are better in surviving the years than institutions like the Bronx zoo which has been around a long time?

01:28:10 - 01:29:44

Most of these people have not prepared for the long run it seems. Even some that that we thought had made plans for the future, turned out they did not make adequate plans for the future. Whether its the guano plantation in Florida or I can’t think of the mans name at the wild aqua facility out in Colorado, Bill (indistinct). Or some of the textures where dangerous ranchers. Most of them were not doing anything that was going to last beyond their own survival and that’s unfortunate but I don’t know what Grinwald had all these wild equus in Colorado and he died and had done nothing. And he kept telling people like Conway, “You gotta plan for the future, you gotta go on planning for the future “. But he wasn’t.

01:29:47 - 01:29:48

Where are all those animals today?

01:29:50 - 01:31:04

I don’t know where they are, no one seemed to know. I haven’t looked into it seriously but seemed to have scattered to the winds and that is unfortunately the way a lot of these places have been and not one of them has been successful. Wild oak, Mr Hillman left a lot of money for the maintenance of the facility but it wasn’t enough and he wasn’t realistic about it apparently. Changed its goal and had a new owner and hopefully he would do things differently planning for the future but I don’t think we can count on any of those facilities that I’m aware of that exist today as being around for the long term. What would you, if you can direct.

01:31:06 - 01:31:11

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

01:31:19 - 01:32:38

I think probably, I come back to elephants again. Probably the realistic program that might involve working overseas range of countries with the elephants. Or just doing better with them in this country. There’s so much we don’t know about them and we have a good program. They need to be fine tuned as far as I believe. Then I think more cooperation and maybe another attempt at an elephant preserve in this country maybe in Florida or somewhere down this warmer climate. I think mammals would probably be the next thing that’d need to be looked into.

01:32:43 - 01:32:50

They still have the orcas and what are we gonna do with them?

01:32:52 - 01:33:32

Probably not a wild orca, wild born orca in any of these facilities today. What people know about them is what they’ve learnt through marine parks that have kept the animals and they’ve learned what wonderful, intelligent animals they are though these marine parks and I think the marine parks have the orcas and the zoos and the elephants should get together. You said zoos should be active in conservation and education and research.

01:33:33 - 01:33:50

Of those things, every zoo can’t do everything, If you had to rank them, what should zoos mostly be doing as opposed to trying to do everything?

01:33:51 - 01:35:43

Well, the area zoo should be doing education, and we need to do what ever we can to educate our visitors, educate the children that visit the zoo. Where we going and why. So many city zoos don’t have money to support conservation overseas they not gonna give the zoo money, they barely give the zoo money in many cases, enough to survive. So I think its hard to just think about going overseas and doing a lot beyond education. Again education, education, education. Whatever we can do as far as the protecting wild populations by hiring rangers, providing vehicles for the rangers, whenever they need support to protect the elephants and rhinos from poachers. Tigers from poachers, If they could send people over there and pay a little bit more money to work with, pay the local people a little bit more money to take on these jobs. Some places I’ve seen where they offered a little bit more money, poachers that have been turned into rangers in some of the African countries.

01:35:48 - 01:35:58

You’ve done a lot of things in your career, what would you say had been some of your proudest accomplishments?

01:36:01 - 01:37:10

I remember taking George Shaller, great biologist. Take him to see our snow leopard exhibit after we put the snow leopards on display, he was in town, I don’t know where he was working, probably working in china. He came down and took him to see the snow leopards. Then we used tension wire in the front of the exhibit. That hadn’t been done before with snow leopards. That was working fine. Some of them, unusual cats and George said, “What’s this wire in the front here for?” And I said, “To keep then snow leopards inside.” He said, “They’re not gonna come out of there. Why would they come out of that space to come out here, you don’t need that wire there.” He was serious.

01:37:11 - 01:37:59

Have it that for that (indistinct) and they didn’t need to explore beyond the boundary. I did not agree with that but anyway it was nice to hear that he thought it was pretty well done and I liked it. I had the chance some years ago to show some people from Ethiopia the reserve, For shalat baboons. And a top scientist in the country very upset when he saw we had shalatas. I said to him, ” What’s the matter?”.

01:37:59 - 01:38:01

“Well how’d you get these animals?

01:38:01 - 01:39:21

We didn’t send them to you.” I said, “Well, we got two from Brazil, two from Australia, we had one from Switzerland and we had four from Cincinnati. I just went around where they all came from and we worked very hard at getting them to live together. We had over 20 shalatas, all came from other zoos. Then Cincinnati sent us either four or six. That was the largest group we got from anywhere. But we were able to work them together into two groups. What I was wanting to do was exhibit two groups and exhibit them in the same space and it worked. We got them to live together in two groups and we this, what was our code hill, it was about three acre maybe, piece of rocky hillside, national rock.

01:39:28 - 01:40:53

Shalatas live in areas like that, high in the mountains where its cold and shalatas are happier probably out in the snow than they are out in the 85 degree or 95 degree day in the summer and if you see them in Ethiopia, they’re in groups and they are all close to each other but they’re not intermingling. That was what I was hoping we could do in New York and worked out we had two groups one male and a bunch of females. Then there was another bunch of females. Then we hand a bunch of males that were together in a third group and we got them in two groups. I don’t know how well they are doing but I think they are breeding and raising some shalatas. Soon as they gave them to us, they’ve been breeding red shalatas, they wouldn’t have given them to us. They said because they weren’t breeding for them, they wanted to send them some place else where maybe they can do better. If they can do better, you can make better use of the space those shalatas were occupying.

