February 9th 2019 | Curator

Mark Rosenthal

Marks zoo career started at Lincoln Park Children’s Zoo in 1967, continuing as an animal keeper then zoologist. In 1975 he became Curator of Mammals. In 2003 he retired as Curator of Large Mammals. He is also the author of "Ark in the Park", the History of Lincoln Park Zoo.

00:00:00 - 00:00:15

My name is Mark Rosenthal, Mark Allan Rosenthal. I was born in Chicago, Illinois, January 3rd, 1946. And presently, I hold the title of Curator Emeritus at Lincoln Park Zoo.

00:00:17 - 00:00:23

Before we start with the interview, can you give us some background of the Zoo & Aquarium Video Archive project and how it started?

00:00:24 - 00:02:21

Many years ago, when I was in, active in the profession, there was a gentleman named Marvin Jones who was registrar at the San Diego Zoo. And Marvin was a fount of information and very knowledgeable, knew everybody in the business in Europe and in the United States. And a colleague, Ken Kawata, who was then, I believe, curator at the Staten Island Zoo, and I were talking and he said, “You know, Marvin is getting up there in years and no one’s ever talked to him about his life and it’s so fascinating and something should be done.” So we came up at the time with the idea of an oral interview and we posed questions to Marvin, and out of those questions came a book that we produced called “A Conversation with Marvin Jones.” And that was kind of the start of wanting to preserve some of the people that I jokingly say I broke bread with and had time to really get to know. And they would tell you something and you’d listen and so forth. And then later on, another gentleman, one of the lions of the zoo profession, Clayton Freiheit, who had been director of the Buffalo Zoo and went to Denver to be the director, was very well known, very avant garde. And he just was a raconteur, and, but he was very good zoo man. And he unfortunately, passed away and I was talking to some colleagues and I said, “Has anybody ever talked to Clayton about his life and his wisdom knowledge and?” “No, no one has.” And I said, “Oh my gosh, that’s terrible. Somebody should talk to these people.” It’s kinda like getting your grandma and grandpa on tape, oral or video for the grandkids who may never have the opportunity to have met them or interacted with them.

00:02:21 - 00:03:55

And I thought about it and through some friends, and I, in 1982, I had done an interview with Marlin Perkins, former director of Lincoln Park Zoo, and serendipitously, ’cause he was at the zoo and I wanted to get the history of Lincoln Park Zoo from him directly, which I did. And it was a wonderful experience. But subsequently, through some friends, I met a woman named Loretta Caravette who was a producer and director of films and television and so forth. And we kind of got together and I told her about my idea and we brainstormed, and out of that came the Zoo & Aquarium Video Archives which I am the co-creator and Loretta’s co-creator of it to try and save for future generations the wisdom of the past. And that’s how this whole thing really came about and have had the opportunity to meet a ton of wonderful colleagues that I knew personally from my career, and some people I never got to to know and I got to meet. So that’s kind of the derivation of what we’re doing today and what’s been ongoing with this project. Very interesting. I noted that your video documenting career was begun well before you started the Zoo & Aquarium Archive project, however, with among other notable accomplishments, the documentation of Lincoln Park Zoo’s first veterinary workup of the gorilla, Sinbad, one of the most iconic animals of the zoo.

00:03:55 - 00:03:58

You directed and produced the film “Sinbad Had Surgery”.

00:03:58 - 00:04:03

Can you speak about that whole effort and how the valuable documentation was even initiated?

00:04:03 - 00:05:06

Well, let me say this about filming. At Lincoln Park Zoo, I think I had a sense of wanting to document what was going on at the zoo. I wasn’t the photographer, but there was this medium of videotaping and it was reel-to-eel at the time. And we had a lot of adventures with it and we would use it to document activities that were going on such as when we had to tranquilize Sinbad and do a tooth operation for him. And we would use this medium and I just thought it was wonderful. And I always joke that I don’t know anything, but I know people who know things, that was my value. And so with “Sinbad Had Surgery,” we were able to pull Frank Mathie from ABC who was a reporter and he agreed to do the voice over. And we were able to get old video of “Zoo Parade” of then a young Sinbad.

00:05:06 - 00:05:48

We were able to get editors at the time that you had to really have a lot of equipment. It wasn’t like today. So we were able to pull this together. And I just felt at the time, I enjoyed the medium and I wanted to make sure that things that were going on at the zoo were recorded. So that was kind of my start with this, little knowing that later on, I would want to be able to do the whole scope to record all these people and, and save them. Yeah. It was a fascinating documentary. I mean, really enjoyed watching it, seeing a lot of people early on in their careers. And it was a very successful procedure all the way around.

00:05:48 - 00:05:50

But let’s switch back a little bit.

00:05:51 - 00:05:57

Go back, and what was your childhood like and what were animals in your life at that time?

00:05:57 - 00:05:59

What’s the beginning for Mark Rosenthal?

00:05:59 - 00:06:49

Well, the beginning for Mark Rosenthal is I, my family lived across the street from Lincoln Park Zoo on Commonwealth Avenue. And my mother, this is in the 40s, and my mother, like many mothers at the time would go to the zoo with their kid. It was the entertainment. You could entertain your child. So I was literally at the zoo every day, just as a youngster. And my father, my mother was a homemaker and she worked at Marshall Field’s as a sales woman. And my father was an accountant and, like a private accountant. He would work for different companies. And the one company he worked for, somehow I forgot the name, but they made like roasted peanuts and all kinds of produce.

00:06:49 - 00:07:21

Well, he would come home with giant bags of peanuts. We would go to the zoo. And we would, you know, I was the envy of all these kids. “How did you get all those peanuts?” Right. And we would go and I would feed the ducks at the zoo rookery. And I would go and we’d throw the peanuts to the polar bears or whatever’s going on. So literally, every day I was at Lincoln Park Zoo. And I think that that ultimately started shaping me that I wanted to work with animals. It was so much fun.

00:07:21 - 00:08:48

And I’d been, I’d had all this exposure to it. So this was kind of the genesis of I always wanted to work with living animals. And I always, I never didn’t wanna work in a museum with dead animals, but I wanted to work with living animals and there, Lincoln Park Zoo, from really an early age was ingrained. And then my parents, when they would go to Milwaukee to visit their friends who I called Uncle George and Aunt Lucille, we would go, George Keller and his wife, they would say, “What do you wanna do?” “I wanna go to the zoo.” And so they would always bring me to the Washington Park Zoo which was before the new Milwaukee Zoo was built. And so I had recollections of the old Milwaukee Zoo, and then I would have recollections of the old Lincoln Park Zoo. So when I would come to Lincoln Park later on in my career and I would talk to the animal keepers and I would say, “Yeah, you know, the rabbit village,” and they’d go, “How do you know about the rabbit village?” Because as a kid, I had seen this where they had all these houses and the rabbits would go in and out of them. And they had different, you know, a church and a storefront and a firehouse and they, little places for the rabbits to live. And they’d, “How would you know that?” I remember Bushman the gorilla who died in 1951.

00:08:49 - 00:09:44

I have images of him, vague but images of this large animal in the old monkey house. And you know, “How would you remember Bushman?” “He was,” (babbling) but just as a kid ’cause we were there every day. So that was really my upbringing was Lincoln Park Zoo, literally as a child. You are lucky. I’m wondering, you did mention in a previous writing that your cousin made it possible for you to start your zoo career. Well, yeah, here’s what I tell people when they say, “I wanna work at the zoo,” “I wanna work at the aquarium,” or “I wanna be with animals.” I always tell them that I can tell you how I got there, but everybody’s path to get to the job you want is gonna be different. So you can’t duplicate what I did. You can do it differently, but you can’t duplicate it.

00:09:44 - 00:11:31

So my story essentially is I wanted to work at the zoo and I would see summer helpers at the zoo and I would go, “How do you get that job?” Well, Chicago’s a very political city at the time, probably still is. And I would, we would always talk to our precinct captain and the precinct captain would go, “I’m gonna try and get your kid a job.” My mother was very pragmatic and she’d say, “Look for another job.” And I’d say, “Well, but they’re gonna try and get me a job at the zoo.” “No, just look for another job.” And ultimately, I wouldn’t get the job and I would have to get another summer job just to make money. Finally, I said to my mother, after two summers, I said, “Don’t we know anybody?” And she said, “Well, you might wanna talk to your cousin.” And I said, “Well, but he won’t know who I am.” And she said, “He’ll know you’re my son, but you have to talk to him,” which was, I think a good motherly thing to do. You gotta stand on your own two feet. Yeah. So I went to my cousin as I affectionately call him the godfather and I told him and I said, I said, “I want,” I was in his office. I said, “I wanna get a job at Lincoln Park Zoo in the summer.” And he looked at me and he said, “Well, if you need summer money, you can work for me in my business.” And I said, “No, I wanna work at the zoo with the animals.” And he goes, “Why is a Jewish kid wanna work at the zoo?” He said, “Okay.” And he picks up the phone and the phone call was in three parts, it was, “How you doing?” Always good to talk with you. Listen, my cousin wants to work at the zoo, I don’t know why.” And, “Your wife should call my wife.

00:11:31 - 00:12:28

We should get together for dinner.” And that was it. He hangs up the phone. And he says to me, “Why you still here?” And I went, “What do you mean?” He says, “You got the job.” He had been talking to his friend, William McFetridge, who was the chairman of the commissioners of the Park District. And McFetridge, Soldier Field is named after him. And McFetridge, I had the job. And he said, “They’re gonna call you.” So I go back, tell my mother, “Cousin Sam got me the job.” And she goes, “Look for another job just in case.” And I said, “No.” And the summer comes and week goes by, no one calls me, another week goes by, no one calls me. I said, “What am I gonna do, mom?” She says, “Call your cousin.” I said, “Dare I talk to the godfather twice in a lifetime,” as I don’t wanna disturb him. But I call him. He said, “No, you don’t understand. You have the job. You go down there.

00:12:28 - 00:12:39

You see so and so, it’s taken care of.” So I go down there and there’s all the hubbub of kids, and people getting ready for the summer. And I said, “My name is Mark.” I don’t even get my name out.

00:12:39 - 00:12:41

She said, “Where have you been?

00:12:41 - 00:13:21

We’ve been holding this job for you.” I guess you could say then, the rest is history. But I started my job at Lincoln Park Zoo in 1967 summer as a summer laborer who, I wasn’t even a keeper. We worked in the Children’s Zoo and I thought it was the most glorious job I had ever had. It was so wonderful because here I was at the Children’s Zoo, working with animals. It was cool. How great a way to start your career that this is the city that works so I understand your story, but it also, if I may have a slight diversion here, I hear you do a bit of magic. Well.

00:13:21 - 00:13:22

What’s that about?

00:13:22 - 00:13:56

Magic is a hobby. Interestingly enough, I always try to sell magic as part because when you do magic, people, you have their attention. And that’s the idea sometimes. You have their attention, you can deliver a story whatever it is. So we worked up when I was at the zoo, a thing called the Magic of Conservation. I had a professional magician. Again, I say, I may not be the best, but I know people who are good. And they put together a whole act of talking about conservation using magic.

00:13:56 - 00:14:23

Unfortunately, it never, I couldn’t get it to the right people. Some of the people that thought it was a good idea in education and subsequently left. So it just didn’t have the legs, but still a good idea. But it just, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use the hobby with getting a message across about animals. I knew it would work but. Great concept. It was fun. It was fun. I appreciate your innovative thinking there.

00:14:23 - 00:15:21

So going back to early age, you talked about you had a first meeting with Marlin Perkins. When I was a kid, I would watch a show called “Zoo Parade” and “Zoo Parade” was filmed live at Lincoln Park Zoo with Marlin Perkins, then the director of Lincoln Park Zoo, who later went on to “Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom” fame. But that was the very first animal show in the history of television. So we always knew on Sunday, Marlin was at the zoo filming live. And one day, I was at the zoo on a Sunday, hoping to catch, look at the great man as a young kid. And my mother, somehow, he was walking on the grounds from A to B wherever he was going, and my mother corralled him. And you know, “My kid wants to work at the zoo. He must have loved that.” And he gave me some advice, which I remembered, which was interesting.

00:15:21 - 00:16:11

He said, “If you wanna have fun and enjoy your life, work in a zoo with the animals.” Wise man. He says, “If you wanna wanna make money, don’t work in a zoo.” (interviewer and Mark laughing) Now, Marlin had, I think he’s caking either two, because he was doing what he loved and he was fairly famous ’cause he was on the cover of Time Magazine and so forth. So he was fairly famous. So my assumption is he was making money and enjoying his thing, but he wasn’t far from the truth. So I got that first meeting, subsequent years, I got to meet Marlin again when I was in the profession and it was, ’cause he was my idol. I mean, I would watch “Zoo Parade” every Sunday. So that was my meeting with my first big zoo guy, so to speak. Very cool, a way to start at the top.

00:16:11 - 00:16:13

So what animals were you drawn to?

00:16:13 - 00:17:06

Well, I always liked the mammals and I subsequently, although I was always interested in snakes. My first book that I ever got was a 1954 reptile book. I think it was a Zim book from my aunt, my Aunt Jeanette who got me this, I still have it today, reptiles, and I always loved reptiles, loved reptiles. But for some reason, I was drawn ultimately to the mammals and you know, the primates and the lions. And certainly as a young kid, they always grabbed my attention. So I kind of graduated into loving more of the mammals than I did wanna work with reptiles or maybe ’cause they were more expressive or something than the birds or the reptiles. Yeah. Interesting, interesting.

00:17:06 - 00:17:07

So what type of schooling did you have?

00:17:07 - 00:17:52

Well, I knew, I think intuitively that I had to have of education as well as experience here. I was working in the Children’s Zoo in the summer, but I was, I had gone to Southern Illinois University and I gotten my bachelor’s degree, and then I pursued a master’s from Northeastern, Illinois because I just knew to go higher, so to speak, within the profession, you probably had to have a combination of professional experience which was invaluable and academic credentials to be able to do that. So that was my professional experience.

00:17:52 - 00:17:57

Do you think the university understood about somebody wanting to work in a zoo?

00:17:57 - 00:18:06

No. It was interesting because when I was at Southern Illinois University and I would tell my professors that I wanted to work in a zoo, they were aghast.

00:18:06 - 00:18:09

Like, “You don’t wanna be a teacher?

00:18:09 - 00:18:18

You don’t want to go into research?” I said, “No, I wanna work in the zoo.” And they had no experience and they couldn’t tell me.

00:18:18 - 00:18:19

I said, “What do I have to do?

00:18:19 - 00:19:41

What classes should I take in?” They had no idea. They had no idea because they were strictly academics. And later on in years when I started work at the zoo and I kept in touch with my professors, when they would have students, undergrad students who said, “I wanna work in the zoo,” and there were some, they would call me and say, “Mark, can you talk to them and guide them because you know what’s going on, we have no clue.” And so I kind of became at least for Southern Illinois University Zoology, which I took, I kind of became the go-to person for those people interested in a zoo career as opposed to an academic career. And there were some people that later went into the profession based on my first touching base with them, so to speak, of what they needed to do that. That had to be pretty personally rewarding to be able to. Oh, it was, oh yeah, because I had never gotten the help that I needed. And so I was grateful that I could give people, you know, everybody needs, you know, what they say, pioneers get the arrows, I could give them the benefit of my experience so they didn’t have to have the missteps I had and they could maybe go a little directly to what they wanted to do. Yeah. Sure.

00:19:41 - 00:19:46

So a little while ago, you mentioned about you’re starting as a summer laborer at Children’s Zoo.

00:19:46 - 00:19:48

What was the zoo like at that time?

00:19:48 - 00:20:25

Well, the zoo was a very traditional zoo, Lincoln Park. It was, had a reptile house. It had a monkey house. It had, which was all the primates, the gorillas, the great apes, everything. It had a bird house. It had a Children’s Zoo. It had a place where the antelopes, where the bison and so forth. So it was very much taxonomic and the, it wasn’t a bio zoo or anything like that. It was a very traditional zoo with older buildings and a bear line and a keened line and so forth.

00:20:26 - 00:21:10

So they would have, that’s how it was laid out. And Lincoln Park Zoo was, depending on how you measured it, it could be 29 acres or 30 acres. It was very small. It was locked in to this park, Lincoln Park, that on one side, the east had the lake. So it wasn’t going any further. On the west, had the high rise, expensive apartments, and it wasn’t going, south, it had, or north, it had a Fullerton Avenue, a big street. So it wasn’t going across the street. And on the south, it had Parkland, which was sacrosanct. You couldn’t take the ball fields and do things, much as my former director, Dr. Lester Fisher wanted to do, “Uh, you can’t touch any other recreational things.” So that 30-ish acres, it was locked in.

00:21:10 - 00:21:25

And that was the zoo that I first encountered, but you know, it wasn’t like I was so visionary to go, “Well, this is an old zoo.” It was wondrous. Well, Mark, this was the late 60s when you started.

00:21:25 - 00:21:30

And I’m wondering what was like the, what were the cages, the conditions the animals lived in? What was it like?

00:21:30 - 00:22:35

Well, it was, as I say, very traditional, the monkey house had bars for all the primates, for the gorillas, bigger bars and some of the other animals, the birdhouse was a lot of cages. For example, the monkey house had 31 exhibits inside. The bear line had a very basic, barred fronts, curve tops, so the bears couldn’t climb out, and had rocky grotto background, but it was a very traditional zoo. The Lion House had 13 exhibits inside and then they had a door that you could bring the animals outside. So there were 13 in, 13 out. It was the, Lion House was modeled after London Zoo’s Lion House, as it would be because Lincoln Park Zoo was an old zoo at the time. So they had taken some of the architecture and brought it over. And so you had cages on one side of the building, which was the southern side for the exposure of the sun.

00:22:36 - 00:22:49

And it was a great hall as it was in London. So it was a very traditional, classic zoo. Okay. I’ve always been fascinated by the Children’s Zoo at Lincoln Park Zoo.

00:22:49 - 00:22:50

What can kind of animals were there?

00:22:50 - 00:23:45

Well, the Children’s Zoo was essentially way more exotic than a lot of Children’s Zoo where they had primates, they had chimpanzee babies. They would have young animals there. They had, it wasn’t like a farm kind of thing where you had domestic animals. They had a lot of, I remember when I started, we had pottos, which was a primate. We had young chimpanzees. We had exotic birds, cockatoos all over the place, macaws. We had all these unique animals. And the unique thing that they tried to do at Lincoln Park Zoo which was again, Lester Fisher was the director, was that they wanted the experience at the Children’s Zoo, I guess, for children, to be more intimate than it could be anywhere else.

00:23:45 - 00:24:30

So if you went to the Children’s Zoo, there were handlers. I was one of them, the laborers in the summer that you could, they would handle a snake. You couldn’t go to reptile house and get that experience. But in the Children’s Zoo, in theory, with the zoo leaders that the women were called, there were no women keepers at the time that they would have this unique experience. And even some of the exhibits that were done even today are interesting, not done now, but they were interesting. They had a chimpanzee tea party, which was from the London Zoo, which has since had its day. But on the other hand, when you would do the chimpanzee tea party, people were all, you had their attention like magic. You had their attention.

00:24:30 - 00:25:07

You could tell them anything you wanted to and they were there. Now, I can’t tell you they retained everything, but you definitely had their attention. But I have a distinct image in my mind right now from your book, “The Ark in Park,” which we’ll talk about in a while, all of the docent, tolling and armadillo, and the kids are just enthralled with it. I mean, talk about magic, it’s right there. And my first experience when I went to the, as a youngster, there was a Children’s Zoo at Lincoln Park, the first children zoo that was built by Marlin Perkins. And there was a magic wishing well chair and I sat there and someone handed me a raccoon.

00:25:07 - 00:25:08

How cool was that?

00:25:08 - 00:25:22

And they had pony rides that you could, I mean, here was a city kid getting on a pony and going around, albeit in a oblong kind of circle thing, but how wondrous for a child to do that?

00:25:22 - 00:25:24

I mean, especially the city kids.

00:25:24 - 00:25:33

Well, you know, it struck me too about the, I guess, is the renovated Children’s Zoo is the animal nursery attached to it. What purpose did that serve and who ran it?

00:25:33 - 00:26:23

Well, the nursery was, I guess, because of the young animals adjacent to, was part of the Children’s Zoo and it was run by an animal keeper and they had volunteers and some of these volunteers, you’d ask them, “Oh, I’ve been here 30 years, 25 years.” I mean, they really devoted. And all animals that were not raised by the parents, mostly cats, primates, some other unique animals were went to the Children’s Zoo for hand rearing. And it was like a fishbowl. People could see the incubators and the animals in them and so forth. So it was like its own unique story. And then they would graduate to the Children’s Zoo. And then ultimately, they might go to other zoos or would they be incorporated into the zoo’s animal population. Yeah, it was very neat.

00:26:23 - 00:26:27

So when you came to the zoo, what was the keeper force like?

00:26:27 - 00:27:20

Well, the keeper force, when I first came to the zoo, the keeper force was all men and a lot of them had been war veterans of Korean War and World war II and so forth. There were only women were in the Children’s Zoo. And as I say, their title was zoo leader. They did pretty much the same thing the keepers did, but they didn’t get the pay and they didn’t have the title as animal keeper. And so it was essentially a male dominated, older guys workforce that I came in. And when I came in, I was the college kid. There weren’t very many college kids at the time. Now, the summer kids were all college, but then they left.

00:27:20 - 00:27:28

But ultimately, when I came on full-time time, not as a summer helper, I was one of the younger people.

00:27:28 - 00:27:31

So what were your responsibilities as a summer helper?

00:27:31 - 00:28:18

Well, a summer helper, you were responsible for cleaning, feeding, managing, showing the animals. We had a wishing well where people would throw dimes and pennies into the wishing well, it was very nice. And our job at the end of the day was to get all the money, put it in a bag, take it to the main office. I mean, that was part of our responsibility. So our, I mean, essentially we did keeper work, but we were just the summer help and exercising the animals and talking to people. It was glorious. Very cool job being able to be a summer helper and still handle animals and that’s. Oh no, no, it was absolutely wonderful time.

00:28:18 - 00:28:23

But what about the senior staff members at that time? Did you interact with them?

