March 16th 2013 | Director

Saul Kitchener

Saul started his zoo career in 1963 as the Curator of Primates at the Oklahoma City Zoo. Positions followed in 1966 as General Curator, at the Henry Doorly Zoo and in 1968 as General Curator at Lincoln Park Zoo later becoming the Assistant Director. He retired as the director of the San Francisco Zoo in 1988.
© Caravette Productions Ltd.

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Okay, my name is Saul Kitchener, and I was born March 22nd, 1938, in Passaic, New Jersey.

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And what was your childhood like?

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What kind of activities did you do as a kid?

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Well by childhood, what do you mean? (laughing) What age?

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Were you interested in animals when you were growing up in grammar school, or high school or?

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Yes, I was always very interested in animals, yeah. Did you collect them, did you have- I had a toad once, I had a toad, (laughing) but my mother wouldn’t let me keep it. That’s what the whole problem was so, never had a dog when I was a kid. I never had any of that stuff. I had a turtle, I did have a turtle, yeah.

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A little, one of those little red-legged ones, you know, that you buy in the dime store?

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I did have that, and had some goldfish, yeah.

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That was it. (chuckling) Did your parents take you to the zoo, or what’s your kind of recollection of that?

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Yes my parents always, my father actually took me to the zoo, to zoos in New York all the time. I mean, I was with, going to the zoos there, I mean really and truly, I would say at least once or twice a month. And I went to the zoos, we lived in Brooklyn. When I was three, we moved to Brooklyn and I lived there until I was 11, and we were always going, he was always taking me to Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn, and it was a big complex. It wasn’t just a zoo. It was a big park, it was a botanical gardens, it was a museum. So we were always going there, always going. And it was one of my favorite places, Prospect Park Zoo, which was, I always thought it was really nice then.

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But a number of years when I, being in the zoo business, I decided that I had to go back and see it. And it was something that I probably shouldn’t have done, (chuckling) but it left a great deal to be desired at that time. But I know they spent a lot of money on it since then. I think it’s, I think it’s probably pretty good now.

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Did he take you to see the Bronx Zoo?

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Well, we went to the Bronx Zoo on occasion, on occasion. Went to Central Park Zoo also on occasion in New York. And I enjoyed those places, but the one I really was most familiar with and went to a lot was the Prospect Park Zoo. When did you first get the feeling that, “I wanna work with animals?” Well, I really never had the feeling for a long time until I was actually quite old. I didn’t have the feeling, I didn’t think about it, working with animals.

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I was on a different track, you know?

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And when I was a graduate student in psychology at the University of Oklahoma, the person who I, my major professor who had worked at the Yerkes Lab for primates saw that the Oklahoma City, saw in the newspaper that the Oklahoma City Zoo had just got in two young orangutans, and off the top of her head she says, “Well, how would you like to do some work with them?” And I said, “Yeah, that would be great.” And that sealed my fate, I think. And so we did, we went to see the director of the Oklahoma City Zoo who, which was Warren Thomas. He had just come there at the time, hadn’t been there very long. And he was very amenable to letting us work with them. And so we started to build a program to, on intelligence in the great apes, ’cause they had other are great apes there at that zoo. They had chimps, and later they had gorillas. They didn’t have gorillas right at that time, but later on they did. But they had two young chimps that were easy to, you know, you could work with them pretty easy, and the two orangs, and we, that was when you could get grant money from the government real easy, there was a lot of grant money going around.

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And so we applied to the Small Grants Administration, and they, as luck would have it, the guy who was the head of the psychology division was Harry Harlow. And Harry Harlow was the man who first developed the surrogate mothers, and that kind of an experiment. And of course he was, you know, very famous and he, there really had nobody been, there were very few people had ever worked with orangs. And so he, not only did he approve our grant proposal, but he also gave us more money to come and see him. And so we did, we went to see Harry Harlow and his, and it was a very, you know, a very interesting time we had discussing just things with him. He was very supportive of us and he was concerned that, or he said orangutans are a big, to him were a big conundrum, you know, that nobody knew any, very little about them. And people thought they were really dumb, but he didn’t think they were. And so we got, we worked on that project for a number of years.

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And was this for your master’s degree?

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And were you a author on the paper then, “Intelligence and Great Apes”?

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Well, there was a number of papers.

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It was more than one, because we did things that were specific as, getting at the components of intelligence, because it is very difficult to get at, just the word intelligence, you know?

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What is the word, and what does it really mean?

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And a lot of things make that up. Memory, you know, makes that up. There’s all kinds of things that do it. And I did my master’s thesis on what really was memory in great apes. And it was, it was called “Matching from Sample”, which is the way we did it, to get at memory. We had a big machine that we made out of wood and I used to push it through the primate house at Oklahoma City. And we put it in front of the orangs and we put it in front of the chimps, and there was a door that came down, wouldn’t let them see what we were doing. And I had a, I would give them a sample.

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They would see like this metal object that was a sample. Didn’t matter what the object was, of course, it was just something that they needed to remember and needed to know that they had to remember it. And they would then, you’d pull up the door and they would knock it aside, and know there was gonna be a little raisin as a reward in there and they got it. And then you put it down and you put out another thing, a sample plus another, not a sample, but another one like that, and plus a different one. And you let them choose which one they were gonna get, they would choose. And they had to remember that it had to be that one that looked like the sample was gonna be their reward. And you left, and time. You know, you had to take a longer and longer time and see how long they could remember it, but they did that extremely well.

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I mean you know, they are after all very intelligent animals and they did that extremely well. Now you said you were on a different track educationally, up- Yeah, yeah, yes that’s right.

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I mean I wasn’t on, it was like a classroom track, you know?

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There wasn’t, you know, I’m one of the few psychologists that’s ever worked with great apes and not, never worked with a rat, a white rat. And there are a lot, you know, tons of psychological experiments have been done on white rats. We probably know more about white rats than we know about any other animal including human, ’cause so much has been done on white rats, and I never use white rats. I use apes and monkey, well some monkey stuff, but mostly great apes.

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When did things then change?

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Well first of all, when you did the research, what did this research confirm to you about your subjects?

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Well, it confirmed to me that they indeed were extremely intelligent animals. And one of the things that also, that it really showed me, that animals, apes in particular, because they’re so high up on the phylogenetic scale, are individuals. They’re not like cans of peas on a shelf that are all the same. And people that talk, a lot of psychologists in fact do this, and a lot of people ask me questions about, “Well, what’s the smartest ape?” Which there is no, in my opinion, there is no answer for that because individuals, and I don’t see why this is such a hard concept for a lot of people, but it apparently is, why there has to be a species of great ape that’s the smartest. It’s individuals that are the smartest. It’s just like us, with humans. There are some humans that are, individually are real smart and there are humans that aren’t so smart.

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We all know that, so why do we have such a hard time?

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But we do have a hard time with great apes that way, and I don’t think that, it’s silly, it’s very silly to think of, “Well, chimps are the smartest.” Well chimps are smart, but I know an orang that’s a hell smarter than any chimp I ever knew. And I just, it’s just that way. And I think it is, that’s you know, that’s the deal.

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When did you start to now think about the zoo field, working with animals, based on this experience?

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I, the psychology department at the University of Oklahoma was dominated by clinical psychologists, not experimental psychologists like I was, and my major professor was. So they, I don’t wanna insult anybody, but they, I will. (laughing) They were, the people who were doing that, the CPs, the clinical psychologists, were sort of touchy people feeling, you know that I, touchy people, touchy-feely people. And I, you know, that’s hard to be. When you’re a scientist, supposed to be a scientist, that’s difficult to be that way, let your emotions get involved in what you’re doing. And there was a, definitely a battle erupted between the experimental psychologists, the few that were there, and the clinical department. And it got to be a battle, and of course we, as graduate students, got to be pawns in that department, in that battle. And I was disillusioned somewhat by it.