01:40:53 - 01:42:44

So we have a nice big primate inhibit, outdoor exhibit, animal that are endangered on exhibit, every day of the year, they’re active. They’re impressive animals and we had a few other things we did with them to make it more of a blend a lot of different water birds from Ethiopia and haraks and (indistinct) Now that’s an idea you had to sell to the zoo Director. Yeah and it worked. And its still working. It was not to be learned from looking at a little quarter acre or half acre enclosure of Himalayan tar. Or (indistinct) That was all they had before. Now there was something that was there that has some reason for being and there were good exhibit animals. And they were unique, they come from high mountains in Ethiopia, only grass eating primate and they were in trouble because farmers were going up higher into the mountains in Ethiopia to plant their corn and wheat, wheat and grass, shalatas loved them. And farmers were going to shoot the shalatas whenever they had a chance.

01:42:45 - 01:43:26

And all I wanted to get was trap a number of animals.. one of our biologists that was working in Ethiopia made us aware that farmers were killing 12 – 15 shalatas a week. In Ethiopia, one group of those animals up to the Bronx and the head of wildlife he wasn’t gonna do it. He just said no. They were harsh. But we already had these animals expected from all over and I think we telling the story pretty well.

01:43:29 - 01:43:37

Were the researchers that you talked to from Ethiopia amazed that you had been able to, without their help accomplish this?

01:43:37 - 01:45:08

Yeah, the other two people they were very excited about it and one of the behaviorist and one was the director of the parks in Addis Ababa. Which included a zoo, small run down zoo and they has shalatas and (indistinct) baboons next to each other and the cages were so run down the animals got together and they has hybrids. They had hybrid shalata. I offered to build them a new enclosure in Addis for the shalatas keep the shalatas away from the (indistinct). We will build you a new exhibit, let us take that group of shalatas and (indistinct). She was all for it but the boss man, didn’t matter, he had the control on the shalatas and he was not ready to. I don’t know what it would have taken to have them see that we were doing something good. But he thought the exhibit completed.

01:45:08 - 01:45:23

That one was open and express enthusiasm towards us as the other two people did. It was unfortunate that nothing came from it.

01:45:23 - 01:45:38

So, in your opinion how throughout your career, politics internationally or nationally or locally has had an affect on the zoo operation?

01:45:40 - 01:46:43

Yes, yeah that was one kick it had happened in Wyoming. Black footed ferrets. We got asked to be involved in the black footed ferrets because in 1981, Shep the dog ranch dog brought home a dead ferret and so couple of biologists started looking for ferrets. They needed support and they came to us and said, can you support our work, we want to go on to these ranches and see if we can find ferrets. But private ranch owners are not going to let (indistinct) do it. They’ll kill off the ferrets if they have to. They not going to have people roaming around there probably but maybe we can do it if you let us. If you support us. We said sure.

01:46:44 - 01:48:13

So I went out to Wyoming with another fella from the reserve and we met with them and we started going on regular meetings out there or whatever. Discussing the ferrets and we kept telling them the numbers were going down, we know when they going down. Why don’t we start a breeding program. I remember meeting with this person who was number two in the fishing game said my god no, the ferrets aren’t going back to New York. I said, “I don’t want them in New York, I want them in Wyoming that’s where they belong, Wyoming. They don’t belong in New York.” I through to the head veterinarian from the wildlife department for Wyoming and he trusted me I think and we worked together well and he helped me design a breeding facility for ferrets and they had no experience with ferrets. I was worried about breeding them, I was successful, (indistinct) we do really well with in zoos now. One animal in Europe is closer than the black ferret is the European polecat.

01:48:17 - 01:49:35

I new Vladimir Spinsin the director of the Moscow zoo and I wrote to him and I said, “Do you have any Siberian polecats?” In collection we need some. I wanted to send them to Wyoming for the people of Wyoming for some experience with animals that may be easier to breed than the black footed ferrets are. He said no I can’t help you. I don’t have any in our collection. Well, I don’t know if it was one month or three months or six months later I got a call from New York saying there was a package at the airport for you and the airport there were six Siberian polecats from Vladimir Stinsin. He found some animals and rounded them up for us and that was the first experience with breeding anything was with polecats. That made them feel more comfortable for doing the same with the ferrets. And designing, I made a good facility and they went from there and it worked.

01:49:36 - 01:49:53

Have you found then that sometimes its the relationship as you’ve developed with people that helped advance programs as opposed to the program itself which made sense but you had to have that relationship?

01:49:53 - 01:50:53

I think it really really important that you establish a good relationship, trusting relationship with the people you work with, wherever it is. I saw it black foot ferrets in Wyoming. Once I got a good relationship going with the chief veterinarian that was the chief of the whole program federal government gave over control of black footed ferret to the state of Wyoming. They gave up their own animal. State that didn’t care. They would have cared if the ferrets had antlers or horns but they didn’t care about ferrets but Tom Thorn did. And we got to know him and he got to know us we had a good relationship him and I. Same thing happened in Rhodesia.