00:28:23 - 00:29:03

Well, there was someone who was in charge of the Children’s Zoo and the names as I recollect, at the time they were called zoologists. Dr. Lester Fisher was the director of the zoo at the time when I first started as a summer person. There was a guy named Gene Hartz who was the assistant director. And he had been assistant director under Marlin Perkins, but he was still the assistant director. They had three zoologist. They had a general curator. His name was George Irving. And I guess, in his day, he had been quite the guy, but he was an older guy now. And he was just essentially doing the time.

00:29:03 - 00:29:38

And then they had three zoologists. Dennis Merritt was one zoologist. He was kind of in charge of the Children’s Zoo as part of his responsibility. They didn’t call him curators at the time. Eddie Almandarz, who was the zoologist in charge of the reptile division. And a guy named Jim Mizaur, who was kind of the, he was the bird zoologist at the time. And they didn’t have a veterinarian. They had Eric Mishkin who was a part-time vet and they had a part-time pathologist who was there.

00:29:40 - 00:29:44

So what was your attitude about what zoos should be at that time?

00:29:44 - 00:30:51

Well, I’m not quite sure I was smart enough to have an attitude about what zoo should be at the time. I was just reveling in the fact that I was working during the summer into something I had always dreamed I would wanna do. Every day was a unique adventure. It was fun. Every day, interesting enough, I met a gentleman, another summer person who had more pull than I did. His family was more powerful, I guess, than mine, but he was a keeper for the summer at the farm in the zoo, which was, “How do you get to be a keeper?” Well, obviously, he was able to do it for the summer. His name was Mike Sulak and he formally went on to become, worked at the Evansville Zoo, worked at Lincoln Park, then became and retired as general curator at the San Francisco Zoo. So he was a colleague and a friend of mine who was this other summer helper kid. And every day, we would want to see at lunchtime, we wouldn’t eat lunch, we would go around the zoo.

00:30:51 - 00:32:17

“What could we see that was different that we hadn’t seen?” And we, one time, we wanted to see behind the bear line, “What was behind the bear line?” And we had to go to the zoologist who was in charge, a guy, this guy, Jim Mizaur at the time. And we said, “We wanna go behind the lines and see the bear line. We couldn’t just walk in.” And he goes, “Why? There’s nothing there. Why do you wanna go back there?” “Because we hadn’t seen it. We wanted to experience it.” And he said, “All right, talk to Tony, the bear guy, and he’ll get you in. I have no idea why.” And so we would go by there, but everybody throughout my career, you always take away information from them. And as Tony showed us the behind the scenes of the bear line, he would always check the locks. And he’d say, “Always check your locks, always check your locks on these things.” And that was ingrained to me that when you were doing certain things, as I progressed, there were certain times I would be looking at things and I’d be looking at it, not talking to the guest or something, I’d be looking, “Are there’s locks in there?” I mean, that was ingrained because of the older keepers who knew their job and would talk to me, but we, every day we would go and see things, so. It’s good to become second nature. (laughs) Well, that was part of it in the learning curve. Yeah. So you mentioned several times, Dr. Lester Fisher was the director at that time.

00:32:17 - 00:32:18

Did you have much contact with him at that time?

00:32:18 - 00:33:06

No, I didn’t really. I mean, he was down there and he was pretty much a hands on guy and was doing a lot of the vet work too, aside from the temporary vet. But I didn’t have, I mean, I was just a summer helper here. I didn’t have a lot of face time with the director of the zoo. It was more the zoologist, Dennis Merritt, who was in charge of that, or the workforce, the senior keeper of the, Roy Smith who was the senior keeper then of the Children’s Zoo. I mean, those were my bosses and the women who worked, Pat Sass and Pat, her name, Dor, at that time, then later married, Pat Sammarco. These were all people that I was directly dealing. These are were my colleagues for the summer.

00:33:06 - 00:33:23

So I didn’t have much to do with the, Gene Hartz, the assistant. Gene Hartz would collect the money. I’d bring the money to him from the wishing well, but we never really had much to do with the higher ups. Yeah. Yeah. Understood. So you mentioned several names.

00:33:23 - 00:33:27

I was gonna ask if there’s any staff at the Children’s Zoo who helped school you?

00:33:27 - 00:34:20

Well, I think that one of the people who really taught me a lot about chimpanzees and great apes was Pat Sass. And Pat was a wonderful person. She had a fount of knowledge about the great apes. She had raised dozens of gorilla, orangutan, chimpanzees. The chimpanzees were her love and they knew her, and she was mom and they knew her. And she would absolutely was someone who schooled me in the right and wrong, kind of took me under her maternal wing. And for some reason, which was wonderful. It was interesting because the women in the Children’s Zoo who were the zoo, you know, they didn’t like a lot of competition from the women.

00:34:20 - 00:35:19

So when we would get a volunteer, who was a good looking volunteer, a woman who would come in to volunteer, ’cause we had volunteers, they would always pleasantly say, “Well now, you have to clean this cage.” And they were willing to do it. “Now, you take these rubber gloves. Now, you have to check them out first ’cause of the roaches.” And they would try and pleasantly make it so, it’s something they didn’t wanna do ’cause they didn’t want them around. So, and I remember the Children’s Zoo as something in the summer where all the people, the young kids who were working, we always had a lot of fun together. They would play practical jokes on each other, but they enjoyed this working together. It was really a good team. And you knew what you had to do. I mean, Roy Smith as the boss of the children. So there was a schedule and that’s what it taught me is management is very important in how you manage people, ’cause you’re gonna get all kinds of people.

00:35:19 - 00:35:57

I don’t wanna get to a far ahead of myself, but life is a bell curve. You get 50 employees, some are gonna be excellent, some are gonna be bad, but most fall in the middle. You get seven employees, some are gonna be good, some are gonna be bad, and most fall in the middle. And so in order to do this, Roy had a schedule, and every day, you knew what your job was. You knew, you was a number, and you knew what to do and you knew your responsibilities. You could come in in the morning, just look, “What am I? Oh, I’m number 13. That’s the ponies.” And you appreciate that. And you’d go and you do it.

00:35:57 - 00:36:32

Didn’t have to have anybody tell you, “You’re gonna do this. You’re gonna do that.” You knew when your lunch hour was, and it wasn’t a factory thing. I mean, you just knew what your job responsibilities were for the day. And that was an important lesson of managing people will get into, it is a unique science unto itself. Yeah, for sure. So I understand that the last day of work, you were bitten by a young gorilla, interesting here. I loved what I was doing and the last, and we would always exercise the gorillas and the chimps and so forth. And Debbie, the gorilla the last day, bit me on the hand. And I worked till the very last day.

00:36:32 - 00:37:16

I had to go back to the university of Southern Illinois, but I’d worked till the very last day because I loved it so much. And well, I was bitten. I knew the next day I’d be at school. So I’ll get my tetanus shot at school, so forth. So I go to the health service and of course, there’s no doctor, doctor, you go to the health service, you get who you can get. And I walked in and they said, “Okay, what’s the problem?” I said, “I was bitten by an animal. I need in a tetanus shot.” “Okay, fine.” So they take your history. “And so what bit you?” And I say, “Well, gorilla bit me.” And they go, “Oh geez, school hasn’t started, we got the funny guys already.” And I said and I explained what I did. And, “Oh, so you really were bitten by gorilla?” “Yes.” So the doctor comes in, he wants to know about it.

00:37:16 - 00:37:41

I got my shot, but that followed me throughout my whole college career. Whenever I had an issue and I had to go to the health service, they would go, “All right, now you were (blabber) you were bitten by a gorilla.” So it was the unique part of the job. But I worked till the very last day ’cause I loved it. Yeah. I thought it. So after your summer helper gig, you took a part-time job at the zoo.

00:37:41 - 00:37:43

Can you tell me about that?

00:37:43 - 00:38:50

Well, I was working toward my master’s degree and so I was going to school at night to get my master’s degree. But I needed to work and they had a part-time position, taking care of the marmoset colony, and Lincoln Park had a large common marmoset colony that at the time was being used for the babies, were being used for, I think it was cancer research. That might not happen today, but they had this, I mean, there were hundreds of them. And my job was to wash the cages, give the animals water and feed them. And every day, I would go to this building and where they had them. And that was my job. And it was pretty cool. I mean, it was pretty straightforward. And I always remember when I’d come in, marmosets have this high pitched, like bird-like tweet and they’d all be squawking and you know, they’d whistling, and then I’d make the food and I’d put it in and silence.

00:38:50 - 00:39:37

(interviewer laughing) Now, when I would go out and I’d talk to friends or something, like I’d take them on a tour. You know, friends would come, I’d say, “Hey, you wanna see the marmosets? I got the keys for that.” That was about it. And I’d go, we’d go in and look, and they’d go, “Boy, does this place smell.” And I said, “It does? I never noticed it because it was just what I was used to.” I didn’t find it an offensive smell. It was just the smell of the animals, and all animals have their own unique things and, hoofstock or whatever it is and never bothered me. But my friends would always comment on, “Oh my God, this place smells.” Oh, it was great job. So I did that as a part-time job. That was just while I was working on my master’s degree. So then eventually, you evolved from a part time keeper to full time.

00:39:37 - 00:39:38

Can you talk about that?

00:39:38 - 00:40:20

Well, the zoo at the time, Lincoln Park had what they called a lot of animal keepers. Some were civil service, but many of them were TAs, temporary appointees. And they liked having temporary appointees ’cause Lincoln Park was somewhat political, Chicago Park District. And they liked having part-time TAs. They didn’t want you to be civil service, then you weren’t be holding anybody at a civil service position. But ultimately, after many, many, many years, they held a civil service exam. I wanted to be an animal keeper so I took the exam, and I scored very high on the exam. I wanna say I was number one.

00:40:20 - 00:41:04

And at the time I took the exam, I think there were like 30 or 33 people, many of them were keepers already, wanting to become civil service ’cause they were TAs that they took the exam with me. I was the college kid who took the exam. And I think the last time they give a civil service exam when it was under the Chicago Park District, there were like 700 people took it. Oh God. But when I did it, it was such a small group of people. It was only the people who wanted to be civil service. And I scored well. And as it turns out, that list goes to all the commissioners ’cause it was all part of the Park District.

00:41:04 - 00:41:39

And my name was on top just ’cause I scored high. So Mr. McFetridge who originally had gotten me the job through my cousin, he sees my name and he’s circles my name and he sends it back to my cousin and says, most politicians will, I think it’s great, “Our boy is doing well.” See? Now, I was their boy. It wasn’t just my cousin’s guy, made my cousin proud because he had recommended somebody who was doing good stuff. So I became an animal keeper at Lincoln Park Zoo.

00:41:39 - 00:41:41

So what were your responsibilities?

00:41:41 - 00:42:28

Well, it was different. They farmed me out to everywhere. I worked in the nursery. I was in charge of the nursery or you know, temporarily. I was worked at the bird house. I worked the reptile house. I worked the primate house with the great apes and that was really interesting, and with the hoofstock and so forth. So my, I wasn’t an animal keeper long, for about a year, maybe 10 months, but I was all over the place. So that was a good part of quick education into so many places around the zoo that I had exposure to, not just to what I had done as a summer helper. Great experience for you personally.

00:42:28 - 00:43:15

It was wonderful, wonderful experience getting around the place, learning what was going on. I’m curious when you said it was interesting working at the Great Ape House. Well, because the great apes were very intelligent. And at the time, the great apes, like the gorillas and stuff, there was a glass in front. So the public was looking at them through glass, but there were bars and you had to hose down their cages and clean it in the morning. And the distance between the glass and the front of the cage was minimal. And you had to know, they would reach out. Maybe sometimes they wanted to be petted or sometimes they wanted to grab you and they would reach out.

00:43:15 - 00:44:17

So you had to really know where you were standing. And at that time, the older keepers would sometimes want to pleasantly beat up or set up the younger keepers. And here I was a brand new keeper, and Sinbad, the gorilla was the big guy in the building. So they set me up ’cause they knew that he would throw crap at people that he didn’t know that he was not used to seeing once he knew you didn’t care. You were familiar face, smell, presence. And so they told me, “Clean up behind the back.” There were gutters and you’d hose the used food and so forth. So I go, “Okay, fine.” As I’m cleaning the gutter and I’m moving towards Sinbad, and all the senior keepers, it’s lunchtime and they’re all there, they used to have meet to play gin rummy or whatever at lunchtime. And they’re all waiting ’cause they know that he’s gonna throw crap at me and hit me.

00:44:17 - 00:45:00

And as I’m walking there and all of a sudden, I see him on a top shelf with his hand cupped and I go, and I knew what was gonna happen. And I knew they had set me up, but I can’t go anywhere. I can’t retreat. I gotta keep going. That’s the only way out. So I figured, “What should I do?” And I decided, I’ll just pretend like it’s normal and like whistling in a graveyard. I just was, “Oh, pap pap pap pap and I’m cleaning.” And he’s looking at me. I’m not running. I’m not doing. I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do. And as I got to the door, he figured out, “Oh my God, this guy’s leaving.” And he ran on his top shelf and he took his hand and he threw the stuff at me.

00:45:00 - 00:45:40

And I ducked as I got through the door, the big steel door and it was like a machine gun and he hit the wall behind me. It was a babababap, and the keepers are laughing. They think it’s so funny. But I think they respected me a little that I didn’t chicken out. Because you had them, I don’t wanna say make your bones, but you had to prove yourself to these guys or else they thought very little of you. And it was a club. I mean, these were the guys were the older 30 year men and they could make or break your day job. So I had to show that I had what it took to do the job.

00:45:40 - 00:45:46

It’s like your initiation as a young guy, especially as a college guy. No, no. I think it was in a way an initiation.

00:45:46 - 00:46:00

So I see this as perhaps a transition period where you do have this group of older keepers and then younger keepers, I guess, like you said, you’ve touched on some of this, but how did they work together?

00:46:00 - 00:46:01

What were some of the problems?

00:46:01 - 00:46:04

Do they actually teach you tricks of the trade?

00:46:04 - 00:46:07

Are they, you kind have to learn it yourself?

00:46:07 - 00:46:08

I mean, what was it?

00:46:08 - 00:46:48

I think your position, you have to learn it yourself for the most part. Or you have people who will mentor you and will teach you things. And sometimes they’re big things, and sometimes they’re little things. For example, we had a large crate we had to move. I mean, big, heavy crate. And we’re trying to figure it out and it didn’t have wheels or anything and we’re struggling with it. And the senior keeper guy named Joe McHale, a very nice man who wrote little treatise on zoo keeping, 101 tips, very practical things, practical, practical things. It’s been lost.

00:46:48 - 00:47:47

I got a copy, but it’s been lost to the ages. And Joe looked, he said, “You’re doing it wrong.” “Well, how should I do it?” He said, “Get me a coal shovel.” And he bring him a coal shovel. We tipped the crate up, put the coal shovel under it, tip it back, and now that became a skid and we pushed it wherever we wanted. And I’m going, “Well, look at that.” I mean, just a trick of the trade. And years later, I was at a zoo. We had gotten a shipment and we were bringing it to the zoo and they unloaded it from the truck and it was wintertime or something, you know, not cold, cold. And they were trying, “Well, you have to wait for the forklift to get it.” And I said, “No, we don’t.” And they go, “No, we have to. We can’t move it.” I said, “Get me two coal shovels.” ‘Cause it was a bigger crane. So we put the two coal shovels under, right. I said, let’s go.” And they were like, amazed, like I was so smart.

00:47:47 - 00:48:05

I was brilliant. But I had learned from people way before me, the practical aspect of certain parts of the job and it had stayed with me. And so I looked like a really smart guy, but I was just remembering what the senior keepers had taught me.

00:48:05 - 00:48:06

And others learned for you?

00:48:06 - 00:48:14

They did. Yeah. So we get from late 60s into about the mid 70s where you transitioned from keeper to zoologist.

00:48:15 - 00:48:18

What were your responsibilities in that position?

00:48:18 - 00:48:26

Well, I had, I wanted to be a zoologist. I mean, I had my degrees and that’s what I really wanted to be.

00:48:26 - 00:48:28

Are you moving more into management now?

00:48:28 - 00:49:05

Yeah. Well, I enjoyed being a keeper. And as I look back on it, the more you rise in any position, the less you are in touch with what brought you into it. And so if you are the, a lawyer and you like trial law, and now, you’re running a whole law firm, you’re not exactly doing a trial law. Now, there are benefits, you know, pluses and minuses, but the thing is you would want to, there’s trade offs. So here was, I wanted this position.

00:49:06 - 00:49:07

How do you get it?

00:49:07 - 00:49:56

There’s very few zoologists positions in Chicago. So I, and I knew that as a keeper, I had a bit of a leg up. They knew who I was, that was a positive. And one of the positions left, George Irving had retired. And so there was no more general curator. So they made people curators and some, well, they had this one position and it was vacant, zoologist at the time. And there was another young kid working there who’d worked for the pathologist, and we both applied for the job. And he got the job and I didn’t.

00:49:56 - 00:49:59

I was just heartbroken.

00:49:59 - 00:50:06

And I just, I remember going to Lester Fisher and I said, “Is there something I can do?

00:50:06 - 00:50:51

Or how can I make myself better if there’s a next time?” And so forth, ’cause I really wanted the job. And then serendipitously, as I say, everybody gets to the same place, different road, another zoologist left. Now, there was another zoologist position. And so I applied for that and I got that second job. And the other guy never, who got the job ahead of me, he never really lasted very long. And I was, so, but I did. So all of a sudden, I became the zoologist. And as zoologist, you were in charge of a certain amount of animal things under, I was then under, who became a curator, Dennis Merritt.

00:50:52 - 00:51:27

And which was a wonderful thing. He taught me a ton of things, talk about it, but I was, and, but then you got the drudge work too. So they had a machine that was make signs. They called it engravograph and they, you had to make the signs. So no one wanted to make the signs. So they gave it to the zoologist, the kid. And I was there. I was happy to do it. And I remember they said, “Make signs for all the animals in the Children’s Zoo.” So I had to make signs for every animal.

00:51:27 - 00:51:57

They had little plaques and you put them up and stuff. So I made, I had to kill time. It was just a boring job. So I made, I named a lot of the animals after my friends and family and stuff like that. Well done. Well done. So I’d kept it. So that was, and working in the nursery and being in charge of the nursery now, not just working there, keeping records. So it was working with the staff. I mean, the keepers now. So it was a different set of responsibilities. You’ve taken out a lot more responsibility.

00:51:57 - 00:51:58

Oh absolutely. Absolutely.

00:51:58 - 00:52:01

And Les Fisher was the director still at this time?

00:52:01 - 00:52:02

He was.

00:52:02 - 00:52:05

What’s his management style like?

00:52:05 - 00:52:34

Les Fisher was a wonderful manager. He was very much hands off. I think he expected you to do a job. He told you to do it and go do it. And he rarely, although he did, micromanage occasionally, but he rarely did. He essentially, which was a wonderful thing. If you were a self starter, how wonderful. You weren’t waiting for anybody to tell you what to do.

00:52:34 - 00:53:26

They were just saying, which is why I got into videotaping and other things because no one told me, “That’s part of your job.” It was, “I wanted to take that on.” And they said, “Fine, go run with it. That’s fine with us.” So they allowed you to expand and make your job position, although you, certain things you had to do. Sure. So he was, from that standpoint, he was pretty good. And at the time, when this happened, George Irving, I say had retired, and they brought in another guy, Saul Kitchener, who had worked at Omaha Zoo, who later became director of San Francisco Zoo. And Saul became the assistant director. He would then be the first general curator. But then he became assistant director when Gene Hartz left. George Irving, and then when Gene Hartz left, he moved up.

00:53:26 - 00:53:29

Change another guard. Yeah. Yeah.

00:53:29 - 00:53:31

(interviewer laughs) What was the governance of the zoo at the time?

00:53:31 - 00:54:14

Well, the zoo was a Park District, division of the Park District, was part of the Park District. So Lester Fisher as director of the zoo answered to the director of special services. So the zoo was under the harbors, the golf courses, the zoo. So Lester Fisher didn’t have a seat at the table. His boss, the director of special services had the seat. Gotcha. Later on, they made the zoo its own department as it should have been. So he was more directly talking to the superintendent of parks, but it was absolutely a Chicago Park, we were part of the Chicago Park District.

00:54:14 - 00:54:36

The Zoo Society started under Marlin Perkins and they were friends of the zoo. They weren’t gigantic and powerful, but they were friends at the zoo. So they were there to help the zoo build, you know, they needed money for the, a new so-and-so exhibit and they were there to help them raise the money for that.

00:54:36 - 00:54:39

So they were more a development arm of the zoo?

00:54:39 - 00:55:06

At the time, they were. As later years went by and ultimately, the zoo privatized, they, at the time, the Zoo Society was paying half of the operating costs of the zoo. So it wasn’t just friends of the zoo, they were partners. And ultimately, they took over the governance of the zoo, but it was all Chicago Park District. Okay. Okay.

00:55:06 - 00:55:15

So we had talked about this early on at your career, but a few years later, what was the zoo and the exhibits like at that time?

00:55:15 - 00:55:17

Is there any significant changes?

00:55:17 - 00:55:30

Well, I think what Lester Fisher’s vision was, which he started was to try within this small space, wasn’t getting bigger, to try and make better living conditions for the zoo.

00:55:32 - 00:55:33

And what does that mean?

00:55:33 - 00:56:23

Well, it means to expand the spaces of the animals. So there was a lot of building going on, redoing the seal pool, sea lion pool, redoing the center of the zoo, making exhibits for the cats on the north side of the Lion House, which had never had outside exhibits, moats were brought in, small mammal house, which was the original zoo building, having moats, they had cages outside, replacing all of those. So it was trying, that was the start of trying to enlarge animal spaces to go from a lot of animal spaces to less but more room for the animals. Great direction.

00:56:23 - 00:56:24

What about the farm in the zoo?

00:56:24 - 00:56:26

What was the purpose of that?

00:56:26 - 00:57:11

Well, I think that the purpose at one level was that city kids had no idea where milk came, where eggs come from, and they had no idea about the rural type of farm environment that would as part of their lives, you know, “Where does milk come from?” “The supermarket where I get it out of a thing.” So I think working with the farm associations, Lester Fisher wanted a farm in the zoo, but he also, “Where do we put it? ‘Cause we only had so much space.” But at the same time, they realized that if they put it within the zoo, all of the animals came under USDA restrictions of moving in and out of the zoo.

00:57:11 - 00:57:15

So how do you move animals that you have to?