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And I remember that I went to see Warren Thomas, and I said to him, ’cause I just had that feeling, you know, it would be great to work in the zoo. That’s when it started really. And I had the feeling and it just, as luck in a way, it’s not real lucky to the guy who died, but there was the guy who was, who took care of the primate building was a good friend of mine, and I got to know him very well, and he unfortunately died. And he used to let me take care of the building. He would leave early and he would allow me to take care of the building, unbeknownst I’m sure to the staff. But I did because I knew what, I was there for years. I knew what was going on and I knew how to do it. So I’d feed them, I’d get them, you know, I would do all, you know all kinds of stuff.

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And so I went to see Thomas, Warren Thomas, and I said, “Do you know any zoo jobs that are available anywhere?” And he, some thing had went off in his head and he said, “Well, what about here?” I hadn’t really thought of that, I really didn’t. And I said, “Well, what about here?” He says, “Well, Jimmy just died.” He says, “You know, you know anyway.” He said, “You know that building, you could just step in there and take over.” I said, “Well okay,” and so, and salaries was so low there that I said, “Well, you know,” I didn’t wanna take the same salary that I was getting as a graduate assistant. I mean, that sort of didn’t fit my, what I felt of my, my self-esteem. And so he said, “Well I can get you, I can start you at a high level.” And it turns out it was like $23 more a month.

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And I said, “Hey, that’s a raise, you know?

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Good, I’ll take it,” and so I did.

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Now that was in 1963, approximately?

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Yeah, yeah.

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And you had graduated already?

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Well, I got my master’s degree. And then you took the job.

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Okay, so this was your, you were hired as a keeper, as a scientist?

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Technically, from the city of Oklahoma City, I was just, I was a keeper, but Warren Thomas made me curator of primates. No salary increase mind you, but certainly I was curator of primates, but I did everything the keepers do, which was the greatest thing I could have done, the best thing that I could have done. And because in my opinion, that’s one of the things that I have always been, well I don’t know what to say, but I’ve always said that it’s a very, very important thing to do is, or to have, is the experience that those people out there in the field essentially, have. A lot of zoo directors, you know, when I was coming up, they all had that, ’cause that’s where they all started. But lately they, you know, people were concentrating on science, scientific people. And a lot of them, not just directors, but a lot of people who started working in zoos didn’t have that experience, and I think that was a big mistake, and led to a lot of problems.

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Now when you got this first job, were you thinking beyond that?

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Or you were just, “Hey this is a happy, got a job.” Right, I’m happy, I’m working in the zoo. And Warren Thomas was a mentor for me, one of two in my life, I think I had, or three maybe. And We had our differences on occasion, but he was, he was except knowledgeable about the variety of animals. And I really appreciated that, ’cause that was what, that was a fascinating thing for me. And I kept up with that my whole career, is the variety, the different kinds, like I say of monkeys, of a certain monkey species and, or an antelope species or whatever. And that was a very, that always fascinated me. That’s the kind of thing that I’m always fascinated, I was very fascinated by, and he was, he was you know, a mentor and he was a guy that, he was a veterinarian who got in with the man who was, who had developed the Cap-Chur gun. And he’s the first guy, as far as I know, to take the Cap-Chur gun to Africa.

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And he went down to Botswana, and he’s the first guy that used it in Africa.

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That’d be the Palmer?

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Yes Palmer, yeah exactly.

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What kinda collection did you find when you walked in there?

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You already knew it, but for us, what kind of- You mean for the whole zoo?

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No, the primate collection. Well, it was a relatively, it wasn’t a gigantic building or area, the primate building, which the zoo had built before Warren Thomas had come there.

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And it was not a huge collection, but Thomas, you know what Thomas was always known for, even from the very beginning, for getting rare animals and for able to make deals with people, you know?

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Dealers and people, even in Africa and other places. And he was, it was actually a very good one. It was a very good one. By the time I got there, we did have gorillas and we had, supposedly they were mountain gorillas, but they weren’t, what they were really was the, what at that time was called the middle gorilla, called gorilla gorilla manyema, which was sort of in between the lowland gorilla and the mountain gorilla. And these were the last animals to come out of the Congo before that big rebellion there. And they got to Kenya, and Warren Thomas had made a, not a deal, but got to a, there was an Admiral, retired Admiral that he had, you know, made contact with, and he got him to be, like a patron. And this guy was, got interested in them and he said, “Get those gorillas and I’ll pay for them.” And so we got probably really and truly the only manyema gorillas in captivity, and we even developed a test to say, to see that what ones were, what they really were, and that’s by taking, and this was his idea. I have to give him credit for it.

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He took, take some hair and you put it under the microscope. And if light doesn’t pass through it, it’s one of those others, it’s either a manyema or a mountain gorilla, because it will pass through lowland gorilla hair. And it was, I think people, they still don’t know that’s what you can do, but you can do it. And we did that, and it was, you know, it was really great. And they were both relatively tame because they were in captivity in the Congo for a long time. So they were pretty tame, but they were pretty big at the time. They didn’t come in little ones, you know. They were big at the time, but they were very, very, as typically is true of gorillas, they were relatively gentle animals and they lived in a pair.

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And unfortunately, I learned, I got my first lesson at how heartbreaking it can be when, you know, dealing with animals, is that the female had a parasite problem and she died. And that was a very, to me, you know, it was a real tragic, tragic thing, But that’s what can happen when you’re dealing with animals. I mean, it’s one of that was, in a sense, a very good beginning, you know, a very good lesson for me, and. We had talked about the primate collection, but give me that quick overview of the Oklahoma City Zoo when you first got there. Well it was, it was a smallish zoo that had, like a lot of zoos had public works projects done in the Depression. Bear grottoes, you know that kind of stuff, the cat grottoes, and they were relatively good-sized field pens for hoof stock. There was a small, it wasn’t a big elephant exhibit. There was a smallish elephant exhibit.

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And Oklahoma City was, most people wouldn’t remember this, but at one they were, they wanted to get, and this is before my time, before Thomas’s time, had wanted to get an elephant ’cause they didn’t have one. And they wrote a, somebody wrote a song about it, “I Want an Elephant for Christmas.” This became a relatively popular song. And I remembered it, and it was about them. And it was about the Oklahoma City Zoo getting an elephant and kids donated, you know, money and pennies from schools, and people all over the country, after that song donated money, and they got an elephant. So they had an elephant. Well, a very interesting sidebar to this is that Warren Thomas had his hands in a lot of things. I mean, he really did. And he, somehow or other, a bank in Oklahoma City gained control of an elephant, ’cause somebody owed them money and they confiscated, they got the elephant confiscated because he couldn’t pay them.

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And they were, what were they gonna do with an elephant?

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So they contacted Thomas and he of course, very readily agreed to take that elephant, but it was still the bank’s elephant. Well, another thing that a lot of people don’t realize with him, he is the first person, as far as I know, in any zoo or anywhere to do an experiment with LSD on an animal. And I was not yet working there, but I did see the film of it later. He used that elephant as, you know, as an experimental animal, basically to see what this LSD, ’cause nobody knew what LSD was gonna do. And he started off With a dose that may have been appropriate for a house cat. And that led to the realization that LSD was not like other drugs, and it wasn’t based on weight or size. It was based on the kind of animal, as the reaction you’re gonna get. And that elephant died.