01:50:55 - 01:51:51

We were working with Sumatra Rhino people over there and it was a man the head of wildlife for Malaysia who was responsible for (indistinct) ultimately. Borneo, a malayan borneo. He was very kind of cool and stand offish in the beginning but after we got to know each other a little, he and I had very good relationship. Just thinking of him, I was going to write him a letter. We hadn’t written in a couple of years and I hope he’s all right and doing well. Once we had a good relationship going, it was fine. We would work together and talk about whatever. Well same thing happened in Georgia, (indistinct).

01:51:53 - 01:52:46

The foundation had this manner of (indistinct) and he was very stand offish with me and I was a representative of the New York zoo and eventually he and I got together a close relationship and he trusted me and I think that’s important that you establish that kind of friendship relationship with people. I’m a young person, I’m in college and I have desire sincere to work in zoos as a career.

01:52:51 - 01:52:53

What was your advice to me?

01:52:53 - 01:53:02

To study, to read, to volunteer. What’s your advice to me to get into this field which I apparently want to be in.

01:53:02 - 01:53:06

What I tell students is, what are you studying?

01:53:08 - 01:54:04

And tell them to get as much of these courses as you can. If you’re in an animal science major then take as much zoology as you can take a conservation course if you can. Take biology, microbiology. Get as much experience as you can in the classroom them try to go to school near a zoo and see if you can volunteer on weekends. Get to know what the zoo is like and see if its what you really wanna do. Experience working in the zoo. Pick up a shovel and do what has to be done. And read. Read Trannel, read Hediger.

01:54:08 - 01:54:28

Read. Do you have any suggestions for those, along those lines aspiring to come and make a difference in the zoo world. Giving me a headache, um.

01:54:32 - 01:54:34

What is it?

01:54:34 - 01:55:39

Yeah. suggestions to those aspiring to make, They want to make a difference in the zoo world. What advice might you with your many years knowledge, like give to them. You’ve seen successes, you’ve seen failures. Yeah. I think again, do whatever you can shows what your interests are whether its voluntary, course taken, reading, do whatever you can to expose yourself in your interest. One thing I found, sorry I was, the people I contacted with could not have been nicer to me. I suppose because one day they were in the same position I was in when I was looking for a career and people were very very nice to me.

01:55:41 - 01:56:35

I joined the HDA before, wasn’t the HDA, national parks and recreation. Before I was out of college. I was writing this series about jobs and people were very helpful to me. Oklahoma city didn’t offer me keepers job. They were paying $3500 dollars a year, I was making more than that at the grocery store bagging groceries. Part time while I was in school and I made more money than the keepers. I couldn’t move to Oklahoma city. But I just always tried to be nice with young people to feel what their interests are.

01:56:36 - 01:56:43

If this is really what they want to do. Its hard work but its a wonderful career.

01:56:45 - 01:56:47

Who still needs zoos?

01:56:48 - 01:57:28

Oh I think that’s no question. we need them more than ever now. So many species are endangered. And how else are people going to get the message about what they need to do to protect the wildlife to protect the environment if we don’t have zoos. Can’t do a TV shows. I remember one summer we had a film festival in the Bronx. We had all these wildlife films that were going all day in education theater. Very few people went to them.

01:57:30 - 01:58:07

Often there’s some person that can compete it doesn’t have to compete with the elephant in the movie. The elephant in the zoo is real and the real elephant always worked out when we were over the film. We were going to the film festival one year and they had some pretty good films but you just can’t compete with a live animal. How important, you’ve talked about it a little bit.

01:58:07 - 01:58:15

How important is the community support and couldn’t a zoo or can a zoo survive without the community support?

01:58:22 - 01:59:30

Some zoos will survive without community support, like the Bronx zoo. The Bronx zoo, you see all this operating money from the city of New York. Everything it needed for operating was from the city. Any construction, the city would pay half of any construction of new facilities but I don’t think that’s the case everywhere. Honestly they don’t have the money to send the zoo curators to Africa or build a new pump station for the elephants and rhinos in India. Those are the kind of luxuries a lot of cities don’t have. Okay, we’re gonna talk about your career. You started your career at the sanfrancisco zoo.

01:59:32 - 01:59:35

How did you get the job and do you remember the year you started?

01:59:38 - 02:00:38

1966, I was out of college and we used to have field trips over Fresno zoo. I had a professor who knew I was looking for a zoo job. He loved zoos and he actually applied for the job that Bill Conway got when Bill applied for a curator job at the bronx. And he applied too and didn’t get it. So he was pushing me to get a zoo job and he arranged for me to go meet with Paul Chaffy at the Fresno. He was very nice, really nice man. He said no he didn’t have anything anywhere at that time and had no idea when he would and he said that there was a new director going in to sanfran cisco. He’s there now and he’s working but he’s not officially the director.

02:00:38 - 02:01:39

His name was Ron Ruther. Why don’t you write to him. So I wrote Ron Ruther a letter saying that I was looking for a curator job and he very nicely said why don’t you come and see me. So I went up to sanfrancisco. (indistinct) Obviously she was teaching school there and I went to school there. Anyway I went to sanfrancisco and Ron said, “If I have a place for a curator, money for a curator right now I would hire you.” But he said I don’t have any money yet. I’m only actually a director but I can offer you a keeper job. When a curator position becomes available, you’ll be here. Or else ill help you find a curator job in some other zoo.