00:57:15 - 00:58:16

Dairy cows and steers and things like that. Well, if it’s outside of the purview of the zoo, but on Park District land, you have a much freer methodology of moving and replacing animals. So when they had the livestock exposition at the amphitheater, I’m going back years, they would have the steer that was sold for $42,000, that was ultimately gonna go for a market. But, ’cause he was the grand champion, but the grand champion always came to the farm in the zoo. And he could leave the farm in the zoo ’cause he had nothing to do with the exotic animals. Sure. (clears throat) So I think the farm in the zoo was there to give that experience of, it was very popular, very popular for kids to get that kind of experience of what’s part of the farm and the animals that are in it, so forth. That was, I think the gist of it.

00:58:16 - 00:58:19

Like a milking demonstration, I mean, who thought, you know, who knew, right?

00:58:19 - 00:58:41

We would have milking, as a city kid, there had been one place where you could see this in the city called Hawthorn Mellody Farms which had long since come and gone, which you could see milking. So here at Lincoln Park Zoo, yeah, it was very popular. So another part of the zoo that I always thought was pretty interesting was the traveling zoo.

00:58:41 - 00:58:43

Can you talk about that and how did that work?

00:58:43 - 00:59:30

Well, part of my job as zoologist was to run the traveling zoo and the traveling zoo was two units, ultimately, big bus units that would go out and go to senior citizens homes at the time, ’cause we were Park District, go to Park District day camps. That was part of the thing. And sometimes, very rarely, but sometimes go to political events. It was very popular and they had all kinds of exotic animals. And you would talk to people who were, you know, you’d go to these places with these exotic animals, and it really was interesting. And some of the quick stories from that, I mean, we’d go to the Daley Center and you’d be out there and people would see the animals. We’d go all over. And I had a book, the children’s, the traveling zoo all over the place.

00:59:30 - 01:00:01

And that was one of my first jobs as a summer helper too, was to help bring the zoologist, the animals, so he could talk about them. And the first guy who I did that for was Saul Kitchener. And we had this, we had exotic animals. It wasn’t like we just had rabbits and chickens. And there was an alligator on there who was probably this big, I mean, he was a big guy. And Saul says to me, “All right, bring me the alligator.” I had never handled an alligator. And he was pretty intimidating.

01:00:01 - 01:00:05

Reptile guy at hearts, yeah? (laughs) I had no, what do I do?

01:00:05 - 01:01:03

So I said to him, “I don’t know how to handle it. If you show me how to do it, all I need is one time, and then I’m good, but I need that.” All right. So he goes up and he, (grunting) I said, “Thank you very much.” He grabbed it. Yep, I knew. In later years, he related to me. He says, “You know, Mark, when you asked me to do that, I didn’t have a clue. I had never done that before and grabbed an alligator.” And this goes back to something we’ll talk about later with moving animals, the giraffe. He says, “I couldn’t tell you that, that I didn’t know because I’m the guy, I’m the zoologist. I’m supposed to know all that. And you’re a kid saying, ‘Can you show me, sir?'” And I said, “Oh my gosh.” He said, “Yeah, I just was, I kind of, in theory, knew what to do, but I hadn’t done it.” So that was some of the funny things.

01:01:03 - 01:01:35

And then later, when I booked it, I had to book it all over the place and it was fun. And I would go out and that part of my job was going out and talking with the people. Was ambassador for the zoo. I was ambassador for the zoo. And then later, we had zoo leaders, other helpers that I used to be, go on and they would do the talks and be the ambassador for the zoo. It was a very good, we had one monkey, capuchin monkey named Sibyl. ’cause we had, I say very exotic things. Multiple personalities.

01:01:35 - 01:02:23

No. Well, yes. In a way, she had. We would take the animals from the Children’s Zoo every day and load them up. And Pat Sass was, she, one of her father’s friends had homing pigeons and we would take, she would bring them down. We would take the homing pigeons with us and we would talk to the kids and have a kid hold the pigeon, talk about homing pigeons and navigation. I mean, we’d do this whole thing and say, “Throw it up in the air and watch it circle.” And they throw it up, come back, and we’d bring it the next day. So we tried to do innovative things that would teach kids about animals. So it was one of the first educational initiatives that the zoo had. Going back to Marlin Perkins, I mean, this was a long time thing, but it was one of my jobs.

01:02:23 - 01:02:25

You’ve always spoken highly of Pat Sass.

01:02:25 - 01:02:31

Now, I’m wondering, did the older senior keepers help you out at this time?

01:02:31 - 01:02:35

Or were you kind of like, “Hey, you know what to do.” Are you on your own? I mean are the?

01:02:35 - 01:03:38

I think it, I was very fortunate that as a zoologist, many of the senior keepers took pity upon me or were just good guys, some were not, but most of them essentially said when there were circumstances which I hadn’t done something, they’d say, “Step back, son, let me show you how it’s done.” And then I would learn from them. Now, I might improve later on upon what I saw them do ’cause I thought it could be done better. But one time we netted a cat and they were gonna put it on top and drop it into the crate. And I, “Well, that’s dumb.” They went, drop it, you know. Let’s do it on this side and have the animal move into the crate. So they’re just little subtleties, but they were very generous to me and they could have sabotaged me 20 different ways, they chose not to. That sounds like you’re gaining their respect and they recognize you’ve got abilities. You’re not at all the time. You’ve got a brain.

01:03:38 - 01:04:35

And I’ll tell you one quick story about when I was a zoologist, I was walking through the zoo and they were trying to, again, we used tranquilizer, but it was starting out, didn’t use it all the time. There were a lot of methodologies for hand grabbing and doing things. They were kind of dangerous, bit of a cowboy, but they didn’t have much going on, other than that, that they would use. And they had a baby bison in the yard that they were trying to separate and see its sex. “This a male, a female, how’s it doing?” And they’d move the mother out. But the big male was still in the pen and they couldn’t get him to go out. So they couldn’t walk in and do it. So they were trying to rope him and they were, and I was watching them. I mean, it wasn’t my job and I’m watching them and they’re trying, the keepers, and they’re trying to rope and they’re missing, they’re missing and missing.

01:04:35 - 01:05:31

And I knew the principles of roping. I mean, I had roped, but I really wasn’t the world’s greatest, but I knew how to do it. And I commented as I was watching it. I said, “You guys are doing it wrong.” And they looked at me and the one guy, the one, head keeper kind of guy who was there running the operation, said, “Well, here.” And he gives me the rope, “You do it.” Yeah, if you’re so smart. If you’re so smart, you do it. So well, okay. So I knew what I had to do and I, bap, and I threw the lariat and I hit that buffalo bam right on the head. And they all looked like, “Oh my god.” They were all speechless, but I knew enough, I was smart enough to know, “Walk away. You’ve done, you’ll never do this twice in your life, but walk away.” And I handed him the rope. I said, “All right. Now, go ahead and do what you gotta do.” That’s how you do it.

01:05:31 - 01:06:05

And I walked away. And from that day on, reputation is a funny thing. I was, they always, “Mark is an expert roper.” (interviewer laughing) “He’s really good.” I couldn’t do it again. And I tried, never did it again, but your reputation sometimes is built upon hopefully doing things in a certain way that says to people, “You kind of know what you’re doing and so we’ll listen to you.” Yep, yep. Very good. So that’s how you got that roping niceties. I’ve, that, I was, yeah. Interesting.

01:06:05 - 01:06:11

So you were pursuing the advanced degree at this time and I’m wondering, did the zoo help? And if so, how?

01:06:11 - 01:07:30

Well, I think at one time, the curators or the zoologists and certainly those positions were, it had a lot of latitude. And I said to Dennis Merritt, and I said to some other people, but mostly to Dennis, I said, “I saw, I’d like to do my work on elephant shrews,” which is a little insect of war from Africa. And he, you know, “Yeah, if you could find them.” and so they allowed. (interviewer speaking faintly) Yeah. But they allowed me to pursue it in such a way that I was able to get the animals ultimately, do management with them, pretty successfully as it turned out from, no other zoo, did it. And we were able to get this. So the zoo was pretty generous in allowing you to pursue your educational goals and to use the zoo resources, so to speak, a positive thing, to get this done. So they were, they didn’t have helped me write the paper, but they gave me all the information, allowed me to build the crates, the management boxes for the shrews and so forth. Absolutely.

01:07:30 - 01:08:28

Yeah. So this is pretty cool because at this time, this, to me, it’s like probably a more of an evolution of a conservation and joint breeding programs leading to research in zoos. And you were on the early cusp of that. Well, we were early and I will give, again, one of my mentors, Dennis Merritt, a lot of credit because he was kind of the guy who started that research mindset in getting the records better. So you had better records. Sure. And looking to do work with animals he was interested in, but to do it in a more scientific way. So there was a lot of things that were going on at time that were really, yes, starting ’cause the zoo didn’t have any official scientist or anything like that. Not many did.

01:08:28 - 01:08:43

It was, at the time, it was up to the curatorial staff to kind of take a lead if they wanted to. Yeah. Had good foresight. If I could switch gears a little bit. First women keepers were hired in the early 1970s is my understanding.

01:08:43 - 01:08:53

And as were if you could talk about Pat Sass whose name has come up as one of the very first women keepers at Lincoln Park Zoo, how’d she get the job and why was it possible for her to get the job?

01:08:53 - 01:09:58

Well, I think what happened at the zoo at the time was there were no women keepers. And when the civil service exam started, women weren’t allowed to take the exam ’cause it said male high school diploma. That was an animal keeper at the time. When the next civil service came around, the women were more activists ’cause there were a number of women, I think three or four who were zoo leaders in the Children’s Zoo. And they went to the Park District and essentially said, “What you’re doing is illegal. You can’t just say men. And if you do, there’ll be legal repercussions.” Yeah. Wow. So the Park District, I think realizing that they were behind the times, changed the rules and allowed women to take the civil service exam. Well, all those zoo leaders took the exam, Marge Seymour.

01:09:58 - 01:11:05

I think it was Pat Sammarco then, Pat Sass, all took the exam. And I mean, there weren’t a lot of other women who were taking them from outside, but they did pretty instantaneously and they did well. And all of a sudden, they were now being paid had a different title, being paid for what they did before, same job, this job didn’t change. They just had a new title. Yeah. And I would say that over the years, more and more and more women have come in to the zoo profession, at various levels, all levels. And someone once asked me, “Well, what do you think of women in the profession?” And, “I think it’s great.” I mean, there were some very competent, excellent women who I worked with, who were animal keepers, who were curators, directors. And there’s no difference in the job.

01:11:05 - 01:11:28

I mean, someone might say, “Well, they can’t lift or whatever.” You get people to help you. I mean, it’s always a team effort to do whatever you wanna do, but it was a positive thing when women came into the workforce. Well, and I’m thinking, this is kind of the old school way of thinking like, “Well, the woman can’t do the job.” “She’s not strong enough,” or “She doesn’t know,” or whatever.

01:11:28 - 01:11:32

But how did women coming in as keepers affect the zoo?

01:11:32 - 01:12:31

Well, I think it affected the zoo, women keepers affected zoo in a very positive way. They brought with different job skills or ways of looking at it. There were no differences and I think, again, if you get 10 women, some are gonna be excellent, some are not gonna be so great, most fall in the middle. I mean, it’s, you know, the workforce is the workforce, but by and large, there were probably way better women. I don’t know that’s good or bad, but there were, who were, and Pat was really a leader, in my opinion, as some of the others were, those original people, that were just really excellent, really excellent in what they did. Yeah. Great to hear that. I’m gonna switch gears on something that I was always curious about.

01:12:31 - 01:12:35

You’ve spoken of the secret zoo. What does that mean?

01:12:35 - 01:12:41

And can you talk about maybe this bobcat on LaSalle Street or the cobra in the house?

01:12:41 - 01:13:45

Well, the secret zoo is essentially when you were holding animals privately that you shouldn’t be holding, the alligator in the bathtub in the basement, and you don’t want anybody to know about it. So if your son is playing with your next door neighbor and you have five rattlesnakes in your basement as kids will get around and know what’s going on. You don’t really want people to know you’re keeping them. The only way that the secret zoo that I call it is known is when someone like the meter reader has to read the meter and sees the five foot alligator or the there’s a fire and the firemen are there or there’s, you know, something. Yeah. Yeah. Then all of a sudden, it’s known. And we had one call where someone, Ascension church on LaSalle Street. And they called us and said, “There’s a lot of pigeons that are dead under this big tree.

01:13:45 - 01:13:54

And we’d like to, ‘what’s going on?’ And we saw a large cat, looks like a bobcat or a lynx or something.” I went, “Well, what’s the chances on LaSalle Street?

01:13:54 - 01:14:13

Not much.” But we went out there and indeed, I went with the vet and the curator of reptiles, Eddie Almandarz, and indeed, who was a mentor of mine, indeed, we looked up in this big old oak tree and there was a bobcat. Wow.

01:14:13 - 01:14:16

I mean, there was no mistake in it, but how do you get up there?

01:14:16 - 01:15:11

So we called the fire department and they came and they said, “Well, we’ll loan you our snorkel, but if there’s a fire, we have to leave.” And this is middle of the night. It’s like at midnight. So they get the snorkel in position and the cat’s just frozen. He’s staying up there. He’s not going anywhere. And we had our tranquilizer and we had our nets and our poles with nooses and they say, they get the snorkel. And we say, “Okay, we’ll give your guy the noose.” And the fire chief says, “No, no, my guy’s not getting this.” Wait a minute. “You’re sending somebody up with him.” So we say to Eddie, “Eddie, go up there.” So he’s, you know. Reptile guy. (laughs) Reptile guy, and Eddie gets in there and they go up in the snorkel and he can’t shoot, it’s too close or he’ll hurt the cat. And he grabs the cat with the noose.

01:15:11 - 01:15:48

Now, ideally when you noose an animal, you don’t just want it, again, trick of the trade. I guess a lot of stuff is common sense. You don’t want around the neck, you want it around the neck and the shoulder so you’re not strangling the animals. Sure. That makes sense. And when I was a young keeper, when I first started at the zoo, before the tranquilizers were used a lot, I was part of roping a lion. You’d have to rope the lion and get them to the bars. But you’re the rope guy. Well, but this was way. (blabbers) So, and you’d have to put it around, get the rope behind because you didn’t wanna strangle them.

01:15:48 - 01:16:42

So, and then there were ropes, (clears throat) that you could automatically let them loose. I mean, we did all that. So Eddie gets up there, he grabs it and he could only get around the cat’s neck. And as he pulls, now, remember it’s midnight, we’ve got all this fire equipment, ’cause the snorkel came with another truck and then all these firemen and they got their pickaxes and they’re waiting, “What do we have to do?” And lights are blinking and so forth. And he pushes the cat off of the branch. And the snorkel is moving back down now with the cat hanging and the cat’s going, (imitates choking) he’s strangling. We’re trying to get it down there and we get it to the ground and they undo the noose, and the vet, Dr. Mishkin is working on the cat, working on the cat. And all these firemen are around him.

01:16:42 - 01:17:18

It was so surreal and they’re all looking. It’s just like, one guy in the middle and all these guys. And all of a sudden, the cat starts to go, (imitates coughing) and he starts to breathe. And to a person, to a man, all these firemen, ’cause they’re watching this y’all. At the same time, go, “Yay.” (interviewer laughs) And it was like so surreal. And well now, the cat’s waking up. We put him in a box. We knew he was being kept by somebody. He didn’t just wander from the forest, but he had said, but no one claimed him.

01:17:18 - 01:17:51

And we brought him to Indian Boundary Zoo, which I’ll go into that in a second to live his life. Now, the Park District, there was one zoo in Chicago, Lincoln Park Zoo. Then there was Brookfield Zoo. That was it. But the Park District at one time was different Park Districts. It wasn’t all Chicago Park District. And some park districts had their own zoo. I mean there was Chicago, but there were different districts. And there was a remnant called Indian Boundary Park Zoo.

01:17:51 - 01:18:20

It’s on the north side of the city of Chicago and there was this little zoo and they had grizzly bears. I mean, it’s a little place. We had spectacle bears up there, born up there. We had mountain lions at various times. So we brought this, it was Park District and run by the zoo. And we brought this animal up to Indian Boundary where it lived its life. Wow. So it was pretty cool.

01:18:20 - 01:18:33

Cool story. Geez. So something else that I found interesting. In 73, the zoo was involved with a major conservation about a gorilla, Kisoro, to England.

01:18:33 - 01:18:35

Were you involved? Can you talk about this?

01:18:35 - 01:19:31

Yeah. I mean, the zoo did a lot of things that were international in scope. We were never afraid to bring or send animals internationally as part of a whole scope of things. And the zoo in England, Howletts Zoo Park, run by John Aspinall, needed a male gorilla. And his male was not, he had a lot of females, but somehow, there was no breeding, and he needed to have a male. And we had this male, Kisoro. And we had a lot of gorillas at the time and we hadn’t had, we had one birth, but we had some other up and coming gorillas. And we agreed to send Kisoro to him as part of a long term conservation breeding initiative. And we were able to do it.

01:19:31 - 01:20:06

And he was escorted by one of our keepers to England and the interesting, and where he fathered many, many, many, many babies. Oh, well done. And it was very positive relationship between the two organizations. And we had to have a special box built. We probably overbuilt it, but we had a special box built to ship him in. And the interesting part of the story was when they got to Heathrow Airport, there was a stevedore strike and no cargo was being unloaded. Well, here, we have a gorilla. Live animal.

01:20:06 - 01:20:48

Live animal in the plane. And so they told the pilot, “Shut your engines down ’cause nothing’s happening.” And to retain heat, he had to keep his engines on for the gorilla. He said, “I can’t do that ’cause I have a live gorilla on this flight and I’m not gonna shut my engines.” So the stevedores, English guys, laborers, they had a special meeting and they voted, it was wonderful, to only unload one piece of cargo. Ha. And they unloaded the gorilla. Wow. And they got him off the plane. And ultimately, he was, I say, father to many, many gorillas.

01:20:48 - 01:21:34

And we brought gorillas back from Howletts years later. So it was a very positive kind of thing, but it was one of our first big interna. We did others, but we, one of our first big international shipments and what my lesson there always was, you gotta get the paperwork straight, gotta make sure that you have right people who are doing the job to get, ’cause this animal has to go from A to B safely and get there. So that was one of our first big jobs that we did. That’s pretty cool. That foray into the international community is a huge thing. But speaking of gorillas, 1970, you had a major birth, a significant birth of a gorilla in 1970 at your zoo.

01:21:34 - 01:21:35

Can you talk about that?

01:21:35 - 01:22:37

Well, the first birth, Lester Fisher loved gorillas and we loved them. And Kisoro was the father and Mumbi was the mother, and this was the first birth and we had a medical committee. And we had an obstetrician on there, Dr. Mel Bailey. And he consulted with us ’cause you know, baby gorilla is like a baby child, so to speak. And that, one day, all of a sudden, we saw her doing rolling and rolling and it was, she was obviously in distress in what was going on and we’ve, “Oh, baby’s coming.” So as it turned out, it was at five o’clock, which was could have been at three in the morning, but we were there. Yeah. Actually a good thing you were there. So Lester Fisher was at his house. He was having some people over. They all came over.

01:22:37 - 01:23:15

We all sat in front of the exhibit. We had people behind the scenes, Saul Kitchener, myself. I took pictures again to document the thing, took pictures of the very, I wish I’d had a video camera, but I didn’t, I would’ve gotten just wonderful things. But as it turns out, I had my still camera and I got sequence of the birth. And it was the first birth of a gorilla at Lincoln Park Zoo. Wow. Wow. We were all very nervous as fathers and we ultimately, she took care of the baby, I think for like 34, 40 days. And then it had to go to the nursery, so all of a sudden.

01:23:15 - 01:23:25

This was a very first baby. So there was no learning from other gorillas and so forth. So it was her very first baby, but in the begin, worked out very well.

01:23:25 - 01:23:27

How did she deal with this operation?

01:23:27 - 01:24:18

Well, she was okay with it because she kind of abandoned the kid. All of a sudden, she stopped nursing it. So we had to take over and that’s when we leaned on our medical committee with the pediatricians and so forth. And before the birth, Dr. Bailey was able to go in with the gorilla and he was able to put hands on the gorilla to say, “Well, she’s close, she’s this.” She was a very tractable animal. So we used the medical committee, but that was a very first and obviously, we were very, as the years went by, we had many, many, many, many, many more births. We were very successful with gorilla management, and so much so that when one of the births came, it was just a notation in our diary. No big deal, just another gorilla board. (interviewer laughing) Geez.

01:24:18 - 01:24:20

Well, it’s not that perhaps more dramatic.

01:24:20 - 01:24:26

1973, there was a major theft of snow leopards and a baby gorilla?

01:24:27 - 01:25:19

I think that kind of the lesson is that to me, is that you always have to be aware of the security of your exhibits and you can never assume that everything is gonna be okay. And some kids came to the zoo. They saw, we had snow leopards that we were hand raising in the Lion House in one of the newer cages. We had six of them and we had a baby gorilla in the nursery. And these kids thought that this would be for some reason, a great pet. And at night, they came into the zoo, climbed to the top of the Lion House ’cause there was rock work. Right. And they pried opened ’cause it wasn’t locked, a skylight, just opened it up, went downstairs.

01:25:19 - 01:26:00

We didn’t have a lock on the cage and they opened it up and they put a baby snow leopard in a bag, pillowcase, and they took it out and then they went home and they said, “Wait, we wanna get that gorilla baby. That seems cute.” And they came back, went into a skylight of the Children’s Zoo, dropped down, grabbed the baby and walked out the front door. Wow. Well. Jesus. The night guy discovered the snow leopard. We went there and we saw there was five, not six, snow leopards. And then we went to the Children’s Zoo just to make sure. And there was, the gorilla was missing.

01:26:00 - 01:26:10

All the police, everybody was there, “Who did it?” Whatever. And like most cases, it’s broken by an informant, not that we were that smart to do detective work.

01:26:10 - 01:26:11

Where did we go?

01:26:11 - 01:26:18

Somebody approached, these kids approached, and all of a sudden, they’re, “Well, what’s going on here?

01:26:18 - 01:26:33

Maybe we got more than we could handle.” And they approached somebody, said, “You wanna buy these?” And they approached the police and they raided the house and grabbed our kids, so to speak. And they brought them back to the zoo.

01:26:33 - 01:26:34

So happy ending?