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And it, the film was just unbelievable, ’cause they had been introduced to the one that was there, you know. And they, as elephants are, it got to be, you know, they made a little herd. And the film was very incredible. Somewhere that film exists. I don’t know where it is, it does exist. And that’s an incredible sight, because this elephant started falling, I mean, just losing control of himself. And the other one, Judy, came over and was attempting to keep this elephant on its feet, and keeping it up, and it was really an amazing thing. And it just, and it just went, went down and just died.

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So that was the first inkling people figured, this ain’t the drug it’s supposed to be, you know?

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And that was, he was involved in a lot of stuff, and it was course a big shock and surprise and a great disappointment to him, you know, that this kind of, this could have happened because most drugs aren’t species specific, you know, really, and this one obviously was. Well when you were, now you had control of the primate collection. That was your responsibility. Yes, yes.

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And did you have any, were there things that you wanted to change?

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I mean, when you got in, or was it, did you have a vision, “Okay, I’m in charge of primates now, here’s what I’d like to do or recommend.” Well, you know, I had just started off in the zoo business and I was not as, I wasn’t very, you know, that knowledgeable really about different kinds of primates at that specific time. I learned because he used to, Thomas used to have had a deal with one of the dealers down in Florida. And when this guy had brought in animals he would, Thomas said, “Well, you could send them to us to hold for you.” And so we got a lot of stuff that way. And I remember the, oh we got a red colobus, we got a red colobus monkey. We got, I remember a box. I mean this, a box, ’cause we never knew what was coming. There was a big box. The dealer is VD Ryder, and big box.

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And I remember looking in the box and seeing Celebes apes, black apes, which of course is not a ape naturally, it is a monkey, but as a teeny teeny tail, and so that’s why they call it that. And there seemed to be something else in the same crate. And I figured, “Wow, shipping them together that’s, that could be dangerous, I don’t know.” It was really, really, but they seemed to be okay in the crate. I put the crate in a cage and we were going to open the crate. I was gonna be, open the crate, close the door. So you know, to the outside naturally, and I was going to, I did open the, pulled up the door to open the crate, and out poured, It was like that it was like the clown car in a circus. Out poured a whole bunch, I can’t remember the numbers, like a shot, they shot out of this crate, of Celebes apes and more macaques, all together in the same crate. Now they’re both macaques, both species of macaque, but they come from Solwezi, both come from the same big island in Indonesia, but they’re different.

00:29:59 - 00:30:33

They’re different species really, of animal. But they were actually doing okay in the crate. As soon as they came out of the crate, as soon as they came out of the crate, they paired off in their big groups and they started a battle. And I said to other guys outside, I said, ’cause luckily that did form in my mind, that could happen. And I had the cage next door open, but there was, it was the door too, it was closed.

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‘Cause they could go, you know, you could make a whole bunch of cages out of, by pulling a door, you know?

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And I yelled at them, “Open the door, open the door between the cage!” And so they did and sure enough, one group ran in there and I said, “Close it,” And they closed it, and it was okay. But it was amazing to me how they all got put together in that crate and they were fine. Apparently nobody was hurt, but boy, once they got out of that crate and there was a territory to defend, battle, I mean really, it was something, it really was. But you know, that kind of thing, we got lots of different kinds of animals. The primates, just lots of different kinds. And you know we got some, an interesting group of black and white colobus because they were the ones, from more from West Africa, more West African than they were East African, which is unusual in you know, in they were all black and white on top. But the tail was all black, except the bottom was tufted white, and you don’t see that too often or you didn’t, I suspect you don’t now either. And they were, you know, we got slender and slow lorises, we got things like that.

00:31:47 - 00:31:57

And Bosman’s, you know pottos, different kinds of pottos. And there were all kinds of big, big, there was a big variety.

00:31:57 - 00:32:02

This was before naturalistic exhibits, what kind of exhibits did they look like?

00:32:02 - 00:32:55

Well, of course there were cages, you know. There were cages and there were things in the cages for them to do, and bars, and there was a window. There was a work aisle, and then there was a window that the public was, you know, the public could see through these big windows. And that’s what it was. I mean, that was what they knew. That’s what they knew at that time. And you were kinda formulating your experiences, you’ve talked about about, that these experiences helped you later on. Well yeah, so the experiences with them of course, I mean, helped me and to know how they behaved, and what you can do with them and what you can’t, the things that are, yeah.

00:32:55 - 00:33:00

Now this was approximately 1963 to 1966.

00:33:01 - 00:33:04

Is that approximately, that you were at the zoo?

00:33:04 - 00:33:10

Yes. Now this was your first zoo job. Yes. Just so I can put it in perspective. Yeah, it was my first zoo job.

00:33:10 - 00:33:16

Okay, where did the Al, working for Al Oeming come in?

00:33:16 - 00:33:26

(laughing) That was later. That was from, when I was at the Omaha Zoo. Okay.

00:33:26 - 00:33:36

Okay, we’ll get to that, I’m just curious, Were you involved in budget things with the director?

00:33:36 - 00:33:40

Were you involved in any of that or you were just, your job was taking care of primates?

00:33:40 - 00:33:46

No I wasn’t, yeah no, I was not really involved that much. In the budgeting and things like that, no I wasn’t.

00:33:48 - 00:33:54

Do you think this formative years kind of got you your love of the great apes, or your interest?

00:34:00 - 00:35:17

Well, I was always interested in them, I think, but being close to them, ’cause I was so close to them. Yes, I was so close to them I believe it did, you know, really stimulate me, so I really did get, and I think love is exactly the word truthfully. Now you go to your next zoo. Well, what happened was that Warren Thomas was making a name for himself at the Oklahoma City Zoo, because one of the things that when I was there, that he did was he got the city to float a bond issue expressly for the zoo. And it was a lot of money in those days, it was very successful. And he built a hoofed animal complex that was as good as any, I believe, as good as any in the country. I mean, it was very, very extensive. Huge exhibits, very you know, very, very extensive, a large number of species.

00:35:20 - 00:36:18

And so it became quite a, but anyway, he was, he got a big, relatively big name for himself. And some people came to see him from the Omaha Zoo, that they wanted to build a better zoo in Omaha. ‘Cause they had a, really a little place there in one of the city parks. It was very small and wasn’t much. And the wintertime is very difficult for a place like Omaha too. It’s so cold and so much snow, and they really had a hard time with it. And this, the zoo it was, you know they closed in the winter and it wasn’t much. And they talked to him and they decided they wanted him to come to Omaha to be their director.

00:36:18 - 00:37:29

Well, they were offering more than double what he made, and he wasn’t about to go there naked without other people that he knew. So he wanted to take me with him, and he wanted to take another couple of people with him. Alberto Rogers, who some people know, was there, and he wanted to take Leroy Thomas with him. And so it was a lot of, you know, doubled my salary for one thing. And it sounded like we could build a zoo the way we wanted to build it. We had free reign in a way. And it just sounded like a good deal. Because at that time, well you know, Oklahoma City was having some money problems, and it didn’t seem like we were ever gonna get any more, like primate facilities, for example.

00:37:30 - 00:38:16

And I thought it was a good idea to move up, and then I wouldn’t be even called keeper anymore. I’d be called general curator. So I said, “Well, that sounded good to me.” And so we went up there. He went first, and later on I came a few months later, but it was, and it was a great opportunity, and I think to build The zoo, the way we thought it should be done from the ground up. And we did build some things there that were, we did, with my term there. You’re at the Omaha Zoo as the general curator.

00:38:16 - 00:38:19

What were your responsibilities as general curator at this zoo?

00:38:19 - 00:38:30

Well, we- When we first started at the Omaha Zoo, (laughing) they weren’t any different than it was at Oklahoma City Zoo. I was taking care of the primates.

00:38:30 - 00:38:39

I was the guy, and other things too actually, because by then I had really gotten experience with other animals, you know?