02:01:41 - 02:02:26

So great. So to be a keeper in sanfrancisco you had to be a resident of sanfrancisco the city. He gave me a friends address. He said use this address when you go down to the cottage to fill out papers for the job. I knew I didn’t have any place to stay he said, well I haven’t moved my family here yet so you can stay in the directors house. The only one staying in there now is Kerry Baldwin who was the previous director. So I was living in the directors house with Kerry Baldwin as a room mate or house mate. And he started story telling.

02:02:26 - 02:03:00

He was a character. I found an apartment in a week and moved into my apartment and changed my address and whenever anyone came to the zoo, from another zoo, I always made sure I met them. That was when I met Marvin Jones. He visited one time. Then I met him. So, you’re an animal keeper.

02:03:00 - 02:03:09

Yeah What was the zoo like, what was the collection like, what type of zoo was it that was in 1966?

02:03:12 - 02:04:01

It was a, well it started January of 67. It was a typical hodge podge collection. It had African elephants and Asian elephants, they had snow leopards and black leopards I think if I remember correctly. They had male chimps. Only male chimps. Kerry Baldwin the previous director did not like to have female chimps in the collection because she had to explain the (indistinct) to people. She didn’t like having to do that so there were only male chimps. The chimps were all individually caged.

02:04:08 - 02:04:47

He had maybe just a pair or orangs and two pairs of gorillas. They’d switch the gorillas around and then the gorillas bred for them even though it was just a pair. The first gorilla was born I believe but that female that went to that woman in one of the universes out there. Cathy. I forget her name. Coco. Coco yeah. Right.

02:04:50 - 02:04:56

So he was very nice to me and I said is there anything I can do for you?

02:04:57 - 02:05:15

And he gave me projects to go through animal records and so on. And I got an article, a co-author in the international year book. Birthing thing of deer and antelope in the Sanfrancisco zoo. That was great.

02:05:15 - 02:05:22

So your responsibilities, what were your responsibilities as an animal keeper?

02:05:23 - 02:06:47

I was, two days a week I worked at the ape house with the apes and monkeys. Some of the monkeys. Then two days a week I worked in the aviary and then one day I worked wherever they told me to go. And I loved it because I got right into the care for the animals, feed them, get to know them. I just really ate it up. And my frustration was, and why I wanted to do more I learned there was, the supervisor there, there were two supervisors there one of them was an assistant. The assistant had a degree in economics or something from Berkeley. He got a degree during the big collapse in everything in 29 wall street and all and he took a job at the zoo and it was a zoo job that kep him along his whole life.

02:06:48 - 02:07:20

But he wasn’t really bothered about zoos or birds and he was afraid of most mammals and the other fella was his boss, he just wanted to see people working. If you were out in the yard raking then that was fine. You were doing something. Raking the yards or whatever. There was no grass in any of the yards. It was all just sand and gravel and that was pretty much to it.

02:07:24 - 02:07:31

But I wanted to do more and I saw things like, I saw a pair of what are those big pigeons?

02:07:37 - 02:07:38


02:07:38 - 02:08:36

Yeah, Victoria Crown pigeon. Pair on Victoria Crown pigeons were trying to nest up in the rafters and it was only a turkey in there, in the aviary. The aviary was just a mish mash of whatever they had. The turkey was living in the nest the crown pigeons were making. I saw them doing it a few times and I said something to the supervisor and he did nothing about it. So then when I had a chance, I said something to the director and the next day the caught the turkey and took it out so the pigeons wouldn’t have to deal with it. I wanted to do other things like that. I wanted to get involved.

02:08:36 - 02:09:43

The things I wanted to do I saw. And also in san francisco, the keepers picked their assignments. Which was pretty strange and they went by seniority. There was a really good guy responsible for the aviary, to take care of the animals and the birds in the aviary and after I left I kept in touch with him and a few people there and he lost his position in the aviary. He still had a position but he want in the aviary anymore and he was kind of john hardened about that because the attitude of the aviary was lazy and they weren’t gonna do anything they didn’t have to do. That fellow that left the aviary eventually, he didn’t stay around too many more years. He retired and he just, I think it hurt him a lot.

02:09:46 - 02:09:49

When you came to the zoo what was the keeper forsight?

02:09:49 - 02:11:21

I mean obviously no women. No women, I was one of two college graduates they had that were keepers. Then the fellows, kind of a talker but they didn’t do anything. Got frustrated by him. Then I saw where (indistinct) and I applied and may 16 1967 I was interviewed by Conway and I remember two things from that interview with Conway. (indistinct) Do you want a blanket, I said yes. Then he hesitated. I think he wanted me to tell him what it was and he didn’t ask me what it was.

02:11:22 - 02:11:55

So I said yes, I know. I don’t think he liked that very much. That’s when he said, I mentioned something about orangs and he said how would you design an exhibit for orangs and I said well, very strong, very strong. And they like to climb. So build a big climbing apparatus for them. It’d have to be strong. Made of pipe or heavy wood.