01:26:34 - 01:26:58

Happy ending, thankfully. Big, big deal. But again, it’s always making sure any enclosure has the right security because you never know who’s gonna come into the zoo and what you know might happen. Sure, sure. Yeah. Wow. Interesting. So you’ve talked about international involvement a few times here and I understand in September of 1974, you had an opportunity to tour European zoos.

01:26:58 - 01:27:05

How this come about and why did you consider it so important to see collections both national and international?

01:27:05 - 01:28:02

Well, I think the lesson to me is that it’s so, you can’t be insular. You can’t just be at your place and think that what you’re doing is the last thing. The more breath and experience you have and seeing what the rest of of your profession is doing is so important. And in European zoos, they’re doing a lot of things and American zoos are doing a lot of things. So the more you can get out and see what’s going on, the better you are informed and the more intelligent you can be about of putting together exhibits, animal husbandry. There’s a lot of people who know a lot of stuff. And. I’m thinking, just the exchange of ideas is so valuable. Just the exchange of ideas, the face time, meeting colleagues, being able to call them, they know you, you know them.

01:28:02 - 01:28:26

Relationships are so important within the zoo and aquarium profession to getting things done and assisting and helping one another. And I had the opportunity to get a Smithsonian grant to travel and study at European zoos. So I went to Switzerland, England, John Aspinall’s place, Germany.

01:28:26 - 01:28:27

How did you target these specific zoos?

01:28:27 - 01:29:27

They were world famous. I mean, Howletts because of the gorillas and we had gorillas. The Frankfurt Zoo, the Cologne Zoo, the Zurich Zoo, these were world famous institutions. And I figured I have the opportunity. So I put together a report, ton of information. But again, that exposure to outside places that are doing things, germinates different ideas in different ways of doing things. I saw exhibits that I modified to Lincoln Park Zoo when we had to do exhibits ’cause I saw how great they were, but I had to adapt them to our particular place. So that international exposure or national exposure, I think is so very important for young, for any curator, zoologist, or director, the more you see.

01:29:27 - 01:30:04

Absolutely. The better informed you are. Yeah. Yeah. Good for you and it’s a major initiative getting this Smithsonian grant and then taking this initiative and then actually producing a report from it. Yeah. I was very fortunate to be able to have the opportunity and I always tried to, as much as we could, we couldn’t do it internationally, but to make sure that as much as we could, keepers had more breadth of exposure, however it was gonna happen. Great learning opportunity. So this ultimately, leads to your becoming curator of mammals, 1975.

01:30:05 - 01:30:09

How do you make the move from associate curator to curator?

01:30:09 - 01:30:51

Yeah. The position was zoologist then they changed the title to associate curator. It was the same essentially, but again. Responsibilities are different. Correct. But again, there’s a change in the upper echelon of the zoo. Saul Kitchener leaves to become director of the San Francisco Zoo. Dennis Merritt moves up to be the assistant director of the zoo. Again, I was fortunate enough to move up to be, take Dennis Merritt’s place to be the curator of mammals. So that evolution happens, one, because they know who you are and you’re doing the job, and the position is open.

01:30:52 - 01:31:05

That then my ex, my thing was not just a couple of these buildings, but it was all the mammals’ sections in the zoo, which was the major portion.

01:31:05 - 01:31:06

Of the collection?

01:31:06 - 01:31:46

I mean, we had a bird house, we had a reptile house, but the rest was mammals. Yeah. So my responsibility became multiplied. I was still looking at personnel, animal collections, the nursery, I mean, animal transport. I mean, I wasn’t doing in a vacuum, but it was part of, the responsibility was now magnified, which was fabulous, fabulous, fabulous. And it was a continued learning thing. I had more exposure to a whole bunch of things, transport, moving things, all kinds of stuff. Writing permits.

01:31:46 - 01:31:47

Writing permits.

01:31:47 - 01:31:49

What’s your daily routine like?

01:31:49 - 01:32:24

Well, every day, I would make rounds, 99% of the time, not always, but pretty much so. I’d make rounds. And I would always say to the keepers, “The first thing a keeper should do in the morning, get your cup of coffee or your cup of tea, and then go view the animals that you’re responsible for. That’s the first thing you should do. You don’t do paperwork, just take, look, what were your animals doing.” I made rounds one time and I found a maned wolf that was dead in the yard.

01:32:24 - 01:32:29

And I went to the keepers and I said, “What about that maned wolf? What’s going on?

01:32:29 - 01:33:05

It’s dead. Let’s get.” “Oh, we hadn’t gone out there yet.” I said, “Wait, I, as the curator should not be the guy who’s making that discovery.” Exactly. “You as the animal keeper, it’s this, here’s the time. You should have already been out there. I mean, I’m late in doing rounds. I get it. But come on, guys. That’s just, there’s certain tenants. I mean, we could say that you gotta feed your animals, you gotta water your animals, you gotta clean their cages. That’s the basic, basic, basic thing. There’s so much more to doing things as an animal keeper and taking care of your animals, but those are the basics.

01:33:05 - 01:34:21

And one of the basics is make rounds in the morning and see what your animals are doing, how are they doing, what’s going on.” So my first job would be making rounds in the morning, talking to people, see what’s going on, every day had a routine, but every day was different, depending on the living collection and what was going on, who was working, what had to happen. So it was setting things up in the morning and then it was paperwork, lot of paperwork, personnel stuff. Again, what brought me into the profession, I didn’t have time to go play with the gorillas. All of a sudden now, you’re doing more administrative things, which I got, but it was not the fun part of the job. There’s no question. Writing permits, meeting donors, doing tours, whatever was, and as we were building things, Lester started it and continued. And as we were building things, we had a lot of building that was going on and programming and getting things squared away. That was a wonderful part of the job, which was wonderful. And of course, the more your experience allowed you to be productive in that area.

01:34:21 - 01:34:35

So it was a daily routine, but yet, meeting people, dealing with all the personnel and then solving problems and so forth. Sure. And you’re also working with the Zoo Society now. The Zoo Society.

01:34:35 - 01:34:36

What was your role there?

01:34:36 - 01:35:39

Well, I think the role there was making sure that the Zoo Society understood what we did. They were giving us money. And so whether it was the Zoo Society or the volunteer or the docent organization, I always wanted them to be part of what we were doing, part of the team. And so when we would have a baby pygmy hippo born, I’d say to people in the Zoo Society, “Hey, come on over, take a look at this.” Check it out. “This is cool.” Make them part of it. And especially, the development people, because then when they would bring donors through, they had, they were much smarter about what was going on. And as the Zoo Society, they would want curators and the assistant director and other, but they want people directly involved in the animal management to do the tours with some of these big donors to be with them because you were the knowledgeable person. And the donors, they might like to be with a development person, fine, but now, they were with the animal guys.

01:35:39 - 01:36:23

The cool stuff. And that was a more powerful thing. So we were called on to do a lot of tours. And in fact, when we had our quote, unquote, “large mammal house” that had giraffes and elephants and rhinoceros and pygmy hippos, and had all these larger animals, we figured out out of a year, we probably did 250 tours out of 365 days. Geez. Wow. Because it was such a popular place to bring people. And we had designed it in such a way that behind the scenes tours were maximized to see animals or get in contact with them and so forth. It was just very popular.

01:36:23 - 01:37:13

And of course, on a lot of those tours, you, the curator or somebody else is with doing that. So we really helped the Zoo Society. And when we tranquilize lions and we’d have them in the Lion House and we were doing some operation there, were try, I’d say to the volunteers, “Come and see this now. You could kind of pet the lion.” That made it such, they identified so much more. It was, they were part of the organization, they got special privileges. And that was so important for them to really buy in to the philosophy of the zoo. Well, I remember a time when you, they weren’t included and you feel as if you’re personally excluded like, “Well, I’m not important enough.” So I applaud you that. No, no, no. I wanted them to be feel that they were part of the team.

01:37:13 - 01:37:14


01:37:14 - 01:37:18

So what are you finding at this time are the difficult portions of the job?

01:37:18 - 01:37:53

Well, of course, always the difficult portions of the job are our personnel, I think. It’s a very, the animals are the easy part, but it’s getting people to do the job they were hired to do and to get them to do it maybe the way you need them to do it. But it’s very difficult to order them, “Do what I say.” You can do that, but it’s not always gonna be very productive.

01:37:53 - 01:37:56

So how are you handling people that are not doing their job?

01:37:56 - 01:37:58

You talk about explaining to someone to remove.

01:37:58 - 01:37:59

What do you mean?

01:37:59 - 01:38:46

Well, I think the thing, here’s the, here, this was taught to me, the thing of explaining things to people to remove. When we would have bad things happen, people would let animals out because of their neglect. You know, they weren’t doing it correctly. And we had to discipline them. You go before people who are to removed from the situation, a board of people who are making a judgment about, “Should this person be disciplined?” They don’t know the zoo. They see the person who comes there in a suit and tie or they’re presentable. They’re not the person who made this mistake. They’re different person. And some were good and were honest mistakes.

01:38:46 - 01:38:56

I mean, just, it happened, but others were negligence. And you had to identify that and deal with it, but you.

01:38:56 - 01:38:57

You had to be inventive?

01:38:57 - 01:39:48

Well, you had to be able to explain to people. We had a person who let, because of not locking a lock, a very forgetful thing that happens in a lot of zoos, you know, “I’m gonna lock the lock and hey, I got a phone call,” and you forget, and then I gotta do this. And you’re doing there and you get called away. I mean, it happens. But when this person forgot to lock the lock, gorillas got out, not out into the public, but into back areas. So we had to explain to people who had no idea about this physicality of the Great Ape House and what was going on. So you have to know that you’re talking to people to remove from what you’re intimately involved with. You can’t assume they know what’s going on.

01:39:48 - 01:40:25

I see. And sometimes, for learning experiences, you have to pick your learning opportunities. And a good example is you’re checking your animals in the morning. So I go into the small mammal house. We had these animals called dwarf hamsters, Phodopus roborovskii. And we got them from the London Zoo and they were unique. I mean, a lot of zoos didn’t have them, but London had them. So I took talk with the London Zoo, international, import. And I say, “I’d like to get two pair of dwarf hamsters.” I mean, they were like little guys.

01:40:25 - 01:40:52

And they go, “Mark, we don’t sell them. We sell only a dozen at a time.” Now, that should have gotten me my first clue of how good they reproduced. Pretty prolific. But I wanted them. So I said, “Okay.” So we bring a dozen over and we put them, we make little nest boxes that you can look in, and they were very cool. And then I go in the morning and I’m looking and I open, I just, I’m doing rounds.

01:40:52 - 01:40:55

And I just had a dwarf hamsters. What’s going on?

01:40:55 - 01:40:59

So I opened one of the tops and there is a mother and her babies.

01:40:59 - 01:41:04

Oh. And then I’m thinking, “What’s the deal?

01:41:04 - 01:41:22

Why am I finding this?” Right? Again, I am finding this. The keeper should have looked. And they knew to check, it’s all right. So we had a new keeper there, had not a lot of experience. So I said, “What can I do? I can go out there and say, ‘Come on, guys, you’re supposed to do this.'” I said, or this could be a learning experience.

01:41:22 - 01:41:32

So I say to the new keep, I said, “Joe, have you checked the animals in the back end?” “Oh no, I was gonna do that.” I said, “Yeah, let’s go. What do we got there?

01:41:32 - 01:42:10

I haven’t had on opportunity.” I knew exactly what was going on. So he goes, “Oh, nothing.” “Yeah, let’s check the tab. Is anybody there?” “No, no everything. Oh, they look good, they look good.” And then he gets to the one. He opens it up and he goes, “Oh my God, there’s babies.” I said, “Oh my gosh, this is so wonderful. You discovered babies. That’s what you gotta do in the morning. Look at,” he was so proud of himself. And I’m sure that that lesson, I didn’t tell him that I already knew what was going on. Sure. But that learning lesson and reinforced what he should be doing. And I didn’t beat him up.

01:42:10 - 01:42:26

But all of a sudden, it was so powerful a lesson ’cause he discovered it. Sure. And that was important. And so that’s something he’s gonna do. The rest of his life. Absolutely. Well done. Well done. And he’s gonna teach that to somebody. “Yeah. That day I found the babies.” So God love them.

01:42:26 - 01:42:34

So maybe this ties into, you often say that a professional zoo person needs to be a student of the game. What do you mean by that?

01:42:34 - 01:42:52

Okay. I’m gonna go on a soapbox here, but here’s the deal. Let her rip. When I say you gotta be a student of the game, I mean, you have to understand your profession. You have to have, ideally, you have to have a deeper understanding of your profession.

01:42:52 - 01:42:54

What has been written about things?

01:42:54 - 01:42:58

What are the building blocks of your profession?

01:42:58 - 01:43:50

What should you know? Basic stuff. It’s, I don’t wanna make a baseball analogy here, but the bottom line is you gotta know how to pitch. You got these fundamentals, the fundamentals of your business. And I found that a lot of people who are in the profession don’t know that. And the point is this, William Conway, former director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, a very smart guy and a wonderful man. He wrote many papers, many. There’s some great stuff that he, but one of them, “How to Exhibit a Bullfrog,” is a seminal piece of information about exhibitry and about maintaining animals. It’s just, it’s a wonder, everybody should read that.

01:43:50 - 01:44:41

When you’re a new animal keeper, that should be the, here’s this, read this. And I don’t find that people do. Heini Hediger who is called the father of zoo biology, that’s a pretty good title. It is a big title. Who wrote books, “Man and Animal in the Zoo,” “Wild Animals in Captivity”, “The Psychology and Behaviour of Animals in Zoos and Circuses,” these are fundamental building blocks of the profession. And I find that people, “What book is that?” Now, there’s a lot of others. I mean, these are not the end of, but these are some of the people who are the pioneers. I mean, the certainty, you know, gravity, gravity doesn’t change.

01:44:41 - 01:45:23

It was, somebody discovered it and it’s around. These basic principles, now, you can massage them and do a lot of things with them. They don’t change. As excitement increases, barriers weaken. That’s a tenant of one of the things that Heini Hediger talks about. What does that mean? If you build the fence five feet high and the dog can’t get over it, but then you put, somebody throws firecrackers in there, that barrier weakens, that dog is gonna jump over that fence or that wolf or whatever. So somebody could say, “Yes, it lasted 20 years.” And yeah, but the day the, as excitement increases, barriers weaken.

01:45:23 - 01:45:32

When you build things, you have to be aware of the jumping of animals, of the burrowing of that, what are you dealing with?

01:45:32 - 01:46:05

These are just basic tenants. You gotta be a student of the game. If you said to somebody, “What’s the international zoo yearbook?” What is it? It’s been around for like 45 years and they have papers. Now, they’re now online. So you know, it goes with the new age. A book is a book and, “Well, but it takes time to get priv.” No, you can find this information. Everything is not in Wikipedia and making it the law. Right.

01:46:05 - 01:46:47

There’s a lot of stuff. So to me, these types of publications, the zoo publications are so important for people in the profession to be students of the game, understand the history of your profession, understand the tenants of your profession. And you become a much more valuable keeper, valuable curator, valuable director, whatever it happens to be. Well grounded. Yeah. So that’s my soapbox on learning about the profession you’re in. I think you’re right on. So you’ve touched on this before, Lincoln Park has this important great ape collection especially gorillas.

01:46:48 - 01:46:52

Can you talk a little bit more about how you manage them?

01:46:52 - 01:47:32

Well, when I was curator, we did have a very big collection of great apes. We’re very fortunate. A lot of the babies that had been born were females. We had new males. So we really had some nice troops being formed. The management, as it turned out, again, I’d mentioned that Dr. Fisher, the director, really liked the great apes. And my management philosophy was, at least in my mind, was I was being hired as the manager of the collection. I didn’t do it in a vacuum, but I was being hired.

01:47:32 - 01:48:12

So I kind of had the philosophy of, I will tell Dr. Fisher what I’d like to do. I’m not gonna ask his permission. I’m gonna tell him though, ahead of time, “I wanna take this gorilla male and put it with this one. And we’ll have, we’ll do this over a period of a couple of weeks, see how he works into the group and whatever it happened to be.” And if he had an objection, he’d let me know at that time or a concern, that’s fine. But I always felt that I should tell him what I wanted do rather than ask his permission.

01:48:12 - 01:48:15

Do you feel he had a tendency to micromanage at all?

01:48:15 - 01:48:47

Well, I can tell you two instances. He really was a hands off guy. I mean, he really was. “You’re being hired to do a job, do your job. And I allow you to do that,” which I thought was a wonderful thing. The only times he micromanaged really and all the time I was there. And I was there a while was the only two times. With the gorillas, he had a concern ’cause they were the gorillas, but I realized that that was the way to handle it. Just tell him what I wanted to do.

01:48:47 - 01:49:35

Sure. We kind of consulting before we do it, you know, no surprises. And that worked out really, really well. The only times he micromanaged in a positive way, not a negative way was when we wanted to get koalas for our exhibit. And we weren’t getting them from Australia, but the San Diego Zoo had indicated they had 30-day loans, but they had indicated to us, “We’ll let you have gorilla, uh, gorillas, koalas long term. You have to find a way of getting the browse. You’re gonna have to do that,” which we did. There was a gentleman named Bob Frueh who was former, and again, relationships, former a curator at the St. Louis Zoo.

01:49:35 - 01:49:42

And he had left the St. Louis Zoo and was now raising ficus in a nursery in Florida.

01:49:43 - 01:49:50

He was, started a business, but I, we contacted him and say, “Listen, would you grow eucalyptus for us?

01:49:50 - 01:50:24

And we’ll pay for it, but we need a steady,” and he thought about it. And he said, “You know, I’ll do it.” And it turned out very positively and he now has a business called Koala Browse. And he sends eucalyptus literally around the world for koalas. But that was part of what we had to get. And as we were negotiating this and talking to the San Diego Zoo, Dr. Fisher was very anxious to get these koalas to Lincoln Park, maybe before another zoo tried to bring them in that was in the Chicago area.

01:50:25 - 01:50:32

But he was really on us in a positive, “So what’s going on this week? Where are we?

01:50:32 - 01:51:31

What’s happening?” And we got the urgency, but we were able to do it, and ultimately brought them in with the birth, which was a significant birth, aside from the gorilla birth, which was very significant in the 70s, 1970. The 1990, when the elephant was born, and that was a two year planning thing of, we didn’t have a male and we had to bring the female to the Springfield Zoo to meet their male, Onyx. And then she was pregnant. We had to bring her back. And I mean, it was a whole long planning thing that a lot of things could go wrong and only one thing could go right. And Dr. Fisher was very, I was working with Dr. Tom Meehan, who was our veterinarian at the time at Lincoln Park Zoo. And he was very concerned as he should have been that everything was being done correctly.

01:51:31 - 01:51:34

And where are we and what are we doing?

01:51:34 - 01:51:36

And what happens if this happens?

01:51:36 - 01:52:05

And we were pretty much on top of it. I mean, we didn’t know what the ultimate end would be, but we were trying to get all our ducks in order. And to make sure that if this happened, this would happen, if this didn’t happen, and we were trying to do all this and keep him part of the process of the communication. So he knew everything we knew, but he was very hands on with that birth and wanting to do it. So, and it’s understandable. Sure.

01:52:05 - 01:52:23

But that was the only other time he really said, “Look, I’m the director, what’s going on here?” On major things, when we had a tranquilized major animals like Sinbad for his tooth operation or stuff like that, he was always on hand to make sure, “What are we doing?

01:52:23 - 01:52:35

How’s things going?” Which was all fine. Well, you know. I can see he’s. He was the director of the zoo. He’s the director of the zoo. He’s talking to the society. They wanna know, you know. And, “I was there. I saw it.” No, no. So great. So talk about major things.

01:52:35 - 01:52:41

1976, a major move of the great apes from the old primate house to the new Great Ape House.

01:52:42 - 01:52:45

Well documented, but how does this happen?

01:52:45 - 01:52:47

What science is learned from the move?

01:52:47 - 01:53:26

Well, I think what happened, what occurred was we were too successful in the old monkey house. Yeah. And Dr. Fisher realized that and we had to build. And again, that goes to the building and all the activity around it, and all. I mean, I was involved in more building new exhibits than some directors do in their entire life. I mean, just because of circumstance. So we knew we needed to do a new primate house. And with the aid of the Zoo Society to help back it, Dr. Fisher went again to Europe with the architects to see certain exhibits who we’re doing different things.

01:53:26 - 01:54:35

And we put this great ape. Now, we had to move these animals. And we said to Dr. Fisher, “This is a really historic thing. We should get normals. How do you know what’s abnormal if you don’t know what’s normal? We should get normals. We should include our medical committee on this to do all these tests, blood pressure, look at the teeth, eye exams, weight, I mean just basic stuff, but to have all of this basic material, baseline material. And we should also record this. This is a historic move.” So what we did was the Zoo Society and Dr. Fisher contacted a young filmmaker named Dugan Rosalini who was recommended to document this. And he did a wonderful job and did a documentary called “Otto: Zoo Gorilla.” And it really caught what was going on. The medical committee did a great job.

01:54:35 - 01:55:32

And out of all of that, we produced a, I’ll say a book, a booklet of normals on gorillas, chimpanzees, ’cause we had a lot of them and orangutans. And this was a wonderful start. No one had done these many animals to draw blood and look at blood pressure. All of these things that didn’t have to do to make the move, but it was important as long as we were making this big effort and we were very successful in that. No animal died, everybody got to where they were supposed to go into the new building. So this move was a very major move that was documented thoroughly and also produced some information that at the time, no other zoo had done because of the numbers. Yeah. Good baseline down on there. I can’t imagine. That’s a huge effort.

01:55:34 - 01:55:41

So we talked about your management style and I was curious of what you mean by the 90-10 rule?

01:55:41 - 01:56:09

Well, I always had a rule. I called it the 90-10 marks, 90-10 rule. Essentially, 90% of the time, and I’m talking about to the animal keeper force and things that we should do it correctly. We should do it at a high level. We should, that’s our goal. 10% of the time, I get it. Stuff happens and you can’t do it. No one’s perfect.

01:56:09 - 01:56:35

It’s, you know, and I say, “Guys.” “Mark, we couldn’t get this done today because,” I get it. You only had two people. We should have four. I understand. No, no big deal. But most of the time, it’s not 90% of the time, we don’t get it. And 10% of the time, we do it right. It really should be the other way around. So you have to strive for a certain amount of excellence.