00:38:39 - 00:39:23

And so I was actually taking care of them, many of them, and doing things, you know, like in the wintertime we would go down and chip ice out of the bear claws, and I was doing that too. So, and once again, the whole thing of being, doing everything in the zoo, was the greatest experience any zoo director could have. And I really strongly say that and I believe that, and it benefited me, you know, just greatly. I mean, there’s lots of things that you can point to, and it just really gives you, you know, when you’re catching an animal and trying to ship it and stuff like that, you don’t have the experience.

00:39:23 - 00:39:24

How are you gonna do it?

00:39:24 - 00:39:26

How are you gonna know to do it and what to do?

00:39:26 - 00:39:41

The right thing to do so the animal is taken care of, and not, you know, not killed in the process. And it’s very difficult for people who have never done it before. It’s impossible, I think. And so Warren Thomas is director.

00:39:41 - 00:39:46

Was there an assistant director at the time, or were you the next guy after Warren?

00:39:46 - 00:40:18

No, I don’t, I can’t remember if Leroy Thomas was called assistant director or not. I honestly can’t remember. But he sort of, he functioned like it though. And Leroy had come from Oklahoma City with you. Yes. And Bird Dog did too. No it was, yeah that’s right, that’s right. Bird Dog actually was the assistant director for a while.

00:40:19 - 00:41:07

But Warren Thomas did have issues with dealing with people, and he, the person that was next to him usually bore the brunt of it. And even though Bird Dog knew what Warren was, because he had been with him in Oklahoma City too of course, he did agree to go to Omaha. And when he was in Omaha, one day we woke up and Bird Dog was gone without telling anybody.

00:41:08 - 00:41:11

It’s kinda, you know, okay where?

00:41:11 - 00:41:58

And Bird Dog lived in the apartment building that I lived in and I went to see him. His place, it was empty and he was gone. And it was because he couldn’t tolerate Warren Thomas. He couldn’t tolerate stuff that Thomas was doing to him. And that’s the way he was. He wouldn’t contest it or say anything or discuss it, he’d just go, he’d go away. And so he was gone, pretty quick actually too. And Leroy may then have been assistant director there.

00:41:58 - 00:42:00

I’m not positive of that, honestly.

00:42:02 - 00:42:13

Now you indicated that you had hoped or at least the promise was made that, “We go to Omaha, we can make some changes.” Were you able to be part of changing things?

00:42:13 - 00:43:17

Well yeah, yes we did, we really did. I mean we did build a, we got some, there was money available and we did build, start to build a new zoo, and we built a number of things, a number of things. And one of the things that we built was an ape house, and I had a great part in designing the building. And it was a real good, you know, knowing and realizing that it was a wintertime place, you had to have a building. You can’t have just outside facilities with maybe a little den or something like that. You know this was, you figured that these guys weren’t going out in the wintertime there because of the snow and the cold. They just weren’t gonna do it. So you had to have an adequate place for them in the winter.

00:43:18 - 00:44:12

And we did, we built it and it was a building and it was, I thought it was okay, I thought it was pretty good. The outside facility was very nice for the summer, and had some, you know, big climbing structures and grass. And inside we built some things that we thought, I thought really, at the zoo that they would like, they would like, like the little tunnels to go into, and stuff that they’d go through, and they did, and they used that kind of stuff. And there was all kinds of things that we gave them to do. And of course you don’t keep them alone. You keep them with others of their kind. And that is a further activity because they bounce off each other literally and figuratively you know, and it’s, that’s what we had there. We had young gorillas, and we had a couple of, two orangs.

00:44:13 - 00:44:22

So you were building on your experience that you had. Yes I was, I was building on the experience I had already had with them at Oklahoma City.

00:44:22 - 00:44:29

Were you able to see other facilities to help determine this, around the country or- Excuse me, I’m sorry?

00:44:29 - 00:45:00

Were you able to see other facilities that had great apes around the country to help your experience or not, or was- Well I had, since I had been working in zoos for a while, I used to go to, I did go to a lot of zoos and I had seen them, I had seen those other facilities anyway, and most of them were not adequate. You know, most of them were inadequate, because apes are the hardest thing to design an exhibit for, I think. Now there are some other facilities.

00:45:00 - 00:45:04

Did the Omaha Zoo build a little railroad while you were there?

00:45:10 - 00:45:12

Around the zoo, do you remember that?

00:45:14 - 00:45:16

Union Pacific, two miles of track?

00:45:16 - 00:45:18


00:45:18 - 00:45:21

Like a miniature railroad, or was not at that zoo?

00:45:22 - 00:45:23

No they did that later, I guess.

00:45:23 - 00:45:31

Did they build the, in the Eppley Pachyderm, that was a pachyderm facility opened at the zoo?

00:45:31 - 00:45:34

Did you have elephants at the zoo at Omaha?

00:45:36 - 00:45:58

Yes, you know, I’ll be very frank with you. I don’t remember a lot of that. I don’t remember a lot of that. Well, now you were at the zoo- I’d have to say. Okay, you were to zoo from ’66, you came with Warren.

00:45:58 - 00:46:01

To approximately 1968?

00:46:01 - 00:47:06

So that was kind of a short stint there. Yeah it was, but we had the, we did, we had built some things there. The ape house, we had built that. We built facilities, field facilities for some antelope, hoof animals. And now you felt it was time to leave or- What happened was Thomas brought in Lee Simmons From Columbus. And frankly, I know Lee Simmons has changed now, but when he was, he came, he was arrogant, he, it’s hard to phrase it correctly.

00:47:06 - 00:47:08

Did he come in as a veterinarian?

00:47:08 - 00:47:42

Yes and more, and more. I couldn’t tolerate the way he treated the Black people there, ’cause we had hired a number of Blacks to work in the zoo, and I couldn’t tolerate that. I may be being unfair to him, but I talked to, you know, the Black guys and I were pretty friendly together and there were five of us quit the same day.

00:47:44 - 00:47:49

And I’m sure that that was the case, and- Did you have a direction you wanted to go in?

00:47:49 - 00:48:48

I mean did you know, “I’m gonna leave and I’m going somewhere else,” that- No I really didn’t, I really didn’t. But let me, I can tell you some experiences that were very negative experiences with him. It was a large area to one side of the zoo, and we had built the zoo in a big city park, and the people around there were used to using that park as their own playground, and we fenced it off. Well, they weren’t real happy about that. And at any rate, so what they did, they used to use a path. They built their, they walked a path up around the outside of the fencing, which is okay. And they, I remember in that area we had some sheep. Now why we did maybe was to eat the weeds or grass.

00:48:48 - 00:49:58

I don’t really, really even remember, but they were in there and there was one of them having a medical problem, and it had a prolapsed rectum. And I wanted, we wanted him to fix it, you know Simmons to fix it. And he said, “Yeah, I’ll fix it.” And he came with his gun and he was gonna shoot that sheep. And as he was getting ready to shoot the sheep, there was this mother and her and her daughter coming by the fence. And I was saying, “Lee, don’t do it now.” He didn’t care, bam. He killed that sheep right in front of those people. And that was, you know, that was bad not even on humane grounds, but it was bad on public relations grounds. I mean, I could tell you how bad it was on every ground you could possibly imagine.

00:49:59 - 00:51:09

And that was one of the things he liked to do with his gun. He had on the zoo car, he got a zoo car, and on the zoo car, he mounted a rifle. He drove around the zoo taking great delight in shooting predators and God knows what all. And to me that was a very bad, first off it was a very, I think it was a wrong thing to do. And it was very bad to give that kind of a opinion to the public, what was going on in the zoo to the public. And then Thomas makes him assistant director. And we figure, “Well now this guy’s above us too, above me too,” and I really don’t like, I did not like that kind of thing. And I, finally they left, a lot of the Black guys quit and Leroy Thomas quit, and then I quit too on that same day.