02:11:56 - 02:11:57

What do you think we are, plumbers?

02:11:59 - 02:12:24

That’s what he said to me. I said no they’re not plumbers. Strong animals. They’ll tear it apart if you don’t do it right. Now, I want to talk more about that in a minute because we’re gonna get to that part but lets stay with the sanfrancisco zoo for a minute. You mentioned there was a new zoo director and some senior staff.

02:12:24 - 02:12:31

As a keeper, that you were hired, did you have much interaction with the zoo director and the senior staff?

02:12:33 - 02:13:28

Well I saw the supervisor everyday when he came in in the morning. The supervisors were there. They were responsible for our assignments and because I was new on the field then and I ended up filling in apes two days a week and the aviary two days a week. People like me and they asked if I can come back. I said sure I like doing it. The director had an office you could fit it in the corner of this room, right here. That was the zoo office. Upstairs over the food preparation and assignment room downstairs.

02:13:28 - 02:13:58

Service shower as you’d call it. He asked that I moved to better offices at the time. He didn’t have a secretary when I took over. So we didn’t see very much of him. You know if he was there hanging around then yeah, but we didn’t see much of him.

02:13:59 - 02:14:07

What experience did you have at the zoo as a keeper that may have changed your notion on what zoos should be like?

02:14:18 - 02:14:46

Well I think that hodge podge in the aviary there were a lot of nice birds in there but it was kind of just things that we didn’t know where they came from they were there in the aviary because we didn’t know where else to put them. I can’t think of anything else now.

02:14:50 - 02:15:01

Did you know that you wanted to be more than an animal keeper, was that in your mind and were you thinking about how can I achieve this when you first started?

02:15:01 - 02:16:00

Yeah. So I was taking any kind of job in a zoo, I applied for a job in Oklahoma City as a curer of education but I wanted to get my foot in the door. I just wanted to get in and then I’ll work on it once I get there and I didn’t qualify for the curer of education but the director was very nice and he wrote to me and told me he can’t give me a curator job but he’ll giver me a keeper job at 3500 a year. And that was when I went to Toronto and built the Toronto zoo. Phil… Yeah.

02:16:02 - 02:16:11

How did you learn about this opportunity at the zoo in New York, at the Bronx?

02:16:13 - 02:16:38

Must have been something in the Louisiana newsletter we used to get from the zoo group. But I did hear from Bill runner told me about it also. Then when I was offered the job he didn’t want me to go.

02:16:39 - 02:16:43

He said, “Don’t go there, why do you want to go there?

02:16:43 - 02:17:57

People who go there never leave there.” And I said that doesn’t sound bad to me if you never leave. He said I’m picking up the, picking out the new director for the Sacramento zoo. Ill get you the job in Sacramento if you want same as California but don’t go to New York, stay out here. Well, I didn’t feel I was ready to be a director for the Sacramento zoo. I probably could have done it but there was too much I want to learn first. So it sounded good about going to new york. Now, the job in new york, if I’m correct, was a curator apprentice job. So can you tell me what was the curator apprentices program and how did it work.

02:17:59 - 02:19:25

Well there really wasn’t any program it was just whatever the curator wanted you to do. There were two of us in the mammal department and one in the bird department Don Briggs was in the Bird department with Joe Bell who was the curator of birds then. I worked with the other intern in mammals we worked with Brad House who was the curator of mammals at the time. Brad gave us projects and pretty much left us alone. I know I wasn’t there very long I was spending every day down in the basement of the administration building going through the stacks of journals on mammalogy, similar journals looking for references to keeping bats in captivity, feeding bats, bat behavior and so on. We were going to have bats in the world of darkness and I dived down there in the dungeon. Feeling pretty sorry for myself then. Spent so much time doing that.

02:19:30 - 02:19:52

I know it was of value. There was a zoo upstairs that I wanted to see too. All right, now let me back up a bit. So you were told about this apprentice curator position if that’s the correct title and you have to be accepted.

02:19:53 - 02:20:02

So you ultimately, the person who would accept you for this position was the director, thats who you had to interview with?

02:20:02 - 02:20:17

I had my interview with him. Brad House didn’t interview me. The director did. The director did, yeah. And that was your first meeting with the director Bill Conway. Yes. And he asked you two questions. Oh yes, he asked me more than that.

02:20:19 - 02:21:36

I gotta get drafted. Was a big one. Because I liked the drafted. And I was young and healthy, eligible for the draft. I was eligible for the draft because if you hard affirmant, I don’t know if you ever did or not. If you had an affirmant you were eligible till you were 35 for the draft and I graduated from college when I was 26 so a few months after I graduated the draft board was coming after me to join the army they were sending me all types of information about going to intelligence school and this and that, none of which I had interest in. So draft me and draft me but not strong but fail of which one way or the other to Vietnam but I’m not gonna make it easy for them. And Elsie and I were making a plan to get married anyway we were going to have it out with our plans.