01:56:37 - 01:57:10

You’re not gonna be doing 150% every day. It doesn’t happen. But you don’t. And here’s my story. When I was in college, I took a class, histology. We made slides as you would of the brain, of the, this, whatever it was. You learned, it was a mechanical thing of how to make slides. And our teacher made us, I mean, we were, our slides were better than the professionals who the university bought them from. Geez. And we came to him one day.

01:57:10 - 01:57:20

We said, “How come you make us do these things better than the professionals who are doing this?

01:57:20 - 01:58:13

What’s the deal?” And he said, “Look, I make you be excellent because one day you’re not gonna be excellent. You’re gonna fall below that. And you’re gonna be good.” He says, “But if I only make you good, when you fall below, you’re gonna be fair. And I want you to be good always.” And so you want your animal keepers or your management staff even on the bad days, to be good, not to be fair. And so you have to have a higher standard. If you get to it, fabulous. And you will many times. But you have to have a high standard of what you consider to be the regular day to day. And if stuff doesn’t happen, I get it. So that’s the 90-10 rule.

01:58:13 - 01:59:05

That’s a good approach. That’s a good approach. And sometimes, and I will say this, sometimes you have to be inventive about how you get that information across to people. And I’ll give you a story. And I, we dealt, we had to get fire hose from sometimes the fire departments to using enrichment, and so forth, and with the animals. And so one fire department who helped us out with this and we’re talking and I was given by the one fire chief, a fire hat, old fire hat. And it was really cool, and I had it at the house. And I gave it to my wife and I said, “Ingrid, you put out a lot of fires.

01:59:05 - 02:00:19

So that’s why you’re getting the hat.” It was a little joke. And I got a call from the then zoologist or associate curator at the time. He said, “Mark, the two guys working with the elephants,” we always had two people for safety, “they don’t wanna work with one another and I don’t know what to do.” And I said, and I’m at home. I said, “Okay.” I said, “I’ll come down to the zoo.” Obviously, I gotta take care of the animals. I said, “I’ll come down to the zoo.” He said, “Do you wanna come to the elephant, enclosure?” I said, “No. I’m gonna go to the conference room of the main office. I’ll tell you when I’m there and I want you to send them to me.” “Oh, you don’t wanna come down there?” I said, “No. I don’t wanna be in their territory. I wanna be in my territory when I talk to them.” It’s a psychological thing. So it’s talked about in Hediger’s book, “Psychology of Animals in Zoos and Circuses.” Makes sense. I won’t go into that now. So I bring the fire hat. I said, “Ingrid, I need the fire hat.” “Why?” I said, “I just need it.” So, get in. I said, “Send the guys over.” “Okay.” Put the fire hat, center of the table.

02:00:19 - 02:01:04

So they walk in, they sit down, I don’t say a word. And they were looking at me and I don’t say a word. And I knew one of them, which happened, was gonna go, “What’s the fire hat for?” Which they did. Kind of obvious. Well, and I said, “Oh, the fire hat.” I said, “Well, you see, when I have to put out a fire or a problem, I bring my hat.” And that broke the ice. “Oh.” (imitates laughing) So I said, “Guys,” and essentially, we talked about it. I said, “I don’t care if you don’t go out for drinks after work. It’s okay. But we’re professional animal keepers here, or at least I think we are.

02:01:04 - 02:01:33

You have charges who are dependent upon you. These elephants are not gonna water themselves and get their own food or get out into the yard. That’s all on you. And safety wise, you can’t have one person do it. God forbid, there’s a problem. There’s no one there to call for help or help the person.” I said, “We are depend,” so we talked, I said, “We’re dependent. Here’s the deal. We can work things out. Maybe tomorrow, we’ll talk about.

02:01:33 - 02:02:15

But today, I need you to work as a team.” And, “Okay, we will.” I said, “Fine.” Now, whether the assistant curator could have done it, I don’t know. Obviously, he didn’t have the experience. He felt he had to reach out, which is great. But you had to do things that were unique to try and make sure people that knew it was their job. You gotta be a professional. Every day, you gotta be a professional animal keeper. You have to be professional curator. You have to be professional director, whatever it is. This is your job.

02:02:16 - 02:02:49

And there’s a lot of people depending upon you to do your job in a certain way. And you can’t, and especially at that basic level where the charges of the animals. I mean, directors are not coming down to water the elephants. It’s not his job. His job is to raise money or do other things or direct the institution. Your job, my job was to make sure that people did their job in a professional way and had fun with it, I hope. Yeah. Well, part of the job is working together for the betterment of the animals.

02:02:51 - 02:02:55

So how would you say the staff describes you as a manager?

02:02:55 - 02:03:27

Wow. That’s a really interesting question. I would always say that my best quality is my worst quality and that is you know where you stand with me. I’m not a devious person. I don’t think so. So if I’m upset, you know I’m upset. If I’m happy, you know I’m happy. That’s good, and it’s bad. I’ve been told that, “That’s a good quality, Mark. It’s your worst quality. People know what you’re thinking.” It is what it is.

02:03:27 - 02:04:20

Yeah. But I always, I appreciated the fact that people allowed me to do my job and have fun with it. And I wanted everybody else, I didn’t wanna micromanage, I wanted them to do their job and at times, guide and talk and so forth. So I don’t think I was a micromanager, depending on how you talk to. Some people might say that and I’ll take the hit on certain things that I wanted to get done. But for the most part, I think I tried to let people do what they were paid just as I was given that opportunity by Dr. Fisher. I wanted people to do what they were paid to do, and I would try and work with them. And I think there are certain people that you reach.

02:04:20 - 02:05:26

I mean, everybody’s not gonna look at you in the same vein, but I’ve had certain animal keepers who have gone on to hire positions, say to me, “Oh, Mark, when I talk to my keepers that I have to talk to, I hear your words that you said about,” and that’s very gratifying to have been a mentor to people that they actually listened to what you said and it works. So that was important. So I always tried to do it in a way that was fun. I wanted people to enjoy their job, I did. I think certain times people might say that I was unapproachable and it’s possible my demeanor gave that off. But I think that for the most part, I was always available. I was never afraid to do what I had to do when, and I knew that to be a good manager, you better know what you’re asking people to do. So when we had our elephant management, we were hands on and then we were protected contact, but we were hands on.

02:05:26 - 02:06:09

And we had a trainer who would train us and was very, Don Meyer, a wonderful man who knew his profession and was very insightful and philosophical. And one of the lessons I learned from him was never defend what you say. Never defend, explain. You should never be in the position to defend your actions. You should explain your actions ’cause the minute you’re defending your actions, you’re doing that. When you explain what you did, it’s a whole different thing. Doesn’t mean everybody agrees with you, but the point is you’re not defending it, you’re explaining. And that was a big thing to me, something I took away.

02:06:09 - 02:06:59

And so here, we had people. We were learning from Don. And we were, I just always felt that sometimes I was insistent on doing certain things ’cause it was a safety thing. I would always tell people, “I’m never gonna tell you what to do without telling you why I’m telling you what to do, never gonna happen. You’ll always have an explanation.” Except in one instance, there’s an emergency. “I’m not gonna tell you why I’m telling you to get the tranquilizer or why you’re gonna have, get me seven inches of rope. There’s an emergency going on. I don’t got time to explain it. Just do what I need you to do.” But I would always tell them that ahead of time too.

02:06:59 - 02:07:04

If it’s an emergency situation, we have to react to this. We can’t be debating stuff.

02:07:04 - 02:07:07

Somebody’s gotta be in charge here. You know?

02:07:07 - 02:07:46

Yeah. And so I think I tried to make my management style in such a way that, as I say, do unto others, that I always got that and I wanted them to have the same kind of atmosphere that they could enjoy their job have, fun with it. That was a big thing to me, “Enjoy what you do, but do your job.” Yeah. Yeah. Well you engender a lot of trust in them as well, I think. To some people probably. To others, I don’t know. (laughs) Well you said it earlier. I mean, managing people is a tough part of the job and people had different personalities and on and on.

02:07:47 - 02:07:50

Could you talk a little bit about your involvement with long term planning at the zoo?

02:07:50 - 02:08:54

Well, I think again, because of the building and the things we were doing, we were charged, we weren’t a giant staff at the time. We were charged with a lot of responsibility of putting things together, trying to figure out new exhibits, what animals, where to get them. And so that long term planning was, I was part of a team that was doing it, but I was allowed to have an integral part of that to be able to look to the future and try and make suggestions. And once it was done, then try to implement those into things that would work for the zoo. And certainly, you’re involved with renovating exhibits away from a long term planning. I mean, that’s something probably as a curator, you’re always mindful of. Yeah. That was almost a daily thing. I had the responsibilities of setting up exhibits and putting them together.

02:08:54 - 02:09:18

I mean, sometimes you could do it on your own. You could get the materials and you could work with the keeper staff and get that done. Other times, when it became a much bigger project, you had to have more of the expertise of people. But we did that on a, literally on a daily basis. Sure, sure. Yeah. And with the new planning, sometimes this involves getting new animals.

02:09:18 - 02:09:27

You’ve already spoken about making connections, international connections as well as national, any challenge that way with getting animals?

02:09:27 - 02:10:44

Well, I think that the challenge always was finding where the animals were, whether they were national or international, knowing how to transport, again, soapbox, knowing how to part of a curator’s responsibility, at least, the way I grew up, was learning to write permits, and learning to deal with government. Big time. And in today’s, we’re jumping around a bit, but in today’s atmosphere, there’s a number of professionals that don’t know how to write a permit. It’s not hard. It’s tedious, but it’s not hard. And I say that from someone who had to do it, so maybe that’s why I say it’s not hard. But the thing is, at times, it’s now easier for someone to farm it out to someone, and I get it, and the curator doesn’t have to do it. Now to me, part of that responsibility is dealing with the government people, dealing with everything that has to happen for a shipment, be it national or international. And sometimes, people are afraid to do international shipments because of the red tape and all the things that, it’s just a process.

02:10:44 - 02:11:19

It’s just a process. So from that standpoint, I think that you, it’s all part of the job that you have to be able to do. You find the animals, you talk to the people, you have to negotiate, sometimes, it’s alone, sometimes it might be a price. I had one guy, we had our large, when we redid our building for the Regenstein African Journey, is what it was called from the remodeled large mammal building. We’d have aardvarks.

02:11:19 - 02:11:20

Where do you find an aardvark?

02:11:20 - 02:12:07

They’re not, you can’t go to the grocery store and, “Give me two aardvarks here.” So you have to find them. And they were hard animals to locate. And I remember talking to one animal dealer at the time who was importing animals from Africa. And he gave me a whole long song and dance about, “Well, you have to go find them. And then you dig them out and maybe it’s a male and it’s not a female. And you wanted a female and then that he had to pay the help.” And I knew why he was telling me this ’cause he was gonna give me a giant price for the animal because of all this work. Sure. And I said, “I’m just exploring if you can get these, I’m not here, come on.” And then he gave me a number. At least, I had that.

02:12:07 - 02:12:34

And then I went to some other zoos and, “You got?” “Oh yeah, we have a surplus male, Mark. Would you take our male?” It’s just a process. “Yes, of course we will. How much?” “Oh, it’s a loan. There’s no money.” “Thank you very much.” Better steal. Better steal. Yeah. Yeah. So it was, that was part of the job was buying. And I wouldn’t say buying so much at as in later years, loaning and putting animals together and bringing animals to the zoo. That was a fun part.

02:12:34 - 02:12:55

Yeah, oh yeah. Well, I think it’s all part of being a curator. I mean, it’s all the good information that you should be on top of. And it’s again, relationships with people that you can reach out to people and talk to them. Right. I wanna drop back a little bit here, go through escapes again. This was January 76 where was a major escape of a polar bear.

02:12:55 - 02:13:00

But the question’s more of was the zoo prepared to handle this type of emergency?

02:13:00 - 02:13:02

This is a dangerous animal. And what lessons were learned?

02:13:02 - 02:13:49

Well, I think the lessons learned is in, animals will escape. You have to have a protocol. You have to know what you will do, where equipment is. For example, at Lincoln Park Zoo, we had what we call red boxes. They were big crates that could be wheeled and they had anything you would need, rope, hammer and nails, tape to cordon off an area, whatever it is that if you needed it, you could bring it to the situation. We knew where the tranquilizers were. Everybody knew what their role was in, how to call, all of the things that you need to do. So as it turns out and freak things happen, all of this could never happen. Well, anything can happen.

02:13:49 - 02:14:55

We had a big old fire hose that hit a pool to agitate the water and not have it freeze over for the polar bears in the winter in this old exhibit. And as it turns out, it was a very cold winter, an ice form. So there was just the water shooting through the center. But ice was all around this and it somehow formed an ice ladder that the polar bear female, Skazka, that she walked up and she was out of her exhibit in a holding area behind the scenes, but still out. And I’m at, this happened really early in the morning, and I’m just about to go to work. And I get a call at home. “Mark, the polar bear is out.” “Really?” “You better get over here quickly.” So I lived very close to the zoo at the time. I get dressed, I mean, I’m not in uniform. I’m just, I get whatever I can. And I rush over to the zoo.

02:14:55 - 02:15:38

And there’s police cars all over the place because that’s their protocol. And we get in. And again, thankfully, our protocol, an animal keeper knew ’cause everybody knew there was a problem, take the tranquilizer and put it in a certain pace, the gun, the rifle with the drugs. And I walked in and there it was, didn’t have to think about it. I grabbed it, brought it to the scene. There’s all the police, all the guns. Dr. Fisher, Eddie Almandarz, I mean, Dennis Merritt, they’re all there. So my job, load up the thing, part of my job. and ’cause we didn’t have a full time vet, so it’s the curator’s responsibility, loaded up.

02:15:38 - 02:16:13

And we tranquilize the polar bear. Now, we’re waiting for the polar bear to go to sleep and all these people all around. And she’s not going to sleep instantaneously. It never happens that way. And Dr. Fisher says, “Let’s give her another.” “Yeah, no problem.” ’cause we knew the latitude of the drugs. We weren’t gonna hurt the animal. So I load up another dart and I’m looking to shoot the bear. And probably put it in the shoulder and the rear end and the fat.

02:16:13 - 02:16:42

And I don’t wanna hit the bear in the face. And I’m kinda looking, I’m waiting for my shot. I already knew I hit it once. So it was going down. I went, I didn’t know. And Dr. Fisher, maybe this is the third time he micromanaged, I don’t know. But the guy, well, it’s a tough situation. And he is literally in my ear, watching. And he goes, “What are you waiting for?” (laughs) And I said, “I’m waiting for a good shot.” I mean, you’re not thinking, I wasn’t being political.

02:16:42 - 02:17:45

I said, “I’m waiting for a good shot.” He goes, “Shoot the bear. Shoot the bear anywhere.” I said, “Yes, sir.” Got him where I wanted, it wasn’t a big deal. And the bear went down and we put her on a tarp and we had 12 keepers bring her back in the den, but it was potential dangerous situation. And I think the lesson was always be prepared. You can’t be too much, you can’t not be prepared enough. You gotta, whatever your situation, whatever your protocols, whatever your zoo, if someone would’ve said, “We need four feet of rope,” we had the red box. We didn’t have to, “Where’s the rope. Where is it?” We had everything we thought. We had a megaphone if we needed it. So that lesson to me was, regardless of what the escape is, and I’ve been involved in a couple of them unfortunately, to be able to say, be prepared, have the right people there.

02:17:46 - 02:18:41

And again, in those situation, you’re not saying to a keeper, “Listen, let’s get this.” And they go, “Well, why?” “It’s an emergency. Just do what I tell you to do. ’cause we gotta handle this emergency.” And some of the very worst emergencies, when I retired from the zoo, we had, right after I retired, a woman, classic, a woman keeper, wonderful lady walked into the lion moat to clean it. She thought she had locked the lions up and she hadn’t. And they jumped into the moat and they attacked her, male and a female that I’d brought back from Africa and they attacked her, and they were able to save her. And I always would give these guys big canisters of Mace to, bear spray in case, she never even had a chance to get to it. But she had a chance to get to her walkie talkie. Wow. Important to keep with you.

02:18:42 - 02:19:23

And she called for help. And they were able, and luckily, she wasn’t seriously injured. She was injured, but not seriously where her life ended or she lost a limb or whatever. And this happened literally month or two after I had retired. And I have to tell you, I would’ve been devastated if I, ’cause I would’ve been in charge as it turns out, I wasn’t there. But, you know, ’cause it would’ve happened under my watch. Right. Right. And you try and prepare people for any emergency and you can’t do everything right, but you try and make it. So if there’s a problem, people are prepared to handle.

02:19:23 - 02:19:33

And that’s what I learned from any of these emergencies of animal escapes is you’ve gotta have your ducks in order, so to speak.

02:19:33 - 02:19:34

So what do you think about today?

02:19:34 - 02:20:15

Are zoos better prepared? (faint speaking) Yeah. I think they are much better prepared because they’re thinking about it. There’s more written about it. They have shooting teams, God forbid, you actually have to shoot in a certain situation, that’s happened, an animal. You better know what your people, better know what to do. We did that. We trained. But now, I think it’s much better training and it’s a much better, people are thinking about it. I really think they are and there’s gotta be a protocol, but I think it’s a lot better than when we started. No question.

02:20:15 - 02:20:21

That’s encouraging. So Mark, you’ve been involved with some pretty interesting transports in your career.

02:20:21 - 02:20:26

Can you give me some elaboration on the, with the one about the giraffe moves to New Zealand?

02:20:26 - 02:21:50

I mean, that’s quite a distance. Well, I think, we’ve, again, international shipments and being able to do them successfully and it takes a lot of coordination and a lot of work. We had a call from zoo in Christchurch who was looking for a unrelated giraffe to their stock ’cause New Zealand is small country, that was a male that could be flown in a plane to New Zealand. So you had to have a unknown lineage, be a male, and be under a certain height. Was it turned out, we had a male giraffe that was a youngster, had just been born, and was unknown lineage. So we said, “Absolutely. We won’t charge you, but you’re gonna have to take care of the cost.” So they said, and again, I think the part of this that to me is important as the building of a team to do the job and to know what you’re doing. So we said, “Yes, we’ll give you the giraffe.” And they said, “Great, we’ll take care of it. We’ll send someone to escort.” And we had to do all the government paperwork.

02:21:50 - 02:22:42

And as it turns out, 12 feet is the, not air military. I’m talking about regular transport planes to get through the door. You have to be 12 feet. That’s the size of the door. So we knew that and we knew we had to build a special crate because the way the airplane is built, it’s like this. So you have to have a certain height to get in, but you could then have more room once you’re in. So we had to build a crate where it was one height and then the top could be lifted to be another height and then move down to get out. All this took construction and we had to work with the airlines that were gonna fly at there, Qantas, to New Zealand. And I had to work with the first team, which was the carpenters to put this together.

02:22:42 - 02:23:40

So we put this wonderful crate together. And then I get a call from the airlines. “Oh, we may have made a mistake on the dimensions of the skid that it’ll go on to be moved around in the freight hanger. You may have to do the crate an inch less.” Oh my gosh. So I had to go to the carpentry team, which was Park District guys who had bought in. This was their giraffe. Now, they were building the crate. And I had to give them and tell them, “We may have to change the dimensions.” They were like, “That’s redoing the entire crate.” And I said, “Guys, we have to get this giraffe to New Zealand.” And so they bought in, “Okay. Fine.” They were, as it turns out, then we got another call, “No, we’re okay.” Fine. We didn’t have to rebuild the whole thing. So now comes the time to, and it was in this cold, cold weather that we had to make the flight.

02:23:40 - 02:24:10

So we have all these plan. There’s gonna be a police escort and so forth. But I knew that in cold weather, if the giraffe is on the truck, there’s a windshield factor. I don’t want this giraffe freezing on the way to the airport. So we worked it out with the carpenters that once we got the giraffe in the crate, we would build a shell around, heat it, and we wouldn’t have the windshield factor in for the giraffe.

02:24:10 - 02:24:21

So we were all set to go and we had practice where, and again, where should each keeper be, What doors would be closed, when you’re there, what’ll happen?

02:24:22 - 02:25:10

So we, and this is a young giraffe. He’s under 12 feet. It was like 10 feet tall, which was great. And we get the giraffe and I’d made this move of adult giraffes, a number of times through the building and how to do it. So I knew what we had to do and that is you use a false wall to push the animal, a stimulus that is moving the animal away from the stimulus. As the false wall comes, the animal moves, gets to the, you force the animal kind of woop, there’s only one way to go, into the crate, close the door. Now, you’re just using a winch and moving it onto the truck, very, very simple. So we do this and we do all this, the false wall. Everybody’s doing their job.

02:25:10 - 02:25:42

The giraffe goes into the crate, but he turns around and they don’t close the door fast enough. Oh no. And he muscles his way out. Now, he wants to go back to the barn, to his stall and we’re trying hold the wall, and he kicks the wall. Even though he is young, he kicks the wall apart. And we say, “Bring him back.” Now, I have to make this flight and I have no more wall. Luckily, we had the vets there and we had the carpenters ’cause they’re gonna build the false wall.

02:25:42 - 02:25:47

And I say, the vet, “Can we give him something?

02:25:47 - 02:26:52

Just take the edge off. We don’t want to knock him down or tranquilize him so he can’t move.” He says, “Yes, we can do that.” Now, when he broke this barrier, that was my A plan. I didn’t have a B plan, which you should always have. You gotta have a plan if your first plan doesn’t work. So the keepers who were younger and had not done a giraffe move, ’cause we’d choreographed it, are looking, “Oh my gosh, Mark, what are we gonna do?” As the boss, I didn’t have an answer ’cause I wasn’t quite sure what we were gonna do. But I couldn’t say to the keepers, “I don’t know.” Here I am, the boss. I can’t say I don’t know what to do. So I said, “It’ll be fine. No big deal. I got another way of doing it.” So I’m thinking all the time. So I went to the vet. I said, “Can we do this?” “Yes.” Went to the carpenters, “Can you rebuild this wall in such a way?” “Yes we can.” So we gave him a little shot.

02:26:54 - 02:27:26

Take the edge off. Take the edge off. And we slowly, with the rebuilt wall, walked him and we got him into the crate and we closed the door this time and my mouth was so dry. I was, but now, we’re done. And then as they say, the rest was kind of simple because once the giraffe’s there, we put them on the truck. They built the false wall for windshield. We got them to the airport, got them to Qantas. I mean, this was on a skid. So they were able to move them one, two, three.