00:51:10 - 00:52:29

And I can tell you right now that, this is one, I sorta forgot this. I’m remembering it now. But after I quit, they had got some cheetahs in the zoo before I had left, and there was a surplus of males. And at that time they were talking, Thomas too and Lee Simmons were talking about doing some kind of, checking out some new drug. And I don’t remember what it is, what it was. And something happened in the zoo that where the male cheetah died. And they said, they apparently thought that it was some kind of nefarious scheme, a nefarious thing that some people did, that invaded the zoo and killed the cheetah, which both Leroy Thomas and I felt that it was them testing this drug on the male cheetah ’cause he was surplus.

00:52:31 - 00:52:46

And they called the police in, and the police, the Omaha police, you know, asked questions of them and well, they probably asked the question which was obvious, “Are there any employees that have left recently,” you know?

00:52:46 - 00:53:10

And they said, “Oh yes.” And he, they gave him my name and Leroy Thomas. Well we didn’t live actually, in the city of Omaha. And they called us up and said they wanted to talk to us. And we said, “Hey great, we’ll talk to you.” So we came into Omaha and talked with them.

00:53:12 - 00:53:23

And I remember talking to them about it and saying something that, “Well the male cheater was surplus, you know?” And they said, “Well how would you know it’s a male cheetah?

00:53:23 - 00:54:19

We didn’t say anything about it.” And I said, “Because that’s the only one they would’ve experimented with, because they already had one, they didn’t need two in fact, so that’s why they would do it.” And the guy said, the detective said, “Well why, would you take a lie detective test?” I said, “I will take one if you give it to them too.” And the guy said, “Exactly.” (door clattering) Yeah, I’ll take it out in a second. Yeah I told them, so did Leroy Thomas, ’cause we would’ve been very happy to take one had they done it too. And the detectives said, “Yes, precisely.” So I knew then, I felt then, that they thought the same thing we did, that they had been screwing around. And when came to go to take the test, you had to go to the police headquarters in the city of Omaha.

00:54:19 - 00:54:36

And so we went down there and they said, “Well there’s not, we can’t give you a test.” And I said, “Yeah, why is that?

00:54:38 - 00:55:12

I’m perfectly willing to take it.” And he said, “Well, we have no evidence a crime was committed.” I said, “Oh, okay.” That was the end of that. So I have my, also and that may be my own fantasy, but I have a feeling that somebody from the society in Omaha got to somebody in the police department and killed it. Okay something, yes.

00:55:12 - 00:55:22

As general curator at the Omaha Zoo were there things that you were learning then, layering on, that would help your understanding of the working of a zoo?

00:55:23 - 00:55:54

Well I think, yes I think so. I mean it’s, I had more to do with, I had more to do with budgeting than I ever did there at Oklahoma City certainly. And things like that, and personnel problems. I mean, personnel issues, certainly. Personnel challenges. Okay challenges, whatever, personnel challenges. Yeah, that’s a good word because it’s true. So yeah, I certainly did.

00:55:55 - 00:56:09

And how to manage a collection, ’cause I was managing a collection, even though I was also doing the grunt work too, for most of the time that I was there. Which once again I didn’t mind doing, I liked doing it.

00:56:09 - 00:56:13

So you were getting experience not only in mammals, but birds and reptiles?

00:56:15 - 00:56:37

Not much reptiles, although we did have two, we did have some, the big giant tortoises. Not Galapagos, but you know, the others. There really wasn’t anything else, reptile wise. So now you have been at Omaha Zoo from ’66 to ’68, you’ve left the zoo.

00:56:37 - 00:56:41

How did you develop plans for the next phase of your career?

00:56:42 - 00:56:44

What happened?

00:56:45 - 00:57:09

Well I one day was reading the, you know, the newsletter that came out from what was called then the AAZPA, and I saw that there was a job opening for a curator at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. You wanted to stop, now wait a minute. You went somewhere for- Let’s do the sequence now.

00:57:09 - 00:57:12

You’re, how’d you find out about that first job?

00:57:12 - 00:58:44

Okay, I did well okay, when I left Omaha Zoo, at Omaha Zoo I made, when I was at the zoo in Omaha, I made contact of people who used the zoo, like Omaha Zoo, as a place to ship things from to other places, believe it or not. There was a very famous game farm up in Alberta, Canada that was owned by a man named Al Oeming. And he would bring like muskox down to Omaha, and we would ship them for him, and he would do that kind of thing. And I got to be, we got to be very good friends with him, or we knew him, got to know him, and he became interested in hiring me and Leroy Thomas to go there. And when we quit at Omaha, he actually came down I guess, to do something and we were gone, and he saw that as an opportunity to get us to work for him. And he called us and talked to us about going there. And he promised an awful lot of, well he would never, he would never promise money, not Al Oeming. But he would promise, you know, a chance to do a lot of things.

00:58:44 - 01:00:02

And you know it was, it was a big place, and it was a nice farm, you know, big, giant farm, big collection of hoof stock, big, you know, West Northern hoof stock. You know, muskox, caribou, different kinds of caribou, woods bison, and you know, lots of things like that. But he wanted to build, according to him, he wanted to build a thing for gorillas, and he wanted in his own dreams, (chuckling) he wanted to build a facility for pandas. ‘Cause he had some dream that, and it might have been semi realistic, of getting pandas outta China. Because he was Canadian and he wasn’t American. He had some relations already with China, had been there. So he had those semi realistic dreams, anyway. And it sure, it looked like to me to be an adventure, you know, of a place to go, maybe not for the rest of your life, but to go there and you would really get some terrific experience and adventure, and it would be a place that was privately run.

01:00:03 - 01:01:24

And that’s a different kind of a thing too, because you would then have to rely on money coming through the gate primarily, because these other zoos, you were getting money from the city and getting money from foundations and they didn’t have one up there. So I thought this would be a good thing. And so we said, “We’re gonna go, we’re gonna come up there.” So I drove Leroy Thomas. We left his family in Omaha and we drove one night all the way to Edmonton, Alberta, and we got there and he was starting immediately, I never even went to sleep, showing me all these plans for the new, for what he’s thinking of doing, and drawings and things like that. And he was just absolutely, you know, just gushing about all these wonderful things. And I looked at these sort of semi plans. He had drawings of where the gorillas were gonna go, and he was gonna do things for, you know, for some reason he liked, he wanted gibbons too.

01:01:24 - 01:01:39

And so I would say to him, “Oh, we can do this.” And I’d show him on drawings and he’d say, “No, no, we’ll do this, we’re gonna do this.” And then every time I’d say that, what we could do, he’d say, “No, we’re gonna do this,” you know?

01:01:39 - 01:01:44

And I start to think to myself, “Why does this guy need me?

01:01:44 - 01:01:46

What does he want me here for?

01:01:47 - 01:02:18

He’s got his own ideas surely.” And he was a private, you know, he had done it, give the devil his due. He had built that zoo outta nothing. He had built that zoo out of wrestling. He was a professional wrestler. He built that place out of his professional wrestling winnings. That’s what he did. And he built it all himself. And you could see why a person like that would say, “I’ve done it and I can continue to do it, and I don’t need you really,” but he never said that, but that’s what he was really, you know, in his own mind, that’s what was going on.

01:02:18 - 01:02:42

And so my career at the Alberta, but he did send, I did work one or two days there, cleaning up and feeding the muskox and doing stuff like that. He did get me to do that for him, but that was okay. But once again, I loved it. I mean, I never took care of muskox, you know, that kind of thing. So it was fun, but we decided that this wasn’t really the place for us.