02:21:36 - 02:22:54

The draft board in Massachusets told me to go to my local draft board and register there for a physical and I had already had one physical and passed that one and that was years before that was in between schools and so I figured out when I’m going to be one a so ill just wait until they come and get me and we went ahead with our plans to get married and got married, Elsie got pregnant immediately, we had no plans. We were young I don’t know what we were thinking, but Elsie got pregnant right. Then I wrote the draft board and said my wife is going to have a baby so I was no longer a candidate for the draft. They left me alone after that. I wanted to just so you were under Brad House the curator. You’re learning was essentially I’m giving you jobs, do them. A little aside from, you mentioned the name Brad House.

02:22:54 - 02:23:02

Is it true that Brad House used to make his rounds at the zoo with his dog?

02:23:02 - 02:23:29

Yeah. He had one dog and then he had two dogs. They sat in the back of the car all day. (indistinct) wherever he went. They may get out once in a while to pee but they sat in his car. Stayed right there. Kids would come along and pet the dog and they were fine with being petted. They were Siberian huskys.

02:23:30 - 02:24:14

He had one and I don’t know if it was stolen or what happen and it disappeared. He looked round for it for a long time but never found him. I think it was sold, I don’t know. Might have gotten hit by a car. Somehow got out of the zoo and was gone and Brad wanted to buy another puppy. This was a few years later and couldn’t decide which puppy to take so took both of them. Got them both and they were with him until he left Bronx and went to Minnesota. He found friends (indistinct) when he moved to Minnesota.

02:24:19 - 02:25:39

So what was your emphasis to you to want to make this move from sanfrancisco to New York. This was a career move that you thought would be good why did you say working in new york was going to be a potential for me personally. I thought that New York has got so much going on there. By then I was reading international yearbook and so on and hearing Conways name and then when I went to the interview the man who was head of operations gave me a little tour around the zoo and showed me the aquatic bird house which had been remodeled by Conway in 1964. Aquatic bird house blew me away. The exhibits were just amazing. I hadn’t seen anything like that and I had seen a fair number of zoos but what they did there for birds, I don’t know, just mind blowing and I really wanted to go there.

02:25:41 - 02:25:44

So what kind of zoo did you find when you went to New York?

02:25:44 - 02:25:47

Was it different to sanfranciosco?

02:25:47 - 02:26:36

Oh everything about it yeah. Similarities were few and far between. I saw more of Ron Ruthen than I did Bill Conway. And Conway didn’t know me. I worked for Brad House and everything went through Brad House pretty much. Met another fellow working with another curator trainee just before I did. I just couldn’t see him staying. He didn’t stay.

02:26:36 - 02:27:12

He would go about a year, year and a half after the program started and I stuck with it. I was very lucky I did stick with it. So, this program did it have a length of time or not and was there a promise, I mean you’re a curatorial apprentice.

02:27:12 - 02:27:15

Was there a promise of a job at the end?

02:27:15 - 02:28:03

No. Conway had nothing to do with me and I only had a bachelors degree and so that didn’t make him very happy. I think he gave me the job because I had experience in another zoo. Which Don Henning had in the bird department or his fellow Dave who came to the (indistinct) department. (indistinct) and so I had that desire to work in a zoo, experience working in a zoo, which they lacked. They weren’t shown anyone who really wanted to work in the zoo at that time. So, there’s no promise of a job.

02:28:03 - 02:28:08

All right and was there a time length for the program?

02:28:08 - 02:28:11

A year, two years, open ended?

02:28:12 - 02:28:22

I think it may have been open ended. I think so. So you complete your apprenticeship.

02:28:24 - 02:28:29

When do you do it, approximately what year and do you get a position?

02:28:29 - 02:28:30

What is your position?

02:28:31 - 02:29:04

I was made assistant curator probably 1979. I’m sorry no, 1970. Or there about. 70, 71 I think. I don’t remember exactly. And you’re working as an assistant curator under Brad House. Yes.

02:29:06 - 02:29:18

What are you doing differently as an assistant curation in mammals than you were doing as an apprentice?

02:29:18 - 02:30:08

It really was the same. All the workers were the same. Same job. So the basement. Maybe I finished that job and a few hours down in the basement and the zoo is sending Conway a buffalo and (indistinct) out to sandiego and the other curator trainee gets to take the animals out to sandiego. (indistinct) And we never used those references. I had my secretary type up 3 by 5 cards and everything I wanted. He never even looked at the list. I never looked at the list of references.

02:30:11 - 02:30:12

We went with what we knew.

02:30:12 - 02:30:16

As an assistant curator, were you in charge of people?

02:30:18 - 02:30:33

No I was not in charge of anybody but I was in a position of authority. But I couldn’t do anything.

02:30:34 - 02:30:42

How did the staff, the older keepers accept you as this new assistant curator?

02:30:44 - 02:30:49

Were there issues you had to overcome and if there were, how did you overcome them?

02:30:49 - 02:32:31

Well the working hours that I had worked in another zoo in that I think made it easier for me with the other keepers than they had the fellow or even Don in the bird department. So I had that over them. I had been a keeper and that gave me some sort of power I guess but I new how the job was I knew how it work and I tried to keep them in mind when I was doing my job and to ensure they did their job right the way I thought it should be done and that worked, that worked pretty well. I must say I have one keeper that worked in the deer range and we always said he didn’t do much. He didn’t even feed the animals. He fed the animals on Friday night and he was out Saturday and Sunday. So I said something about it to Brad. He said well then tomorrow you go up and work with him all day and see what he does.