02:27:26 - 02:28:13

We got the giraffe in the plane up the wall or the top of the crate, had more room, and the escort took him to New Zealand. And as it turned out, got there okay, and fathered many, many babies. So there, you always have to have a B plan. No matter how good your A plan is, stuff can happen. That’s the lesson. That is the lesson. So we also got a call with international transport again. We got a call from a zoo in Venezuela and they said, “We are,” the soldiers found a male spectacle bear, which is native to the country.

02:28:16 - 02:28:32

“You’re knowledgeable about where spectacle bears are.” Well, you were international studbook keeper. And that kind of played into it, and I’ll tell you that. So I knew where all the spectacle bears, but I knew that we had a surplus female ’cause we had done well with spectacle bears.

02:28:32 - 02:28:40

I said, “We can supply that.” And again, if you don’t think something’s a big deal, why would anybody else think it’s a big deal?

02:28:40 - 02:28:48

If you have lions born at the zoo and you don’t think it’s a big deal ’cause, “Yeah, lions are born.” Why would anybody else think it’s a big deal?

02:28:48 - 02:29:43

You gotta make it a big deal ’cause every birth is important, and not some are more important. They’re all important ’cause it shows your management skills. So I said to the director, Dr. Fisher at the time. I said, “We could put a bear in a crate and ship them.” But these people have no experience with medical stuff. They have no experience with hands on management. We should put a team together of a veterinarian, animal keeper, myself and we should take this bear there and make it more than just putting a bear in a crate.” And he agreed. So the zoo was, Venezuela was paying the way and it was called the Gustavo Rivera Zoo, named after a person. It was owned by the Marvin oil company.

02:29:43 - 02:30:53

And it was like a community zoo, but very nice. And we make arrangements. We take the bear. Now, when you transport an animal, it’s always last on, first off. You don’t pack the animal where it takes time to get it off. So that was our, what you always do with a shipment. And we were in the plane and as we landed in Venezuela with our bear in the hole, they put a announcement out and say, “Will the people who came with the bear, please report to the front cabin?” So that’s us. Of course, we’re gonna get off first and get our bear. So we get to the side and we’re in the breezeway, gonna go down a certain way to meet the, go in the car, go and get the bear. And there’s this man and woman standing next to us and the woman says, “Are you the people with the bear?” And I said, “Yes, we are.” She said, “Was there a bear really on our flight?” I said, “Yes.” And I explained who we are.

02:30:53 - 02:31:50

And she said, “Can my husband,” who’s just standing there, “Can we see the bear?” And I said, “Well, we’re going down with the airlines. It’s up to the airlines. We have to get it out.” She said, “Oh, okay. But there was a bear on the flight?” “Yes.” She said, “Well, we’d like to see it if possible.” I said, “No problem.” And he’s just standing there. And he says, “Oh,” all of a sudden, he goes, “Oh, excuse me, let me introduce myself. I’m Michael Skol, the American ambassador to Venezuela.” Oh. (laughing) And I went, “Oh my gosh, Mr. Ambassador,” obviously going the same way we are. He wasn’t going through customs. And we get downstairs. And because it was a big conservation thing, the entire Venezuelan press corps is out to take pictures. And their want the, “We wanna see the bear.” And they’re taking all kinds of photos. And the people from the Gustavo Rivera Zoo, who we had worked with came up, “Oh, Mark, were very excited.

02:31:50 - 02:32:38

The bear is here. This is wonderful.” And they said, “This is such a big conservation effort that the zoo is name for the chief financial officer of the Marvin oil company, Gustavo Rivera, it’s named after him. And he doesn’t come out to see these things, but he has made a special trip ’cause of this conservation move to see the bear. And I want you to meet,” with big flourish, “Gustavo Rivera,” like it’s a big deal, well, I guess it was. And I said to him, “Well, thank you very much. And I’d like you to meet the American ambassador to Venezuela.” And they thought this really is an important shipment. Oh yeah. But the idea was we got the bear there okay. Had to follow all the protocols and the paperwork.

02:32:38 - 02:33:16

And it was a lot of work, but because it was so important, the ambassador being there was in the side, of course. But it was, we made sure that the animal was out first, in last, all the things that we had to do. And those were two big moves literally that we did at the zoo which was I was very proud of. Even just the duration of those flights is something to be concerned about. But I can’t help but thinking about the use of drugs that affect the catching restraint skills, I mean, they’re common tools today.

02:33:16 - 02:33:18

Are some of these skills being lost?

02:33:18 - 02:34:37

Well, I think the skills that are being lost because you’re using tranquilizer and I’d say even more importantly, ’cause of the training aspects that are now happening, not only that marine mammal people were using for a very long time, but that now zoo people are using. The training aspects of this are very, very important. So before, when we might have to lasso an animal or do some very stressful things on the animal or even after that, tranquilize an animal, now, you train the animals ideally to go into the crate for transport and then it’s really no big deal. You don’t have to herd a giraffe in and make sure the door is closed. You can train them. And when we moved animals to make, the large mammal house was turned into the, which was one of the last projects I did, which was turned into the Regenstein African Journey. The Regenstein family was very, very supportive and always has been of Lincoln Park Zoo. Whether it be the father, Joe Regenstein who was the patriarch or now his daughter, Susan Regenstein, who has helped Lincoln Park Zoo in such a big way.

02:34:37 - 02:35:27

They put so many buildings together and they’ve been very generous support. Well, when this was occurring, we wanted to make sure that all of the things that we were doing were correct. And when it came time to move, we had to move rhinoceros. Well, they, the keepers would practice for months and months and months to get them into the crate. And then once into the crate, to close the door halfway, then to close the door all the way. And then ultimately, no big deal. And then you go move them and they don’t think anything of it ’cause they’re used to it and that, don’t have to rodeo, you don’t have to tranquilize. You can do it in a much nor, and that’s been more of what’s happened. And so when someone said to me, “Wow, you move those rhinos in the crate in just 15 minutes.

02:35:27 - 02:35:56

That’s great.” I said, “You don’t understand. It took four months of work to get to 15 minutes.” Yeah. Right, right. That’s the key that it’s gone from the old fashioned way of using a lot of restraints to, I think, training now, whether it’s for blood draws, to have a gorilla reach his arm out and you don’t have to tranquilize them, you can just draw the blood, and that kind of thing. So that’s where I think it’s this.

02:35:56 - 02:36:00

So you’re referring to some of the more potentially dangerous handling?

02:36:00 - 02:36:24

Yeah. You don’t have to. It’s through training that you’re able to elicit these behaviors now, which is less stressful on the keepers, less stressful on the animals and as very much more positive. Good all the way around. So speaking of trainers or keepers, certain keeper skills are eroding because fewer animals are involved in transports between zoos.

02:36:24 - 02:36:26

What do you think the consequences of that are?

02:36:26 - 02:36:59

Well, I think when, if you don’t use a skill, it tends to get lost. When you don’t have historical institutional memory, and a good example is right now, I think for the better, but there’s consequences of every decision for the, breeding recommendations are made for certain species. Maybe for a tiger, they’re not made at one zoo often, just when they’re needed.

02:36:59 - 02:37:10

Well then, the skill of knowing what is good maternal behavior, what should you do if an animal is acting a certain way, how do you respond to that?

02:37:10 - 02:38:04

You have people who may not have only in their career had one or two births that they’re been involved with, not 12 or 14. So that institutional memory is not necessarily there on what to do. So certain times, if you don’t have to use a skill for good or bad, it’s lost. And some of that I think is not necessarily the capture stuff, but I think the ability to work and understand what’s going on with the animals under certain situations, especially if it has to do with reproduction. Yeah. Yeah. Good point. Good point. And speaking of handling animals, one of the things you mentioned at one point was that Marlin Perkins taught you the animal handling of a camel. Can you briefly tell me about that? That’s interesting.

02:38:04 - 02:38:53

Well, I think sometimes you use the things you learn and you put it in your back pocket, like old keeper skills that might work. I was watching Marlin Perkins show, “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” and he was out in the outback, and they roped a camel, a wild camel. Geez. And they ran around the camel with a rope and pulled and of course, its legs went down and they were able to do whatever they were gonna do and then released the camel. And I thought about that and always stuck with me. And then we had a camel where we had to move him from one pen to another, but he wouldn’t move. And they were talking about having to tranquilize him. They couldn’t force him. Something was going on, he didn’t wanna go from one yard to the other.

02:38:53 - 02:39:43

And I thought about it and I said, “I know how we can move this animal.” And I said, “We’re gonna rope him and we’re gonna do this.” And they looked at me like, “Are you nuts?” I said, “I’ve seen it done.” All be it from Marlin, but I saw that it worked. And the principle was so good and it was a bit stressful, but not terrible to the animal. And I roped the animal, ran around, the legs went down, we put the animal on a tarp, we had a whole bunch of keepers, and we moved them from one yard to the other. And then we took off the rope. And there we were and they went, “Oh my gosh.” That worked. Yeah. So you never know where you’re gonna get an idea from. Yeah. Well you do have that rope handling experience.

02:39:43 - 02:39:55

I did have that rope handling experience. (interviewer laughs) I was interested too. You mentioned the ambassador to Venezuela. In 1982, you had the opportunity to meet with His Royal Highness, Prince Phillip.

02:39:55 - 02:39:56

How did that happen?

02:39:56 - 02:40:54

Well, the zoo sometimes, in any zoo, sometimes attracts personalities and people who are famous for one reason or another. And Lincoln Park had its share of people who visited the zoo. But the one that stands out, which was just interesting was through a large donor. His Royal Highness was gonna come to Chicago and was gonna be honored for something. And this donor, because of her large donations, wanted him to come to the zoo and make some statement about conservation, which he was happy to do. And it was at the Great Ape House. And we literally had to repaint the building and make sure everything was wonderful. Now, my father was born in London as a young boy and so he still have relatives there.

02:40:54 - 02:41:51

And I thought, “How wonderful, I wanna be able to tell my relatives I met royalty,” just for the fun of it. And when he was going to be in the building, doing the tour and everything was pretty much scheduled, all his time. I said to Dr. Fisher, the director, I said, “When he leaves, I’d like to be at the gate and then just to be introduced.” It was all timed out. He said, “Yeah, okay, fine.” And he did his tour and he left the building and we shook hands and I was introduced. So that was my brush with royalty. And I was able to tell the relatives in England that I had met His Royal Highness Prince Phillip, which was fun. Unfortunately, it was before selfies. (laughs) It was before selfies. You’re absolutely right.

02:41:51 - 02:42:04

And no picture was taken of us together, but I have the memory. Yeah. Yeah. Wonderful. Wonderful. So your career moves on. 1996, you’re become curator of large mammals and carnivores.

02:42:04 - 02:42:08

So how did your position change and how did this all come about?

02:42:08 - 02:43:05

Well, what happened again, the zoo was evolving and the zoo decided that they would have some division of the mammal section and that primates would kind of be a separate discipline, a curator of primates, as opposed to a curator of mammals that everything would be under. And when they did that, they hired a curator of primates. And so my job responsibilities changed and essentially became a new title. But most of the responsibilities were very much similar except with a more limited scope of the collection. So it was called, and there were various iterations of that as they experiment with certain things. At one time, I was head of the whole department. It was like a university thing. Every curator would take a year shot at it.

02:43:05 - 02:43:22

And other times, you were called the chairman of the depart, they had different iterations, but essentially, your job responsibilities were the same. The titles changed, but it had not as much scope of all the mammals in the zoo. I gotcha.

02:43:22 - 02:43:34

So with that in mind, can you talk about some details about the staff and your interaction with them especially for this major move of the animals in the large mammal building for the renovation?

02:43:34 - 02:44:34

I mean, that’s a huge effort again. Well, that was a wonderful learning experience. When the large mammal house, that was built in 82, was going to be renovated, essentially gutted inside to make the Regenstein African Journey building with all new animals, focus on Africa, we had to, before construction could start, we had to move all of the giraffes, all of the rhinoceros, the elephants, pygmy hippopotamus, everything had to be moved out of the building. And it was probably the largest move ever made, maybe pound for pound, in the history of the zoo. Wow. And I knew that we had to get this right the first time. And it was really a staff effort. And we had a lot of meetings, a lot of planning, a lot of training.

02:44:34 - 02:45:12

And you’re providing oversight. Yeah. I mean, I always joked and said, “I was there.” It’s not like I did the three months of training. The keepers did the heavy lifting on this, but we had the oversight to try and make sure everything was going well. When we moved our giraffes, it was a choreographed move, not like the New Zealand thing where we had to build a chute. And every time they went through a certain area, a door was closed so they couldn’t back up. We didn’t harass them. Ultimately, they got into the trucks and they drove away. And so it was really a, and we used different disciplines, not just the animal keepers.

02:45:12 - 02:46:12

We had people from the operations crew who would man the forklifts to get the crate from the dock down to the truck. And so we just had a lot of people that managed this and it really was a giant team effort coordinated. My senior person who was running it for me was Dee Schwartz, who was the lead collection manager, head keeper for the building who was running all of this. And she and her team of people really worked yeoman hours to do that. But I think the lesson there is, it’s putting together the team, having a plan, working with them. We sent these animals to zoos all over the United States to house while this construction was going on. No animal keeper was injured, no animal was injured. Everybody got where they were supposed to go.

02:46:12 - 02:46:27

And it was really a team effort. And I couldn’t thank those people enough for, in a sense, making me look good. But for the whole project being successful. Yeah. No, it, huge effort.

02:46:30 - 02:46:31

Let’s see. What was it?

02:46:32 - 02:46:52

This changing a little bit, but this certainly affects you in this newer position. During the late 1960s, early 70s, the face of Americans zoos are changing. So between things like federal legislation and burgeoning interest in animals and endangered species, zoos had to adapt to survive.

02:46:52 - 02:46:57

How did Lincoln Park Zoo change and continue to respond to such pressure?

02:46:57 - 02:48:20

Well, I think that Lincoln Park, and I’d like to say a number of zoos, we weren’t so unique, but I think Lincoln Park and the staff at the zoo understood what was going on and the need to get with the times, and to make sure that all the rules and regulations were followed so we could continue to progress forward in a positive manner. And in some of these things, we weren’t, the people who made the decision, these were laws, federal laws that now had to be adhered to. And whether they be for transport or whether they be for, well, a lot had to do with transport or the getting of permits for endangered species or what you had to do, if that was, we realized, you gotta have good paperwork. You have to have people who can understand how to do this. And you had to push forward to be able to do it and not worry so much like, “Well, we used to do it this way, but now we can’t,” sour grapes. It’s like, that’s the way it is. Let’s move forward. So I think our attitude of we do what we need to do to get things done was not only our attitude, but I think was the attitude of the number of zoos in the United States.

02:48:20 - 02:49:24

I know that there was one gentleman who used to import animals, and when CITEs came and some of these things, he said, “Well, I don’t wanna do all that paperwork. I’m just not gonna do it anymore.” Which was his prerogative. But if you wanted to continue in a certain vein, you had to adhere strictly and be professional to the rules. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s somewhat the unfortunate in nature, but hopefully, this new legislation and increased interest in animal welfare for instance is part of getting better and you have to play by the rules. Yeah. And I think all of those came into play, animal welfare, obviously, we were aware and were touched upon in certain ways, not as much as others were. But with knowing that, again, the welfare of the animals is, under your charge is always gonna potentially be challenged. And you have to be able to show that you’re doing a professional job at a high level of maintaining the collection that you have the responsibility to do.

02:49:24 - 02:49:38

Yeah. Yeah. Well said. So moving on, your final position before you retired, you become the Abra Prentice Wilkin Curator of Large Mammals as an endowed chair.

02:49:38 - 02:49:42

Is this a newer position or a continuation of your previous job?

02:49:43 - 02:51:40

Well, I think what had happened was that there was, looking at the position maybe a bit differently and trying to use some development ideas for assisting the zoo. They went to Abra Prentice Wilkin who was a life member of the board and a big supporter of Lincoln Park Zoo and who I’d known through my years at the zoo, but was, cared about the zoo a lot. And they had approached her and said, “We would like to have this position. We’d like Mark Rosenthal to have this chair.” And I think she felt, obviously felt good enough about me as a professional and about this position that she felt, “Yes, I would be happy to sponsor that position with Mark being the person.” So I became the Abra Prentice Wilkin chair, or a curator of large mammals. And the responsibilities were somewhat the same, but it was a brand new title that had been a first for Lincoln Park Zoo, was always very grateful for her support and for the support of the zoo that she gave. That was real important to me personally. And it just was a nice way in a way of finishing the career. And I will add as a post script that when I left Lincoln Park Zoo and retired in 2003, Abra Wilkin felt strong enough that she endowed enough money.

02:51:40 - 02:51:59

She asked me what I felt was something that was needed if I could do something for the zoo. And I always felt that the professional development, the professional growth of the animal keepers was so very important because they’re the backbone of the animal management of the zoo.

02:52:00 - 02:52:03

Is there ever gonna be enough money to get them to the right conference?

02:52:03 - 02:53:23

To learn, or we talk to visit the other zoos to get that exposure to these professional things. And we talked about it and I think she felt that it was a good idea. And she put money aside to the Lincoln Park Zoo for the Mark Rosenthal Keeper Fund, which I will always be grateful to her for that visionary thing and seeing what I thought could happen that I couldn’t make happen, but she could. And there is now this fund that allows keepers to travel. They have to report their findings and they have to be professional, but that was a very nice thing also at the end of my career at the zoo to be able to do something for a keeper staff from now until forever, which is the nice thing, either about a chair or about one of these kind of funds that keeps going. So from that standpoint, the job essentially was the same. My last responsibilities were the finishing of, ’cause ultimately, we finished the Regenstein African journey, which beautiful building. Some of the ideas I had seen at other zoos, pygmy hippos at the Singapore Zoo, tilapia fish with pygmy hippos.

02:53:23 - 02:54:06

All of those things we were able to incorporate within that building, not everything of course, but a lot of these different ideas that have been seen that were positive because of the Regenstein African Journey being built, we were able to put those into effect. So that was a nice way to end the career with really a very spectacular building. Great insight as far as you identifying professional development of the training staff is needing the support. It’s something I think is obviously well needed throughout the community. And for you to identify that and her to back it up. Oh no, no. It’s wonderful. Absolutely a wonderful thing.

02:54:06 - 02:54:22

And as I say, somebody had to say, “I think this is needed.” Someone else had to say, “I think it’s a great idea and I think we can make it happen.” Yeah. So this is an interesting thing. You’ve held now five different positions at Lincoln Park Zoo.

02:54:22 - 02:54:26

Just curious, did you ever think of leaving Lincoln Park Zoo and going somewhere else?

02:54:27 - 02:55:18

I think, at times, kind of yes. But the pleasant’s problem as we would say is that the zoo was always doing some very dramatic, dynamic things. The building was constantly ongoing with Lester Fisher started, and I was always involved because a lot of it was the mammals, not all, but a lot of it was. And so here I am, I’m doing more things than zoo directors in their entire career are doing. So it was, of course, I had my family here. There were other reasons. But still, the job was so fulfilling that, and I was doing some, it wasn’t just day to day to day things that’s always the same. There was a lot of things going on.

02:55:18 - 02:56:11

So I think that was some of the things that stopped me in a way, in a good way, I think, from going somewhere else, but lending my expertise to that kind of job responsibility and continuing to wanna do it at Lincoln Park. Yeah. I have spent my whole career at Lincoln Park Zoo, but I think it was varied enough. So it wasn’t a boring time. Yeah. Yeah. Always challenged, but sounds like you always rose to the occasion, so. So this is pretty not real fair and I don’t wanna need the whole litany, but I’m interested in high points and low points in your career at Lincoln Park Zoo. Well, I think high points certainly are from the animal standpoint, are when the gorilla was born. That was a first that was, when the elephant was born.

02:56:14 - 02:57:30

These are forgive the pun, big deals. When we received the koalas that was again, took a long time to get in a lot of people to make happen. Some of those, when we put together unique things with the African Journey building, that was a high point. It was a major, major building that was brand new, as opposed to renovating the Lion House for lions. They were all exciting, but those were I think, high points. And again, when you’d see staff go out to other zoos that you had mentored and be successful, that also was a high point. And again, because we’ve talked about it, but the ability to have a fund of the Mark Rosenthal travel fund that would bring, continue to give keepers the ability to learn, to me was a lasting legacy that someone was able to provide, that Abra Wilkin was able to provide. But that’s something that meant a lot to me and embodied, I think, a lot of what I felt about I started as an animal keeper.

02:57:30 - 02:58:34

So this way, in order to build that base to do what needed to get done so they could do a better job. Those were high points. I think low points at the zoo were when you couldn’t reach certain staff members to do the best job they could. You felt that somehow you were not doing as much as you could to reach them. Sometimes they were unreachable, but you, that you wanted to do that for everyone. I think I had one misfortunate thing that was a low point that we brought a horse in to the farm in the zoo that I knew wasn’t medically sound, or I felt that. I wasn’t a vet, but it had proved that I was correct. And ultimately, I had to put the horse down on my own, not on my own, but I was the one responsible for putting the horse, euthanizing the horse as opposed to anybody else.

02:58:34 - 02:59:19

And here I’m thinking, “Gee, I told them they shouldn’t get the horse and now, I gotta do this.” And it was very difficult kind of thing, the circumstances for doing it. So that was kind of a low point for me from the animal management standpoint. But for the most part, it was pretty good. Can’t complain. Yeah. Sounds good. It’s, and the examples you give are not unheard of. It’s challenge of working with certain people and the animals, certainly tough decisions have to be made. Another change intact here, you worked with Smithsonian on a major education program involving zoo management.

02:59:19 - 02:59:22

How’d that come about? And what was your role?

02:59:22 - 03:00:24

I think it goes back to the idea of training people to do a better job, giving them the information to do a better job. And this Smithsonian through the National Zoo had a program of zoo management. They would go out and they would teach a month long zoo management class around the world, different parts of the world. Wow. And I was asked with my mammal expertise, if I would be part of a team going to China. And I went to Shanghai, China for a month. And I taught along with a bird person and a vet and so forth, animal management to people throughout China that came to the Shanghai Zoo. Beyond a wonderful experience aside from meeting people and just seeing a brand new place, and how to deal with people and get them to understand new ideas.