01:02:42 - 01:02:43

How long did that stint last?

01:02:43 - 01:03:03

About two or three days. (laughing) So now you’re looking for a job. Yeah, now I’m looking for a job. Go back to Omaha, and looking for a job. And I, like I say I saw the, well I was still getting the newsletter.

01:03:03 - 01:03:11

I was a member still of the AAZ, what was then called AAZPA, which it’s called now, I have no, I think it’s the AAZA, is that correct?

01:03:11 - 01:04:53

Anyway, and there was a job section, you know, and I looked, and there was Lincoln Park Zoo, and they were looking for a curator. And I said, “Hey, this might be, you know, that’s a good place, that’s a good collection, it sure is, and I’ll look into that.” And so I did, and I wrote a letter saying I’m interested and his luck would have it they said, “Come down.” I got a letter saying, “Come down.” And so I did, I went down, got a motel over on the South Side, and of Chicago, and went to the zoo and talked with Les Fisher and talked with Gene Hartz, of course, who was the assistant director at the time. And they of course wanted to, they knew Warren Thomas and they knew his reputation and that I had left there wasn’t any impediment to my getting a job at Lincoln Park, they understood what the story was. Lots of other people that had problems with him, with Thomas. They asked though of course, Gene did anyway, what the problem, and I just, I told him, and he understood it. And of course it was Les Fisher’s decision to make. And I guess there was only one other, I think there may have been only one other candidate truthfully for that job, and that was that dealer down from New York, I forget his name. I believe there was, that’s it.

01:04:54 - 01:05:03

At any rate Les picked me, which I was, you know, and I said, “Hey, that’s great.” Was this for general curator?

01:05:03 - 01:05:10

Yes, this was for general for curator, yeah. General curator. But here was a general curator when you arrived.

01:05:11 - 01:05:12

George Irving?

01:05:15 - 01:06:22

Well George Irving yes, George Irving was there, but there were two curator positions though. And George Irving was still one curator. Yeah was one, was one of a sort. I mean, George had been there for many, many years and he, really George truthfully was a timekeeper. Basically, he fulfilled that function. That’s no light matter, I mean, you know, but that’s, he had been there so many years as a, and George was more of a, I mean he was a bird expert, and that, you know, complemented me because I wasn’t honestly, and he, as I say he basically, he really didn’t have that much to do, and really didn’t want to have that much to do with animals anymore because he had done it for 30, you know, how many years? I don’t know. I don’t remember how many but a long time. And so I was there as the animal, basically the animal curator.

01:06:22 - 01:06:26

What kind of zoo did you find when you got there?

01:06:27 - 01:07:16

Well it was a zoo that had traditionally had a good collection, good collection of animals. And traditional old, you know, an older facility that was a very, very popular place with people, with the citizens of Chicago. And needed, could’ve, needed a lot of improvement I think, to come up to the standards, of much of the standards of what a modern zoo was, or was becoming at that time. And you, the director was Dr. Fisher.

01:07:16 - 01:07:19

How would you describe his style and your relationship with him?

01:07:21 - 01:07:37

Well his style was very, was reserved, I would say. Not in a bad way, not in a bad way at all. He was, he was friendly, most assuredly.

01:07:37 - 01:07:49

Do things for you, he would, you know, I mean there was, but there was no question that he was the director of the zoo and you weren’t, you know?

01:07:49 - 01:08:36

And there was nothing bad with that. That’s actually a good way, that’s actually the way you should be. That’s actually the way you should be. And frankly, I’m gonna have to say, that was the way that honestly, it was very difficult for me to be. And that that should have been, I should have been more emulating of him that way than I ever was. Now you indicated he was a mentor. Yes, well because I watched him handle the staff. I watched him handle the public, the city officials, and I realized that that was the way he did it.

01:08:36 - 01:09:19

His calm, very calm, quiet, demeanor was the total opposite of Warren Thomas’. So as Thomas was a mentor to me on the animal end of it, I think Les Fisher was a mentor to me on the handling people. Give me some quick examples, if you can think of them of him, lessons learned on handling people. Well, I could tell you about more of the lessons that handled me. I mean he was, you know he never, even if he didn’t know he, I can’t say even if he didn’t agree with you. He would tell you if he didn’t agree with you.

01:09:19 - 01:09:24

But there was this, you know, his famous saying, he goes, “I couldn’t agree with you more,” (laughing) you know?

01:09:24 - 01:10:00

And that would take away any kind of a negative thing that anybody had to say. I mean, it really would, it was just a wonderful, a wonderful saying, which I found myself using when I went to, I was in San Francisco, because it really is. You’d have members of the public coming in and being irate about something, that was really sort of not, you know, you could say, “Well, I couldn’t agree with you more,” and you know, take away their, the whole thing they were mad about, and they’d walk away seemingly happy.

01:10:00 - 01:10:04

But even if they weren’t happy, they weren’t saying they weren’t, you know?

01:10:04 - 01:10:47

And it was really, it was a genius remark, I mean truly. It was a little thing, but man, (laughing) it was a genius remark and it worked. So it was really, I just think it was a great, his great way of doing it. Now you had many hopefully memorable experiences at Lincoln Park. Can you tell us, well let me back up a bit here in going, when you came in, did Dr. Fisher or Gene Hartz or anybody charge you with, “Hey Saul, we want you to build this. You’re here to make these people,” whatever. Were they giving you any charge or just- No, not really. Just run the collection.

01:10:47 - 01:11:07

Not really. Yeah, not really. But I remember one of the things that during our interview, during the interview that I had before being hired, Les took me, they had to do, get some medication to a llama in the Children’s Zoo. And he took me and he wanted me to give it.

01:11:08 - 01:11:11

He wanted to see me, what I, you know, how I could do things, you know?

01:11:11 - 01:12:34

And there was a keeper, and he was working in the Children’s Zoo at that time. Boy, I know I could see him right in front of me. And I can’t remember his name now, but he was like a, he claimed to be a psychiatrist, or he was a psychiatrist, or he thought he was, but he was a keeper at the zoo see, and he was trying to handle the llama. He couldn’t, I mean, literally he couldn’t do it. And I just went over to this llama, it was a full-grown llama, it wasn’t a little one. A full-grown llama, and I just grabbed it around the neck and tried to open its mouth, and I took this bolus, we’re gonna give it a, and I just put it, shoved it down his mouth and closed it, and the llama of course took it. (chuckling) And I didn’t say anything to that guy because obviously I wasn’t even working there then, but I was there and I, you know, I’m not saying that sealed the deal, but I think that, you know, he could see that I could take care of myself with animals, knew what to do, in doing that kind of thing. So memorable experiences, the great apes, they had a reasonable collection of great apes there. Oh yes, sure.

01:12:34 - 01:12:44

Can you tell us about your thoughts about the great ape collection, and maybe go into the birth of the, your experiences with the birth of the very first gorilla?

01:12:46 - 01:14:03

Well yeah, okay. We had some tremendous experiences with the apes there, there was a lot of different kinds, because we were getting, we would, I believe that the zoo was doing the correct thing by bringing in young gorillas, a number of them, to build a family group of gorillas, because that’s the way gorillas should be kept, in families. That’s the way they live, and they should be kept in families. And when people say, “Well, there’s too many in one cage, or too many in this and that,” each animal is another thing for all these other animals to do. So there’s plenty for them to do, because that’s what they would do in the wild, is interact with each other all the time. So that was really the best thing you could do, have done, the zoo could have done. That wasn’t anything that was my idea basically, because they were doing that before I got there. And they had a large number of them, as well as having, unfortunately, a lone big male, Sinbad, who was a legacy from somebody else, somebody else’s time, you know, at the zoo.