02:32:33 - 02:33:27

So I came from work the next day to work for the deer range keeper and there were barns that had 2 feet of manure in them, manure bedding. They were going to clean it out that day. It hadn’t been done. They did it every spring I guess. And they were giving us help so he had me as a girlfriend shoveling manure all day. And I learned a lesson I didn’t talk to Brad House about how keepers weren’t doing their job anymore. During this time there are senior staff members at the zoo. Who were they and I know one of them was probably Lee Crandal.

02:33:27 - 02:34:04

Did you interact with Lee or other senior staff and what did you learn from these guys. They could not have been nicer to me. I felt like oh my gosh 20 something years old these people have all been here since the zoo started practically. How will I ever feel like I belong here. But they could not have been nicer. (indistinct) was wonderful. She was head of the animal shipping. She was very nice to us and Charlie Dresco was head of operations.

02:34:05 - 02:34:37

He was also very nice. Helped me out wherever he could. Gordon Conner was membership and he was driving membership in the society a very very good man. There were just a lot of, Bill Bridges had a publication. And Mr Crendal, what a wonderful man he was. He was such a great guy. I remember he was always smoking.

02:34:38 - 02:35:08

He always had a cigarette hanging off his lip and the smoke would stroll up to his eye and his eyes were always kind of squinting because of the smoke from his cigarette and he came into my office one day after our daughter was born and he came in and leaned up on the mantle on the fireplace in the office and he said, how’s Elsie?

02:35:08 - 02:35:23

I said, Elsie is doing fine. Then how’s the baby girl. I said she’s beautiful, we love her. He said, I went through it all 60 years ago. He was such a sweet guy.

02:35:25 - 02:35:30

Did any of these people, Lee or any one else become mentors to you or not?

02:35:31 - 02:37:11

No. Did not. If there’s ever something Lee hadn’t seen, Mr Crendal. You could show him something he hadn’t seen before a lot and he was (indistinct) they shipwrecked or something happened. I forget the details now but he was (indistinct) out in the west pacific ocean. Maybe a year or more. I don’t know. But he came to see me. The zoo was having an annual meeting in the warldorf historia. Ballroom. And we would show film to our society members to the society staff and we’d have animal exhibits out in the lobby and we had (indistinct) and we had to have animals who were calm with people because people right up next to them banging on the glass and all so the animals had to be habituated to that sort of thing in these temporary exhibits. Second year in the zoo, my second year was an annual meeting.

02:37:14 - 02:37:55

Someone told me I was going to narrate a film, two films actually at the annual meeting. I had never narrated a film before. And I felt a bit concerned about it and I mentioned it to Joe Bell and Joe Bell mentioned it to Mr. Crandal and Mr. Crandal said with a cigarette hanging out his mouth, he said Joe told me that you’re nervous about narrating a film. I said yes, I’ve never done anything like it before. So I am nervous. He said well you can talk can’t ya. I said yes.

02:37:55 - 02:37:57

Then you can read can’t ya?

02:37:57 - 02:37:58

I said yeah.

02:37:58 - 02:38:00

He said, what are you worried about?

02:38:01 - 02:38:51

And then he left. Great guy. We used to have lunch in the staff dining room. This one long table down by the windows we would seat probably a dozen people. Then there were little tables scattered around the room and you wanted to be at the table that Mr Crandal was. His stories and they were great stories. (indistinct) . He was a nice person. Marvin was a very nice person to me too.

02:38:55 - 02:39:45

They were showing a bat one time. They’re easy to feed. They were very hard trying to get these bats to eat. (indistinct) Bats were very hard to get going. Because they just wanted to catch insects on the fly. Crickets. Put a bunch of bats in a cave with crickets and they were fine. We never had fed them.

02:39:45 - 02:40:24

I don’t think I ever did. But we spent days, months working with little insect eaters. As a quick aside, did you ever call him Lee or always Mr Crendal. Mr Crendal. Yeah. You once said, called him anything if he had said call me Lee, I don’t think I would. Its just his indifference to his being who he was. He was such a nice man. But he never said call me Lee.

02:40:24 - 02:40:31

No. You once said, in time Conway trusted me.

02:40:32 - 02:40:37

What did you mean and how did you earn his trust?

02:40:37 - 02:41:44

Well I think, see he didn’t know me when Brad House was there. Brad was the spokesman for the mammal department and I only had a bachelors degree. One of the requirements is supposed to be more than a bachelors degree but that was all I had. I guess my previous zoo experience replaced that need for more degrees and he did know me and I was not aggressive and Brad was in charge and Brad spoke for the mammal department. That was the way it was, that was the way it was gonna be. He really didn’t know me until Brad was leaving. And I just hadn’t had much contact with him. And then (indistinct) spokesman for the mammal department before he left, at least temporarily.

02:41:44 - 02:42:32

I didn’t know I just assumed that I was going to get the job of curator. Conway had in mind something else. He was going to hire us to be my own boss. He wanted someone else. Just hard to find anyone else that we wanted. And so I think I got it by the fall. So brad leaves, Ultimately you do take over as curator. Yes, yeah.

02:42:32 - 02:42:34

What year was that, do you remember?