03:00:24 - 03:01:19

There was a lot of things going on. And because, I guess, I didn’t screw up too much in doing it, the next year, they asked me to lead a team to Mexico, to Guadalajara to do the same thing. So again, we did that. And then the next year, they asked me to lead a team back to China. And I never thought I’d go back to China more than one time, but here I was, going back again in a teaching role. And it was a wonderful thing to get all these people. So having been there, meeting the players, I knew that the people at Shanghai were going to be getting a gorilla from Europe. But I knew they had no gorilla experience ’cause I had been there.

03:01:19 - 03:02:38

And the only organization in China that had gorilla experience was the Beijing Zoo who had a pair of gorillas. So I talked to the people at Lincoln Park and sold them on the idea, again, learning, learning, learning that if we could bring the vet from the Shanghai Zoo and the director, of course, as the head and a keeper and a translator to learn more about our gorilla management, which we did all the time, what a wonderful teaching thing. So because Beijing was the political capital, we felt it important, because they had gorillas too, to bring them also. So we extended an invitation of both zoos. They both sent delegations to Lincoln Park to learn. We hosted them. I think it was for a week. And it was wonderful. They got so much, again, in a short amount of time, they saw gorillas tranquilized and they talked to our vets and talked to the keeper staff and they had an immersive class in gorilla management, which was, again, a high point for me of being able to set this up, to get these guys the information that we had and it goes back.

03:02:38 - 03:03:24

And I’ll say one thing with sharing information. Early in my career, Dennis Merritt, then the curator at the zoo who I worked for for a number of years was very big about his mantra about publishing and sharing the information that you have. And Dennis was one of my mentors. And Dennis believed that you gotta, if you got the information, you should share it. So early on in my career, he said, “You’re gonna publish and I’m gonna help you the first time. And then you’re gonna be on your own.” And we published a paper together. And I was a big believer in doing that. Throughout my career, I’ve published a lot of papers.

03:03:24 - 03:04:04

But that was an important step from someone mentoring me and teaching me to say, “This is important. And this is why it’s important.” And I’ve shared that with other people. Everybody’s not gonna publish, I get it. But you could give a talk at a thing. You can do a presentation on a board. You don’t have to get in front. And my other quick story is Bill Braker, the director of the Shedd Aquarium when I gave my very first national speech presentation before the American Zoo Association. And I was really nervous ’cause here, I’m talking to all these people who are directors and they’re so important and who am I? I’m nobody.

03:04:04 - 03:05:22

And he said to me, “Remember, you know more about your subject matter than any of these people do ’cause you’ve studied that.” And he introduced me. He said, “Here’s the dead end kid from Chicago.” Broke the ice. And I gave my first major presentation. But the point is that because of Dennis’ mentoring, that part of publishing, not because you had to, because it was what you should be doing was so very important. And I’ve tried to instill that in people, and some will do it, and some won’t. But it’s one very basic thing I thought was always very important about getting the word out and sharing like we did our information on the gorillas with people who needed that information. And I had one lady, I was at an international conference and I was meeting people and I said this, “Oh, what’s your name?” I said, “My name is mark Rosenthal.” And she said, “Oh my gosh, I’ve read your paper and so and so and so and so.” And I said, “You did? Oh wow, that’s cool.” So the fact that’s some would actually read what you write and feel it had some importance. Sure. Sure. I love the collaborative nature of the zoological community that you’ve described here for the last few minutes.

03:05:23 - 03:05:27

I wonder if you talk about your consultation with the Jakarta Zoo and gorillas?

03:05:27 - 03:07:16

Well, I think what happens is sometimes, you have a degree of expertise in a subject matter that people actually recognize. And Howletts Zoo Park who was one of the premier gorilla facilities in England and in Europe had loaned four male gorillas to the Jakarta Zoo. And they had, Jakarta Zoo had sent a keeper to Howletts for a year to learn about gorilla management and how to do it. And then they had built a gorilla facility, somewhat like Howletts but yet different and had put it together. And Howletts said, they called me, and they said, “We would like you as one of two experts, one guy in Europe and you, ’cause of the work done at Lincoln Park Zoo, we would like you to go to Jakarta and give us your assessment of this place. Where is it positive or is it negative? What’s going on?” And I thought that was a very big endorsement of Lincoln Park Zoo and its work with gorillas, myself and the work with gorillas that, and I was able to go there and give them an, they built a world class facility for the gorillas and give them directly to Howletts, give them an assessment of what was going on. So it’s nice when work you’ve done in your career is rewarded by people feeling you have some worth to give them the benefit of your knowledge. Yeah, it’s acknowledge right there. Boom.

03:07:16 - 03:07:44

You’re one of the big players here. I’d never seen the Jakarta Zoo. I’d never been, again, in seeing what’s out there, I had never been to that part of the world to experience the pluses and the minuses of what the zoo had to offer, Komodo dragons and all kinds of things. Cool. Cool. Cool visit. Speaking of international, you’ve often shared stories and articles of Africa in many of its best known and often, endangered animals.

03:07:44 - 03:07:49

I’m just curious, what is your strong interest in Africa and its wildlife?

03:07:49 - 03:08:55

Well, I think that, number one, the wild is shrinking in a lot of places all over the world. And whether it’s on land or water, there’s a lot of things going on that people have to be aware of. And I think zoos have to take a leading step in being, showing a leadership role in conservation and what’s going on in the wild. For many years, zoo’s had the reputation of taking from the wild. And I think now, what zoos should be doing is not only, there’s a trite phrase, which is true, the animals in the zoo are, but ambassadors of those in the wild. And in fact, they are ’cause that’s are people are seeing them. But at the same time, you have the wild, which is shrinking. And Africa is one of the places that I’ve had exposure to in bringing people to see it ’cause the zoo had a travel program, but I was very fortunate to go a number of times.

03:08:55 - 03:10:04

And I think the wildlife in Africa, as opposed to the Amazon or some other places is so much more readily seen and very heavy on mammals and so forth. So it was always a place that I thought was really wondrous. I mean, it was so different from anything here in the United States. And I always just felt so very positive going over there. But knowing that one had to try and build in programs more and more and more that zoo should be doing to help those animals in the wild. I thought that one of the things that Minnesota Zoo did many years ago was to have a, adopt a national park program. And I don’t know why more zoos don’t do it, but it was such a positive thing for helping these national parks, which protect the animals to be able to do that. So Africa’s one of those places I think zoos can make a difference.

03:10:04 - 03:10:09

Obviously, there are other places too, but that’s just one. Yeah. Yeah.

03:10:09 - 03:10:14

So this is a question probably asked a number of times, but do you have a favorite animal?

03:10:14 - 03:11:03

Not really. I guess I would say I certainly have had an affinity toward elephants. I’ve had some good elephant buddies over the years. I’ve had some great apes, gorillas that seemed to think I was a pretty nice guy. And in my time as curator and the curatorial role has changed over the years, I have been able to have not only as a keeper, hands on experience, but as they grew older and I grew older to still maintain that relationship. At one point in time, you gotta walk away ’cause they’re getting pretty big. But the gorillas, I think the great apes, certainly the gorillas were one and the elephants, but mammals have always been my, part of my favorites. Yeah. Yeah.

03:11:03 - 03:11:15

So you’ve been involved in a lot of acquisitions, transfers and everything, what animal species would you consider to be the most significant that you acquired in your career?

03:11:15 - 03:12:29

Well, from the standpoint of being selfish about it, the elephant shrews that took me many years to find a person who actually could catch these little guys and ship them in the correct manner. So they arrived alive and in good condition to the Lincoln Park Zoo. They were always been, I’ve always been kind of, I love small mammals. And so the elephant shrews were one of those, the fact that I was able to acquire them. And the other was that when we brought lions in to Lincoln Park Zoo, we wanted to work very long and hard to make sure that the animals we brought in were known lineage animals, were not taken from the wild, and would assist the United States population. I worked a year to find a location that did those things. So bringing the animals from the Kapama Game Reserve, which we did, which helped the United States population was a very rewarding thing.

03:12:29 - 03:12:37

And again, I would have calls from other zoos, “Oh, you got animals from Kapama. How are they?

03:12:37 - 03:12:56

Good guys? Is it right?” “Yes. I’ve been there. I’ve talked to the people. I think it’s worthwhile.” Obviously, you’re not gonna get every lion from there, but that was very rewarding, having found the place, having worked for that and then being able to bring them back to the United States. Being successful with it. Yup. Yeah. Yeah.

03:12:56 - 03:13:02

So speaking of lions, can you tell us about the handling of the midnight escape of the lions and lessons learned?

03:13:02 - 03:13:31

Well, I think the thing of course, as we’ve talked about that in animal escapes, you hopefully have a protocol that you’re dealing with to handle these kind of things. And communication is always gonna be vastly important. And to go over it quickly, essentially I get a call and sometimes there’s keeper errors. And I get a call from the policeman who was at the zoo at midnight, says the lions are out.

03:13:31 - 03:13:32

And I said, “What does that mean?

03:13:32 - 03:13:47

Out in the building or out on the grounds?” “No, out in the building.” I said, “Okay, then I think we can have time to contain.” And that’s the other thing in an escape situation is can you contain the situation?

03:13:47 - 03:14:42

If you can contain the situation, you have time to work on things and understand and move resources where you need to move them. When a situation is very fluid, it’s a lot more difficult. So they were in the building, they were contained. So I got there real quick. And of course, all the police were there as they should be ’cause the policeman had to call his bosses. And I immediately called my director, Dr. Fisher on the phone to tell him I was here and here’s what was going on, but his line was busy. So I had to contain the situation, know what was going on. So I went with the policeman, he had a shotgun, God forbid, but I had a fire extinguisher, which I felt was better because it makes a noise and it has this big white thing.

03:14:43 - 03:14:57

And so we walked behind the scenes and there were the lions out and, (imitates fire extinguisher hissing) oh, they went, stood back. So I knew what was going on. Went back. I called some keepers ’cause I needed assistance. I couldn’t do it on my own.

03:14:57 - 03:15:04

And Dr. Fisher comes into the building ’cause he lived across the street and he wanna know what’s going on, why wasn’t he called?

03:15:04 - 03:16:10

I said, “Well, I tried to call you, but your line was busy. So here’s the situation as I’ve now got it under control. But here’s where we are.” He said, “Okay, fine.” And what had happened was when the lions got out and the police called, it was on the police radio and reporters listened to the scanners. And when they heard lions loose at the zoo, they called Dr. Fisher right away at his home and said, “We have a report of lions loose at the zoo. Can you comment?” And he said, “Well, I’m sure if they were loose, my staff would call me,” which I was trying to do, “and they would let me know.” And he hung up and he went right to the zoo and discovered. And ultimately, the lions were always going back to their cage. They didn’t wanna be out. They wanted to be, they were always in a back area. But the minute they went back into their cage, I, with the police officer, we were alerted with walkie talkies, ran back. Somebody had forgot to lock a lock and we quickly closed the door. The police officer used his handcuffs and we locked it, secured it.

03:16:10 - 03:16:48

Then we could, everything was contained. So the idea’s I think lessons learned is again, same thing. When there’s an emergency, you gotta have protocols, you gotta know what you’re doing, you have to make sure that you can contain the situation, get good as much good communication as you can. We were very fortunate no one was hurt. But it was, and you never know when an emergency is gonna happen. I didn’t expect anything to happen at midnight, but it did. Yeah. Well the thing I hear several times today is your cool head. You assess the situation, take it easy, don’t panic, and you have emergency procedures in place.

03:16:48 - 03:17:13

“Here’s what we do,” so. Yeah. But that’s not to say that your adrenaline is not going sky high because this is a stress situation, but you have to be the cool person or at least the person that’s kind of keeping, calming things ’cause people are gonna be a little nuts in a situation like that. So I gotta ask you, you talked earlier about your interest in snakes and I’ve heard that you’ve been on snake hunts.

03:17:13 - 03:17:16

How does this happen from a mammal guy?

03:17:16 - 03:17:53

Well, I think that it’s relationships. I was on the, Marlin Perkins, when he was director of Lincoln Park Zoo, used to go on snake hunts. Now, probably taking animals out of the wild like that would not be the correct thing to do. But at the time, that’s what was going on. And when Eddie Almandarz, then curator of reptiles was following in the footsteps of Marlin and they were getting some specimens in the United States. And I said, “I would like to go on a snake hunt and I will be the person who records this.” So I took pictures, video. Nice. Stills of what was going on.

03:17:53 - 03:18:17

And we were able to tell the story to people about the hunt and what was going on. So I was brought on as expedition photographer, not for my skills in snake handling, absolutely not. Well, you were still there. (laughs) Another significant birth that we really haven’t touched on is you had an elephant birth in 1990.

03:18:17 - 03:18:18

Can you talk about that?

03:18:18 - 03:19:01

The, one of the big deals was the elephant birth and we didn’t have a male, but we, again, this is long term planning. You’d never know what’ll happen. We brought a female elephant to the Springfield Missouri Zoo to meet a male, Onyx, who was a breeding male. We left her there, I think for a year, a little less. And she was impregnated. We found out that she was indeed pregnant. We moved her when you know it was early. So there was no stress. She knew the people. We moved her back to Lincoln Park Zoo, and we had a 20-month that could be 20, 22 month gestation.

03:19:04 - 03:19:49

And literally at the end, we had all kinds of video cameras to record the birth. We, not knowing when it would occur. And we had volunteers every night watching the monitor, every night. And of course, after X number of months, they’re coming in and going, “Mark, what’s the deal?” And I would have to boost them up and I said, “Listen, this is like the lottery. You never know, tonight could be the night and you’re gonna be here.” That lasted a couple of more weeks of encouragement. But ultimately, in 1990, Bozie, the elephant gave birth. And it was a very emotional thing. I bet.

03:19:49 - 03:20:30

As it turns out, I happen to be at one of those teaching assignments for this Smithsonian, I was out of the country and I missed the birth. Oh geez. But the important thing there, I think is that people said to me, “Mark, you must feel bad that you missed the birth.” And I said, “Well, yeah, I feel bad.” ‘Cause we had a lot of work in this and Dr. Fisher was micromanaging this as he should, and making sure everything was in ready to go. And we, Tom Meehan and myself were keeping him on the details and I missed the birth. I said, “But here’s what’s the important thing of this, they didn’t need me.” They are. They were so well trained, the keepers of what they had to do, what their role was.

03:20:30 - 03:20:32

What could happen in this instance?

03:20:32 - 03:20:33

What would happen if this happened?

03:20:33 - 03:20:54

They didn’t need me. And I was proudest of that That the team was so well trained that they could do it without me. They didn’t need anybody leaning over their shoulder on what to do. So from the standpoint that I missed it, I feel bad. But from the standpoint of I didn’t have to be there, that was a good deal. Yeah. Very good. Very good.

03:20:54 - 03:21:02

So in all your long years at Lincoln Park Zoo, is there anything that you would hope to accomplish, but were unable to finish?

03:21:02 - 03:21:41

The only thing that I wanted to do at Lincoln Park Zoo and I never had the opportunity and I tried was to build an insect pavilion, to build a butterfly aviary, ’cause I knew it was dramatic. I’d seen them around the world, again, visiting. And I knew that it was one part of the zoo that we didn’t do. The Cincinnati Zoo built a whole insect building. They were the first in the United States. I had seen leaf cutting ants, which we had at Lincoln Park Zoo. That was, I saw them at the Frankfurt Zoo. It was mesmerizing. It was fabulous.

03:21:41 - 03:22:24

I knew I had to have leaf cutting ants and I did put an exhibit together for that, not the one I wanted to because that would’ve, using their behaviors, I knew what we could have done, but we had that. At the same time, I just knew that a butterfly place would’ve been just a wonderful thing. But it wasn’t meant to be. So that was something I always wanna do, but could never accomplish. Yeah. I guess there’s always gonna be something that just not enough time or whatever, you know. Curious about your thoughts on trends in zoos in the last quarter century. There’s been a drastic reduction of animal species for instance at Lincoln Park Zoo and elsewhere.

03:22:26 - 03:22:27

What do you think is going on?

03:22:27 - 03:23:04

Well, I think part of it is the idea of, and again, so many things I’m saying are not necessarily new, but I think the idea of a postage stamp, one of this, one of this, two of these, one of these has moved past. And now, zoos are trying to do things about concentrating with certain animals, having backups, having some depth to the collection. If you have a pair of gazelle’s and they breed, it’s not necessarily that you have an in depth program.

03:23:04 - 03:23:07

Do you have other genetic lines that you’re looking at?

03:23:07 - 03:23:09

Who are you in partnership with?

03:23:09 - 03:23:13

What’s the relationship with three or four zoos?

03:23:13 - 03:23:38

So I think that those things have changed over the years, that in Lincoln Park was the same. There should be less species, but more concentration on what you do with those species. Do you have to show every cat in the world? Maybe not. Maybe you show one or two or three.

03:23:38 - 03:23:49

You don’t have to have, your reputation doesn’t depend on, “We have the most rattlesnakes species of any zoo in the world.” So what?

03:23:49 - 03:23:51

What are you accomplishing?

03:23:51 - 03:24:24

If you’re dealing with certain number and you’re doing a good job and you have ex situ in the zoo, and outside of the zoo and, or ex situ, and then in situ in the wilds, you’re doing things, that combination is probably the best thing. So I think Lincoln Park as other zoos felt it was necessary to make sure that their collection was more comprehensive as opposed to being the biggest in the world or having the most species. Yeah. That’s good.

03:24:24 - 03:24:33

This is kind of a loaded question, but this is one person’s opinion, but how do you feel about zoos especially those in colder climates caring for elephants?

03:24:33 - 03:26:24

I think the answer is this, whatever you do with any species, if you can give that animal what it needs in a first class manner, then, and meeting its needs, not minimally, but in broader terms, okay. But you gotta give it all those things. I’ve had people say to me, “Don’t you think it’s bad that the zoo in Singapore has polar bears?” Well, at one level you say, sure, because it’s a very warm climate, but I know that bears in the wild, in the hot summer days up in Churchill, in the hot summer days, not everyday, they’ll dig into the permafrost to cool themselves off because it’s not always cold. So the thing is if a polar bear needs a certain environment and you can provide it, whether it’s in Singapore where they have a world class polar bear exhibit, or it’s somewhere else in Albuquerque, but you gotta give the animal what they need. You can’t skimp on that. That’s the important thing. It’s more what you do than what exact animal it is. So from the standpoint of elephants, ideally, you should be giving animals especially a larger species, a fair amount of room to move around, to get from A to B to C ’cause they’re going to do this for a reason. An elephant moves from this section to this section to this section for food or water or something.

03:26:24 - 03:26:41

They’re not just on a, they’re not just moving to move. There’s a stimulus there. So I think you have to be able to give any species more than what it needs, but hopefully, you can do it in a professional manner. Yeah. That makes good sense.

03:26:41 - 03:26:44

So very generally, of course, what’s your opinion to zoos today?

03:26:44 - 03:27:48

Well, think zoos today are, I think they’re positive thing. I think always people will have a hit on zoos, but I think, the age old expression, bad zoos give good zoos a bad name, and whether it’s bad aquariums give good aquariums a bad name. There are zoos that need to do better. And sometimes, I have seen zoos where all they needed to do was just put a new paint job on and it would’ve been the world of difference. So they have to realize what the shortcomings are and try and fix them as they can. But I think, if you’re the accreditation of zoos professionally and aquariums by the American zoo association or Zoo and Aquarium Association, is very important ’cause you have to have a standard. It’s just what we talked about before. You have to be at a certain level all the time.

03:27:49 - 03:28:19

Yeah, you could fall a little, but you gotta be a certain level. You can’t have, you wanna have two vets, fine. You should have at least a minimum of one vet. I’m just using that as an example. Sure. If you got one vet, fine. If you got five, God love you, but you gotta keep at least one. So I think from the standpoint of the zoo association, making sure that its members keep to a certain level of professionalism. You gotta have that.

03:28:19 - 03:28:29

And accreditation, I think, is a very positive thing. Yeah, holds them accountable. So the zoo business has changed greatly in the years since you’ve been in it.

03:28:29 - 03:28:36

And knowing what you know today, would you have entered the field when you did and would you enter it today?

03:28:36 - 03:29:42

Well, I care about zoos and aquariums and I care about the wildlife and the wild. And I think that I was very fortunate to enter the profession. I think every generation must say that. But I feel fortunate that I entered the profession when I did because I look, and I would today too, But I certainly see in retro respect that when I entered the profession as a professional within it, I had more creative latitude to do things for hopefully, the betterment of the animals than I believe curators do today. I think when I became a curator at Lincoln Park Zoo, there was a lot of freedom to design your job the way you wanted to, which I think curators have less freedom to do that today. Okay. That’s good. So from that standpoint, I’m glad I got in it when I got in it.

03:29:42 - 03:29:44

Will I get in and again today?

03:29:44 - 03:30:34

Yeah, because I think there’s a job to be done. And I think that there are professionals doing it and doing a very good job of trying to move things ahead. And we always are on the shoulders of people who came before us. I did stuff. And I’ll mention this again. I was for 20 years the studbook or pedigree bookkeeper of the spectacle bear. And I had a call, Frankfurt Zoo kept the maned wolf, the bush dog, and the spectacle bear, studbooks worldwide. And Dr. Peter Roben, who was then the guy who did this, because of my interest in spectacle bears, he came to me, corresponding and said, “Listen, I’m gonna give this up or I’m retiring, and would you be interested in being the international studbook keeper?” Wow. There was less of a process.

03:30:34 - 03:31:23

And I said, “Yes. Oh my gosh, that’d be fabulous.” But here’s was a, just what bears were where, I mean, it was, no big deal, just, here’s the bears, here’s where they are, here’s their numbers, so forth. I wanted this, again, I was on the shoulders of this man. I wanted that studbook to be more than just a mimeograph sheet of paper. So we put in languages, summaries that we got articles for all of the various zoos in solicited articles about management. We put the summaries of those in German, ’cause it started in German, French, no, German, Spanish and Russian. Wow. So that various people would understand them. Sure.

03:31:23 - 03:31:48

So we had not only photos, but we had articles and we had the facts, the studbook. So I wanted it to be a resource tool as opposed to just a listing of where all the bears were. That’s right. The idea of building upon what is there from the people who started and be able to do that. And it was successful for many, many, many years.

03:31:48 - 03:31:54

Well, so with that in mind, do you feel that animal keepers and senior staff know their profession’s history?