01:14:03 - 01:14:38

And he was living alone and it was always a, you know, a problem having a lone animal like that. And We had, there was a lot of things going on with that collection. And especially since you were bringing in animals from the wild, when it was still legal to do that. One came in, it was a female, Lenore I think. Lenore came in and she had a disease that people get, called yaws.

01:14:38 - 01:14:43

I remember that, it was all over, you know?

01:14:43 - 01:15:12

And it was really, and of course yaws, it was a scourge of Africa, but of course it was so easily cured by just penicillin. And we gave her some penicillin shots and we cured her of having yaws, which is a, what it was at that time, I know one of the scourges of Africa, and it was not, nobody was caring I guess, about it doing it, but you could have wiped it out, which I think eventually it has been pretty much wiped out. You know, and there’s a lot of things.

01:15:14 - 01:15:19

Now, you hadn’t been involved with a gorilla, correct me, with a gorilla birth until you came to Lincoln Park Zoo?

01:15:19 - 01:15:32

Or had- That’s correct, ’cause most of the gorillas that we had these other places were young anyway. No we didn’t, I wasn’t involved with a gorilla birth. But we had them, you know.

01:15:32 - 01:15:36

Can you talk about the first gorilla birth you were involved with?

01:15:36 - 01:16:06

The first gorilla birth Was a very, very emotional experience. And I still think about it today. You were privileged to see it. Yep, I’m sorry. It’s pretty silly. No, no, I can’t wait for you to describe it.

01:16:06 - 01:16:08

Weren’t you in a staff meeting?

01:16:08 - 01:16:48

Happened at 5:00, they had a giant group of people there. You know, I don’t remember that. But we knew she was pregnant obviously, and we had, Mumbi was the female’s name. And we had a pediatrician, I guess. That’s the, that we, they were, I guess a pediatrician.

01:16:48 - 01:16:50


01:16:50 - 01:17:24

No, he’s a pediatrician I think, come in, and we just told him to go, and he just walked in the cage. We didn’t even tell him to do it. We opened the door, we wouldn’t go in with him. He just walked in the cage. Mel Bailey. Okay, yeah. A gynecologist, yeah okay, that what he was, yeah. He just walked in the cage, and I took a picture of him.

01:17:24 - 01:18:09

And it’s actually a fairly, a real good picture, actually. It’s famous, kind of a famous picture of him leaning down and listening, you know, checking her out. And he didn’t think anything of it. ‘Cause he figured, “Well, they’re not gonna send me into a place with a dangerous animal.” You know, just walks in, and it was really an amazing sight. And she was a gentle animal, she was. But you know, full-grown female gorilla, you don’t, something that you don’t think about doing. But he just went in there and, and so she was, you know, under his care, so to speak, I mean really. And we knew, and, and I guess When it happened, I’m not even sure, there was a bunch of people around.

01:18:10 - 01:18:42

It happened at 5:00. Okay, well I’m glad if it did- It was a staff meeting, they had all these people watching and she had a long labor. Yeah, she did. Yeah, Mumbi had a long labor and there were a bunch of people there, and there were staff people, a lot of staff people watching it, and- Mike Sulak was there. Eddie Almandarz was there, Mike Sulak. There were a number of people. Dennis probably, Dennis Barrett there. You, and Mark Rosenthal was there.

01:18:42 - 01:19:56

I was taking pictures. Oh, (laughing) so was I. I was taking pictures too, but she started- It was kind of a culmination- Oh yeah. Oh yeah, yeah. Oh God. It was a, it’s something that I know that Fisher wanted, Les Fisher wanted very much. And he had been working towards that, by getting, you know, these gorillas and getting them together and you know, and that kind of thing, which is, was of course obviously necessary, but other zoos, some didn’t actually do that, which never made much sense to me then. I remember it all of a sudden she sort of went up on the shelf, you know, the shelf that they had, and she started giving birth, and the baby started to come out. And she grabbed it, she grabbed it and started to take care of it, started to hold it anyway.

01:19:56 - 01:21:15

She held it to herself. But I remember that we never, you couldn’t, it was very difficult to see the baby nursing, whether it was nursing or not. It was very difficult because she held it so tight and on, you know, around her. And she had her arms always around it. And you just really, it was very difficult to see it nursing, and it was, I remember that we would come in all hours of the night to check it, to see if it’s doing okay, to see if it’s nursing. I remember that I lived up north of the zoo and I remember, no one told me to do this, but I remember driving into the zoo at like 3:00, I think it was like 3:00 in the morning. And I walked into the primate house and there’s Les Fisher standing at that, at that, looking into that cage, doing the same thing that I came there to do, checking to see if that animal was nursing. And it, I mean, obviously was, and you eventually did see it doing it.

01:21:15 - 01:22:29

And the big disappointment really of that was, that whole incident, was that she didn’t continue to take care of it very well. And it was, in a way it’s not surprising, you know, I don’t know, ’cause I don’t know how much, we don’t know of course how much contact she had ever had with her own mother. So that’s how they learn that, you know, and they see the mothers taking care of the other one, another one and, and a lot of these animals came in when they were very, very young. And it’s not surprising that that happened. It was sort of surprising though, truthfully, that she took care of it at all, but she did at first, and eventually she got to be very careless with it. It wasn’t like she abandoned it totally, because she didn’t do that. But she became very careless in handling it, and it got to be a danger to that animal, it really was. As much as I hated doing it, I made the recommendation that we needed to take the animal away, to make sure that it was gonna survive.

01:22:33 - 01:23:23

I think reluctantly, everybody took it away. We took it away and took it down to our nursery, which Was, you know, really the only thing you could do. I mean, honestly it was, she was handling it very badly. Like she was holding it casually by one hand, which isn’t right, (chuckling) I remember over her shoulder. I mean, it wasn’t, and she was kind of, well not tossing it around, but it was, she was acting like it was a doll sort of, and I mean, it was just too dangerous. You couldn’t leave it with her. I mean, it was just way too dangerous. Now you were involved in other things with the gorilla collection on an opposite end.

01:23:23 - 01:23:30

Can you relate when one of the gorillas, Patty, sustained an injury and your involvement?

01:23:30 - 01:23:44

Oh yes, yeah. There, all kinds of things go on with a collection, and the more animals you have in it, is the more things will go on. And she was, she was her mother.

01:23:44 - 01:23:47

She was her, wasn’t she with her mother?

01:23:48 - 01:24:36

Yes. Lenore- Lenore’s baby, right? Yeah, yeah. And somehow or other, she got into, Lenore may have got into a fight with the male, or perhaps she somehow way or other did abuse the baby. And the baby was in a real bad, a real bad child abuse situation, truthfully, because she was really in a, I wouldn’t say a coma exactly, but she was hurt and out. I mean, essentially out. And we came in early in the morning. It was early in the morning. I’d come, usually get to the zoo early.

01:24:36 - 01:24:43

And it was early in the morning when someone, it was one of the keepers, maybe?

01:24:43 - 01:26:10

Pat Mulroy. (chuckling) Yeah, a keeper named Pat Mulroy came, and he was working in the building at the time, came in and, “Something is wrong, you know, with the gorilla baby.” And we ran in there and sure enough, there was just this baby laying there, like she had been beaten. So, and Fisher was just coming in too then. And we ran in there and we separated the animals, got the adults of the way and got her, and Fisher said, “Let’s take her to the children’s hospital,” and I grabbed her in my arms and we drove her in Fisher’s car to the Children’s Hospital. In Chicago, you know, not that far away from the zoo. And we drove her down there, and of course they didn’t know what to do, but we talked them in, he Fisher really, talked them into doing, taking care of her and treating her. They said, “We don’t know how to treat.” “You treat her like a baby, it’s the same thing exactly.” And they set up a little ward, not in the human ward because I could see why they wouldn’t want to do that. But they did down below, downstairs in the basement, they set up a ward where she was being taken care of, and given exactly the same care as an abused baby would’ve been cared.