02:42:38 - 02:43:04

It was, Brad left in 1970, he left in October I think of 74. So probably, might have been 1976. That might be on my resume. So now, you’re in charge of the entire mammal department. Now you do have people working for you. Yes.

02:43:07 - 02:43:15

As a curator, how did you affect the development of the sections of the zoo now that were under your control?

02:43:22 - 02:43:46

Part of the problem I think was that I had supervisors. I had three supervisors. One was a top person. He retired the same time Brad House left. And the other two men I had no use for them. They weren’t doing their jobs. They let the other guy do the job. And they did as little as possible.

02:43:47 - 02:44:24

And they had no respect for keepers although they had been keepers themselves, they didn’t have much respect for any of the keepers. And vice versa. The way they were treated. And I could not let that go on. (indistinct) I didn’t see what was happening. Or I didn’t care what was happening. So my first job was to work with those two people to see if I cuold get them to do the job or else something was going to happen. I didn’t give them a raise their first year.

02:44:25 - 02:44:39

And I told them, if they were not thinking of doing the job, that’s not what they should be doing (indistinct) one of them every two weeks, can I get my raise this week?

02:44:39 - 02:45:23

No, no raise this week. And the other one never said a thing. He just wasn’t going to say a thing. That went on for a year, year and a half and met the fellow who was asking where his money was. (indistinct) he was 62. He was going to take an early retirement So he was gone. At 62. He didn’t even tell his wife until his last day at work. The other fellow he moved over to the hospital.

02:45:23 - 02:46:20

The chief veterinarian (indistinct) that was fine because it saved him his job. Then I got promoted. People thought needed to be promoted to be recognized who did the job the way I wanted it done. I wanted people to care about the animals and care about people too, that was important to me. Both sides. And the two people I promoted were that. They were both respected, hard working and they pretty much got along with everyone. And they were the right people for the job.

02:46:22 - 02:46:26

What would you say was your management style?

02:46:31 - 02:47:08

I was probably very much hands on management. I was there all the time. Because the mammal department wasn’t the department I wanted it to be when I took over. There were people who shouldn’t have been there. Not for any great reason. But it just wasn’t the job for them. It was a job. And I wanted them gone.

02:47:11 - 02:48:10

Some of them knew that I was going to make changes and some transferred to other areas. One went to the carbon shop. One went to the plumbing shop. One went to the machine shop. And then (indistinct) but I had to, I had some house cleaning to do. And that was high pro=priority and now I had two supervisors that had worked with me and new how to get the job done. I’m a new curator and I’m asking you for advice, what tricks of the trade from managing people would you maybe tell me about. You need to be able to make sure the keepers know that you know the job.

02:48:12 - 02:49:28

You know what their job is and what you want their job to be. I think that’s extremely important. Then you find they right people for the job. We had a fellow who took care of the equus and he was there because he came from a farm in ohio and he liked tortoises and so he got the job. They we had another fellow, who was from the neighborhood. We had a lot of people from the neighborhood. They were both senior, they were both older keepers and he, up until I was there, he was working with small mammals. Could not have been a worse place for him because he was loud, he was boisterous and he didn’t know much about small mammals or he didn’t care.

02:49:31 - 02:50:43

We put him on the deer range and wild horses there. We moved the horses to the rare animal range, (indistinct) this fellow that was from the farm in ohio. He had experience with eqquus. He’s afraid of the horses. What are you gonna do about that, nothing you can do about it. Find someone else for the zoo. He was supposed to be working with this other fellow that we put up there who just had this kind of loud boisterous way always whistling or singing. . We never knew what his itch was until we put him in the deer range.

02:50:43 - 02:51:36

Pere David deer heard where very flighted deer. Very flighted. You had to be real careful working with them. One of them in the heard crashed into a fence and (indistinct) they hated each other. I don’t know what the cause of was they couldn’t stand each other. Even one of them alone. Seemingly, seemingly sleep fine, easy to be with a person. Together they were oil and water and they didn’t get along at all and Charlie wanted to do the horses area that we had.

02:51:38 - 02:52:38

Then I guess he didn’t know any better. He got the horses together and we got them bred. But he had a way with the deer, with Bison, with horses, they trusted him they would follow him anywhere. The pere David deer were so flighting (indistinct) packed in a stall about the size of this room. (indistinct). He counted bison in the morning before Bison went out. He’s pushing the bison out the way. (indistinct) and he got along fine with them. They never caused him a problem.

02:52:38 - 02:53:56

Only time having a problem was first two wild horses were born. The stallion used to (indistinct) protective. It was just like a day old. (indistinct) Then took him to the hospital and took care of him. And so we decided that we (indistinct) there was little time. But he just had a way of him and me and I don’t know who or why the picture was taklen.

About Jim Doherty

Jim Doherty
In Memoriam
May 5, 1940 - Jan 31, 2024
Download Curricula Vitae

General Curator

The Bronx Zoo, New York

Former General Curator

Jim Doherty had a challenging job as General Curator of the world-famous Bronx Zoo. His director was William Conway and he followed in the footsteps of legendary General Curator Lee Crandall. Jim adapted well, involved in the design of over 21 major exhibits and advising governments and zoos around the world on captive management.

Related Interviews

View All of Our Interviews

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.