03:31:55 - 03:32:45

Not as much as they should. I think you gotta learn, again, we’ve talked about it, but I think you gotta be a student of the game. You gotta know, not only the his, I believe the history of your profession, but you gotta know the history of your institution. I mean you’re there. You’re doing the job at that place. You should know the mission of that institution. You’re part of the mission being successful, not just an animal keeper or a person taking care of the fishes, you’re part of advancing the mission of this institution, and you’re an integral part of that. You should understand what they’re trying to do. And so, I think it’s vitally important to know the, you should at least know the history of your zoo. If yours zoo has a history book, when you become a keeper, they should give it to you.

03:32:45 - 03:32:57

And say, “Here, read it.” And maybe we’re gonna talk about it later into some informal discussions. Know where you work.

03:32:57 - 03:33:01

So what should be the top qualities of a curator today?

03:33:01 - 03:34:08

Well, I think at one, you gotta have a sense of being, you gotta be prepared to fail and to learn from those failures. You have to try and continue to have a sense of humor ’cause it’s gonna carry you through the dark times. You have to know that you’re not always gonna be successful, that you’re gonna have down times, but you’re just a day away from moving forward into some positiveness. And you have to know that you’re never gonna please everybody. The more you try and please everybody, you’re gonna piss some people off. You gotta try and be true to your values and do your job. And I think you have to understand your profession and what you’re trying to do. And you should absolutely try and give back what you got. Give information back on what you’ve learned to other people, whether it’s international national, or just from the keeper staff to make sure that they can be the best staff you have.

03:34:08 - 03:34:16

I’m gonna follow up with that because there’s a constant complaint from zoo directors that there are too few good curators in our community today.

03:34:16 - 03:34:19

How should curators be trained today?

03:34:19 - 03:35:09

I think you have to have, the curatorial staff get as, again, that’s up to a director, give them as much professional growth as possible. The zoo association has some wonderful classes about a lot of things now. You should be throwing those people at every one of those classes that, I don’t think the mammal guy needs to know about crocodilians from that class, but I think all the other classes that have to do with their particular scope, they should, that should be, professional growth should be a big deal to any zoo director to make sure that his staff, and they should be able to send them just to zoos to see what people are doing if they can. I mean, not every zoo can afford it, but it’s, but you’re paid back with smarter people. Yeah. Yeah.

03:35:09 - 03:35:14

So what are the largest professional problems facing US zoos today, US zoos?

03:35:14 - 03:35:16

And what can we do to correct the problem?

03:35:16 - 03:36:57

Well, I think one of the big things and is gonna continue to be a big thing is zoo’s relationship with the animal welfare, animal rights organizations. I don’t know that they’re ever going to see eye to eye, but I think that it’s up to the zoo association, AZA , to help all zoos deal with that particular issue. Give them the resources to be as smart as they can in dealing with that locally and nationally. And I think that’s one of the things and I also think interestingly enough that one of the problems, I don’t know if zoos are having it now, but I just wonder if there’s a methodology for zoos to make sure that they have the best keepers possible, to have, I’ve, again, it’s no hit. I’ve certainly hired people that didn’t have college degrees, but they were hard workers and they were what we would call, what I would call a good groove. Not everybody’s gonna be a curator. Some people, you want them to say, “I’ve been an animal keeper and taking care of my charges for the past 30 years, it’s been a rewarding career.” And many people say that. You have to be able to have programs to make sure that, also, I think minorities are given that opportunities, very few minorities within the zoo, aquarium profession.

03:36:57 - 03:37:10

Only in the last X number of years have there been more women zoo directors and more women keepers. Certainly there’s a lot in the field now than there were 10, 15 years ago.

03:37:10 - 03:37:15

But are there more minorities that can add to this?

03:37:16 - 03:37:26

So those are, I think are some of the issues that zoos and the national association could be tackling for the next generation. Yeah. Yeah.

03:37:27 - 03:37:31

So with all that in mind, what is the future of zoos?

03:37:31 - 03:37:32

What’s their role? What’s your part?

03:37:32 - 03:38:45

Well, I think part of the main role for zoos as far as I’m concerned is they’ve got to be part and show a leadership role in the in situ work of animals in nature. They have a giant audience. They have potentially money. You’ve gotta make sure your house is the best it could be, whether it be big or small, but that message of the animals in the wild, ideally, for every animal, for every animal at different levels that are maintained in a zoo or aquarium, there should be some work that the zoo is doing or the zoo is aiding in the wild. It could be big or small and they should be able to tell that story. And there’s 1,000 marketing ways that you can get additional money to tell that story. That’s not why we’re here. But the point is some zoos have been very successful in that. Others could be successful in that, even on a small scale.

03:38:45 - 03:39:03

But the thing is zoo’s gotta be a leadership role. The wild is shrinking, they have got to show that they care, not, yeah, no, zoos don’t take animals out of the wild anymore, or they shouldn’t in any number. Sometimes for new blood lines. You’re talking very, very, very few.

03:39:03 - 03:39:12

But the point is they should be able to, to me, help the animals in the wild or else, why are we here?

03:39:12 - 03:39:48

They’re the main educators. And that includes small and medium size. Every zoo can do some portion. Every zoo can do breeding. “Well, we’re a small zoo. We don’t breed.” Breed the parcelhus snail. Breed certain things that you can. Make it, it’s a big deal. If you don’t, “Oh, it’s just a snail.” Make it a big deal because you’re helping an international or a national population. There are zoos that have bred indigenous frogs and reintroduced them in the United States. Do that.

03:39:48 - 03:40:28

You don’t have to have 50 ’cause you’re not the biggest zoo, but if you even have one, you’re showing your community and community support for a zoo, whether it’s in a small community or big community is solved. If you don’t have the community’s support and they don’t think you’re relevant, if you’re not relevant, then it doesn’t matter. A zoo has gotta be relevant and they’re relevant on what they are doing for animals in the wild, how they are running their programs and their education programs. They can do that. A big zoo can do it. A little zoo can do it. They just can’t do it at the scope of the largest zoos, and that’s okay. Everybody does their part. Yeah. That’s fine.

03:40:28 - 03:40:34

So with that in mind, what would you say to those critics who still believe that zoos are nothing more than places where they cage animals?

03:40:34 - 03:41:32

Well, I think that you’re never going to, there’s gonna be a segment of the population that are always gonna say that. And no matter what you do, you could say, “I just gave that elephant 50 acres.” And they could say, “Yeah, it’s not 100.” I mean, so there’s always gonna be critics. And again, you’re explaining what you are doing. You’re not defending what you’re doing. And so I think there’s always gonna be critics of zoos. You’re not gonna have 100% in agreement, but again, in order for a zoo to be relevant, it’s gotta do things first class. It has to do things on a top professional level. You can’t, whatever that means to that size zoo or aquarium, you cannot do it or you shouldn’t do in less than that because your critics are always gonna be there.

03:41:32 - 03:42:32

You just have to say, “We are doing a good job of what we are doing here. We’re not doing a half job. We’re doing a wonderful job. We’re explaining what we’re doing and here’s the answer.” And so you’re never. Some people will, “Oh, I see what you’re doing,” or “We’re helping this or that.” But you’re never gonna please every person who’s, I mean, there are some zoos now that are gonna be devoting a lot of acreage to elephants. There will be people that say, “But they’re not in Africa.” And in Africa or in the Amazon, the life of an animal is fraught with perils and danger. So you can help them by preserving their land and helping the people care about who will live there, care about why it’s important to have them there. That’s part of what a zoo can do Or an aquarium. But you gotta have a good house here before you can start doing stuff over there. Good point. Good point.

03:42:32 - 03:42:38

So what observations have you made about today’s zoo directors and their style and their job responsibilities?

03:42:38 - 03:43:38

Well, it seems like the, the job of a zoo director, good, bad or indifferent has become more of a fundraiser ’cause they are the face of the zoo. And that seems to take a lot of time ’cause it takes a lot of money to run a place as we say, first class or in a very professional manner. So I think that, unfortunately, the zoo director’s daily tasks have been less on the management of the zoo, the day to day than they have been the, which maybe they should be, the visionary future trying to shape the institution. And at the same time, a big job obviously, is they gotta greet and meet people to raise the funds. And so again, as we talked, if they were animal people, the higher they go, the less they come in contact with that, which brought them into the profession. Kind of sad. At one level. It’s always trade-offs. Right. Right.

03:43:38 - 03:43:40


03:43:40 - 03:43:47

So I’d like to bring it back to you personally, who are some of the mentors, your mentors in the zoo field and what life lessons did they teach you?

03:43:47 - 03:44:53

Well, I think, as I talked, Dennis Merritt, who was curator and I was at the zoo, later became assistant director, his philosophy of science, but his philosophy of publishing stood me in good stead. And I think, instead, a lot of people. Pat Sass, the person at the Children’s Zoo who taught me the rudimentary things about working with animals was a mentor. One of my bigger mentors was Eddie Almandarz, the curator of reptiles who in the very beginning, one of the life lessons he taught me, he said, “Listen, you’re gonna meet a lot of people,” and this applies to any curator, anybody, “a lot of people and they’re gonna say, ‘So and so’s a bum.” You judge that on your own. Don’t worry about that Fred said Joe’s a bum. You judge it. Don’t go into it going, “Oh, this guy is a bum. ’cause Fred said.” No, you judge that person. He could be entirely different to you than he was to the other person.

03:44:53 - 03:45:39

You make the decision, whatever it is. And so those life lessons. And another guy at the National Zoo, Gene Maliniak, who was a senior keeper and he took care of small mammals and he, I stood at his feet and just wrote stuff down. He knew so much stuff. He was so smart. Ideas, ’cause he had all this experience and he was very good at what he did. And I was a small mammal guy and just his ideas were good. And to show you how much I don’t know, when I was more mature in the profession and I had done some things with elephant shrews and I was pretty much an expert in the world on management. And I went to Gene one day and I said, “Oh, I’m doing this and this.

03:45:39 - 03:46:33

And we’re gonna be doing this with little bottles if,” ’cause we had to race some babies. And he looked at me and he goes, “Well,” he was so gracious. He said, “you know, Mark, we tried that 12 years ago and we did six variations on that and none seemed to work.” And I’m going, “Oh my God, he did more than I even thought about.” He says, “But maybe yours will be the trick.” And that’s true, maybe it would be. But here, I realized how much I didn’t know from someone who knew way more than me and had seen way more than me. And it brought me back, the old reality check. You think you’re a big shot, let me, somebody will give you a check here about how much you really don’t know and have to learn. And I always say within the profession, you’re constantly learning. The day you think that you’ve know everything, that’s the day you’re done because every day is a learning experience.

03:46:33 - 03:46:36

Yeah. That’s what’s wonderful about the whole profession, I think.

03:46:40 - 03:46:45

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

03:46:45 - 03:46:58

I don’t know that I would’ve done anything differently. I would’ve built the butterfly exhibit. There you go. (laughs) But I don’t know if I would’ve done anything differently. I got no, it’s been, my time in the zoo profession has been absolutely wonderful. Neat.

03:46:58 - 03:47:04

And with that in mind, what traits should one possess that are a must when working at a zoo?

03:47:04 - 03:47:32

Well for better worth, I think you gotta have a sense of humor. And I think you have to know that you will not always succeed in everything and there will be failures in there, not permanent, nor are your successes. Yeah. I suppose you can say that about any position almost anywhere. So I don’t know if many people know that, but there is a plaque dedicated to you located on the Lion House at Lincoln Park Zoo, which is quite an honor.

03:47:32 - 03:47:37

What would you hope your colleagues will remember you best for? what is your legacy, so to speak?

03:47:37 - 03:47:55

Well, I think that the, it was very generous of an individual to institute that plaque. She’d be very proud of it. And it was very nice of her.

03:47:57 - 03:48:06

I appreciated very much and it was quite an honor, but I think that, I don’t know, what will they remember?

03:48:06 - 03:48:53

I mean, I tried to do the best job I could and I cared about my profession and I wanted to be professional. I think that’s what the plaque kind of embodies that they say that time is the currency of greatness. If you’ve been at the aquarium 40 years, you’ve made your mark. You’re not a flash in the pan. If you’ve been at the zoo 36 years, which I was, it means that you have some substance and that you must have been doing something right, or fooling them. I don’t know what. But doing something in a vain that made you relevant and valuable to the organization to forward its goals. And I think that’s what ultimately the plaque says. Yeah.

03:48:54 - 03:48:59

Do you have any one thing that you would consider your proudest accomplishment?

03:48:59 - 03:49:54

I mean, you’ve named a number of things for which you could say that. Well, I mean, I think within the profession, I’m very proud of having done the studbook and trying to advance that. I’m very proud of having work with the collections that were major collections and made impact, and taught people things like the gorillas. We did a management thing on how to take care of gorillas based on our experience. I think that’s important. And again, because we’re doing this for the Zoo & Aquarium Video Archive, I’m very grateful that this opportunity to talk with so many, forgetting me for the moment, so many people to preserve their wisdom, their influence, their knowledge for future generations is one of, I think, the more significant things of my contribution to the profession. Yeah. That’s wonderful.

03:49:54 - 03:50:01

So many zoo personnel after retiring continue to be active in the cause for animal welfare. How are you involved?

03:50:01 - 03:50:36

Well, I think my main involvement has been this project that I was a co-founder of with Loretta Caravette. I think it was a wonderful project, continues to move forward, slow but sure. I think that has been what I’ve been involved with over the years. And because of the work with spectacle bears, I’ve had some outreach and work with some people on that independently. So that’s been nice. Okay. Okay. Kind of dropping back here again to the bigger picture.

03:50:39 - 03:50:43

Do you have any suggestions for those aspiring to make a difference in the zoo world?

03:50:43 - 03:51:20

Well, I think, ideally, you need to have a combination as it turns out, of academic credentials and you need to have experience. And I think if you have those two things, depending on your energy level, you can hopefully make a difference within the profession. But I think you gotta have some building blocks to get in, to begin with. And then once in, again, my tired record, be a student of the game and know what your profession is all about to understand we’re to make the difference.

03:51:20 - 03:51:27

Yeah. Something along that line, do you feel the curatorial staff has a function in fundraising for the zoo or aquarium?

03:51:27 - 03:52:04

I think the curatorial staff is a part of the big scheme in raising funds. I think donors wanna talk to the curators, the people who are on the ground floor of dealing with the animals ’cause they have the stories, they have the knowledge, and they are the conduit for people in development to talk to people about what’s going on directly. So they’re a very big thing. When we would go to the zoo fundraising balls, the dances, we were there, there was a job. You were there cultivating people and talking to people. That all made a difference ultimately. I see.

03:52:04 - 03:52:05

How important is community support?

03:52:05 - 03:52:07

Can a zoo survive without it?

03:52:07 - 03:52:23

Yes, they cannot survive without. A community’s support is everything. Whether you’re in a small community or a giant community, you have got to be relevant. Absolutely. Again, we’re talking about critics of zoos.

03:52:23 - 03:52:25

Do we still need zoos?

03:52:25 - 03:52:45

I think you need zoos more than ever because of the dwindling wild. Zoos are last bastion of education about what’s going, and again, they have to be the stewards and part of the leadership role of the wild. Yeah. Yeah.

03:52:48 - 03:52:57

Getting back to our professional parent organization, AZA, had the species survival programs of AZA helped zoos in developing their collections?

03:52:57 - 03:53:02

That is, has it allowed them to venture out to develop new animal breeding programs?

03:53:02 - 03:53:38

Well, I think, AZA, the breeding, the Species Survival programs, I think have been beneficial because they bring a whole bunch of people together for the greater good. I think where it falters in my opinion is that it doesn’t leave a lot of room for independent thinking. That is if I felt that the water opossum, which doesn’t not have an SSP, needed some help or I wanted to understand it better, I might have difficulty getting it because the SSP is not there.

03:53:38 - 03:53:43

So how can I learn about a species if I can’t do something with it in a professional manner?

03:53:43 - 03:54:45

Maybe I get two or three people together. But that create, being creative a bit, I think has been a bit lost. I would also say that the accreditation program of zoos from AZA has been wonderful to keep the zoos in a high standard. And also, the classes, again, it’s professional growth. Being able to give professionals the ability to grow in classes, I think, is very important. I think where AZA has faltered a bit, in my opinion, is it’s a member organization. They should be there for the members. When you have animal rights groups who are attacking members because of this, this or this, I think AZA should be there to support those members and not look the other way and let them figure it out because it’s ultimately in the end, at least now, is a member organization.

03:54:45 - 03:55:02

And ultimately, the tail shouldn’t be wagging the dog. It’s the members who created this organization many years ago. But you know, I’ve been out of it for a little while. So that’s my opinion. I think you’re still right on.

03:55:03 - 03:55:11

This is something that’s kind of fallen back a little bit and we’ve talked about it, but in your own mind, what is the ideal zoo exhibit design approach?

03:55:11 - 03:56:07

Oh, I think the ideal approach has to be collaborative. You’ve got to not have an architect who wants to build a monument to him or herself. You have to include your animal keepers. They’re the ones who are gonna be dealing with this exhibit or exhibits the rest of their life. And you have to have them as part of the team and the other. I mean, you gotta have a team, collegial team approach, whether it’s education keepers, not just the upper management staff and the architects. Everybody has to work as a team and you have to have the ability to go out and see what other people have done, the good and the bad. I had, the St. Louis Zoo was building their Great Ape House at one time.

03:56:07 - 03:56:33

And they came to us, we built the Great Ape House and the old one. And they said, “Oh, we wanna build one like yours.” And I said, “No, you wanna build it better. You don’t wanna build the same one. We’re gonna tell you where we made our mistakes. You can correct those. You wanna build it somewhat like this, God love you. But we’re gonna tell you where it could be better. You can do that. You have that opportunity.

03:56:33 - 03:57:02

Don’t make our mistakes.” So I think that collaborative approach both nationally, internationally and within your team is where you get the best success. So in speaking of successes, I like to think of the publication of your book. “The Ark in the Park” is quite an accomplishment. I mean, a lot of great detailed history in there, some cool archival things, good advice going forward.

03:57:02 - 03:57:06

I’m just curious, how and why did you decide to take on such a challenge?

03:57:08 - 03:57:49

“The Ark in the Park” was labor of love because I’d been with the organization such a long time and cared about it, knowing that no one had ever produced a history of the zoo. There’d been a mini one done many years ago, but it was like in a little publication. And I always had an interest in history. And I had met Marlin Perkins. And I had talked to people who literally knew some of the older zoo directors. Danny Bostrom was a guy in his 90s, I interviewed on a tape. And he had met all these people. And I had this information.

03:57:49 - 03:58:36

I had done oral interviews with animal keepers. So all this history was there and I felt it should be told because it had such a rich history. It was an old zoo. And I wanted to tell this story. And I had two collaborators, Ed Uhlir and Carol Tauber. Ed was, at one time, part of the Park District, architect team and was a friend and colleague. And Carol was our public relations person at one time at the zoo. And we got together and they agreed to help. And we ramrodded this project through, and it took a lot of time, lot of efforts finding the pictures, were so cool.

03:58:36 - 03:59:14

It was such great detective work to find these things. A lot of work though, a lot of time involved in it. It was a lot of time, but it was a labor of love. It needed to be done. And again, as we talked about your job, you’re gonna have failures, but you’re one day away from a success. I had a publisher, we signed a contract, they bailed. All of a sudden, didn’t have a publisher anymore. Went to a book fair, literally carried the manuscript around and went to the University of Illinois.

03:59:14 - 03:59:47

And they said, “This is great. We’ll buy, we’ll do it.” Yeah. It was a Chicago story. So I get, you know, but the credentials were there of the people who could tell the story. And they had stuff in their hands say, “We weren’t just flash in the pans. We could do it.” And then it was the adventure of working with the University of Illinois and to do it. So it was a lot of work, but it was fun. And in the end, it was a wonderful experience telling the story of a great zoo. I was very excited to be part of it. I gotta tell you, as a Chicagoan, I really enjoyed reading the book.

03:59:47 - 03:59:53

I loved all the archival things. The history of Lincoln Park itself was fascinating stuff.

03:59:53 - 03:59:56

And I believe the zoo just celebrated its 150th?

03:59:56 - 03:59:57

It did.

03:59:57 - 03:59:58

Anniversary last year, right?

03:59:58 - 04:00:18

Yes. Correct. Quite, quite the, yeah. Yeah, no, I was very happy. I was very happy to be part of a team that told that story and that would be a high point certainly of my career at Lincoln Park, was being able to do that. Yeah. So you retired from Lincoln Park Zoo in 2003 after a very successful career.

04:00:18 - 04:00:20

How would you like to be remembered?

04:00:20 - 04:01:18

Well, I think I’ll tell you two things. One is, what I know about my profession is that there are a lot of wonderful people. I have met some still friends today internationally, and that has been, it’s a very warm profession. There may be some bums or here or there. I’m not saying they’re not, but ultimately, the 90-10 rule, most of the people I’ve met have been warm, friendly, willing to share their expertise and their knowledge and been nothing but colleagues in the truest sense of the word. That to me, I mean, I’ve been around the world and I’ve been to Germany and they wouldn’t let me put my hand in my pocket, and they would show me the city. I mean, so it’s been such a wonderful thing to meet those kind of colleagues throughout my professional career.

04:01:20 - 04:01:21

How would I like to be remembered?

04:01:21 - 04:01:45

I think as a guy who cared about his profession, who understood it, who cared about the animals, both in the wild and outside the wild, and who tried as much as he could to make a difference when he was around to be able to do it. I think all of those that know you would say you’ve done a great job and you’ve done, you’ve accomplished that. So well done, Mark. Thank you.

About Mark Rosenthal

Mark Rosenthal
Download Curricula Vitae


Lincoln Park Zoo: Chicago, Illinois

Curator Emeritus

Mark had an early introduction to the Lincoln Park Zoo having grown up across the street and literally visiting it every day as a youngster. His early memory is meeting zoo director Marlin Perkins on the grounds while Mr. Perkins was filming his television show Zoo Parade. He received his undergraduate degree from Southern Illinois University and graduate degree from Northeastern University. His zoo career started at the Children’s Zoo in 1967.

Jobs as an animal keeper, zoologist followed and in 1975 he became Curator of Mammals. In 2003 he retired as Abra Prentice Wilkin Curator of Large Mammals. As International Studbook Keeper for the Spectacled Bear he served from 1983-2003. The publishing and sharing of information was introduced early in his career and was culminated in the book, Ark in the Park, the History of Lincoln Park Zoo.

He is a co-founder of the Zoo & Aquarium Video Archive.

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.