01:26:10 - 01:26:38

And one of our keepers was with them, I wouldn’t say, was it 24 hours or, I think it probably was, basically with that animal 24 hours, and she survived. And it was an amazing, amazing thing. Now go back to that first gorilla birth, Kumba. She was taken from her mom, raised in the nursery.

01:26:38 - 01:26:41

Then what eventually happened to her?

01:26:41 - 01:26:44

Was she reintroduced to her mom?

01:26:44 - 01:26:46

Was she sent away, stayed at the zoo?

01:26:49 - 01:27:13

I honestly don’t remember. I’ll have to say that I don’t remember really at this stage. I think we introduced her, I’m pretty sure we did. When we talked about that first gorilla birth, it obviously brought emotions back to you about that.

01:27:13 - 01:27:31

But why? I mean, it was the fact that- Well it was something that, you know, you were in, that’s the objective I think of all of us, was the objective, and probably, I’m assuming is still the objective, was to breed these animals, you know?

01:27:31 - 01:28:37

It’s not just taking them from the wild and say, here’s something for the public to look at and whatever. This is, that’s the objective of it. I mean, whether it’s conservation or not, I mean, maybe it’s a pipe dream to think that the zoos were gonna be able to save gorillas or any animal really, but it’s, we all had that desire, I think. Everybody had that desire and that wish to see them reproduce, to make a more natural group of animals for one thing. And just, you just wanted to see that. You wanted a young, you were always, whenever a baby was born of any, you know, anything. That made you very, very happy and pleased, because that was, you were fulfilling one of the functions that you had had, that the zoo had. And that’s, you know, and to finally have this happen with gorilla, which was of course one of the icons, it was really an amazing thing.

01:28:39 - 01:28:42

What was a typical day like for you at Lincoln Park Zoo?

01:28:42 - 01:28:52

Now of course you were, let me preface it by saying you were general curator, but then let’s talk about you got a- Yeah, well.

01:28:52 - 01:28:56

I did after- How did that happen?

01:28:56 - 01:29:59

That after a few years that I was there, the assistant director left and Gean Hartz, and I felt that I should get that job. And with my experience that I had had there and other zoos, and that I got along at that zoo. Everybody knew me, I knew the zoo. I felt strongly that I should have that job. And I talked to Les about it, and he wanted to interview other people. And I understand, I understand that, why he would, would’ve wanted to, and he could have been criticized by city people or other people by saying, “Well, you just hired that guy. You can just, you should get the best there is, you know?” So I could, I can understand that. That didn’t really bother me that much.

01:29:59 - 01:31:13

And, but I was very forceful in my desires to have it, to get it. And eventually, you know, he came around to that, came around to that conclusion also. And so he did, but I think really, I think that Les, well to start with, Les I think was the person who took care of all of the behind the scenes things. You know, with patrons, with the city, with the park district, and you know, things with the society. And I was more of the operations guy, you know. And I’m just wondering if in fact he didn’t want somebody to maybe help him or do more on the sides of things that he was doing. Which I would’ve been willing to do, but I didn’t see too much of a opportunity to do it when he was there. So I think that’s why he was interviewing a lot of, a number of other people.

01:31:14 - 01:31:18

So then he came to you and said, “You got it.” Yeah, yes.

01:31:18 - 01:31:21

What was a typical day like in the life of an assistant director at Lincoln Park Zoo?

01:31:22 - 01:32:19

Well, one of the things of course that I tried to do all the time was to go check on the zoo. Look at the animals in the zoo, checking what’s going on, talking to the keepers and the staff. And that’s probably what I did at first, if I’m not mistaken, what it would do. Then I’d go back to the office and see about taking care of telephone calls and, you know, business. And one of the things that we had there, I thought that was a very, very good thing, was the diary, the diary that was kept. Generally the assistant directors kept the diaries. And I remember, you know, filling things in, the entries in the diary out about things that happened in the zoo. And that was so important.

01:32:19 - 01:33:07

You could go back years later and read things that went on in the zoo on a specific day or a specific time, and it was just very important. You know, things don’t happen, just happen. They happen on, in a historical sequence, and the history tells that’s what’s gonna happen in the future too. It’s the only, the only predictor of the future is history, nothing else. And it’s just great to go back, and looking at those old diaries and reading. Hey, this thing happened then too. And it was really good, and I loved doing it, keeping that diary about things that went on on that day in the zoo. And you were responsible for buying and- That’s right, that’s one of the things.

01:33:07 - 01:33:41

That’s one of the things that was fun, fun to do it because it brought in new animals to the zoo and sent out other animals maybe, which was surplus to the zoo at that time. And I dealt with other zoos all over the world. And of course, obviously in our country, and doing things with dealers, obtaining animals and things like that. And that was a big part, that was a big part of the job.

01:33:41 - 01:33:45

Did Lester Fisher micromanage this job for you or not?

01:33:45 - 01:34:06

Oh no, no he did not micromanage the job at all. No, he let me essentially develop what I wanted to the job myself, and do the things that I could do best. And yeah, he was not a micromanager at all.

01:34:06 - 01:34:17

Did- Did you have to receive permission if you wanted to buy or sell or trade an animal, or did you have carte blanche to do these things?

01:34:19 - 01:35:27

I’m not sure I would say that I had carte blanche to do it, and I certainly wanted to keep him informed anyway. I mean to me, that was obviously the smart thing to do, regardless, was keep him informed. I don’t wanna, you know you don’t wanna, that would be real dumb to do something, especially with say, an iconic animal, and he didn’t know about that, would’ve been real stupid of me to do, and I didn’t. I mean, I always checked with him, and I can honestly say, I don’t think there was an incident that he ever overruled me or said maybe, the only thing he would’ve said anyway was, “Maybe we shouldn’t do that, you know?” He might have said it that way, but he would never have said, “Oh, we can’t do that.” He would never have said that anyway. And so if he said I might not, “We might not should do that,” I would’ve listened to him, that I can tell you. But he wouldn’t have said it that way. He wouldn’t have said, “Oh, we can’t do that.” No, he never would say that. And I’d say, I don’t think he ever did.

01:35:30 - 01:35:48

Now you indicated that a lot of things happened in the gorilla collection. You were there at a time when many babies were born, you were an acknowledged expert in the field. What was the relationship of Lincoln Park to probably the next person who had a major gorilla collection, John Aspinall.

01:35:48 - 01:35:49

How did that come to be?

01:35:54 - 01:36:56

John Aspinall from England was a guy who made his money, and he made a lot of it, in gambling in England, which was legal of course. And he like loved animals, and he established a whole series of zoos and wild animal parks throughout England. And he, it was his desire, he really wanted to breed gorillas. And he had a big gorilla facility, but he never had done so. And at the time we had a lot of gorillas, probably too many, for the facility that we had. And we were gonna, we were thinking of surplussing a male gorilla, a full-grown male gorilla, or very close to it, named Casaro. And I said, Aspinall was asking, not, he didn’t ask us, but I saw in writing or it may have been in ad that he put in “International Zoo News”. I think that’s where it was.

01:36:56 - 01:37:50

There was a publication called “International Zoo News” that covered all kinds of news all over the zoo world, everywhere in the world. And I saw he had advertised that he wanted an adult. He wanted a male gorilla, an adult male gorilla. And I thought, “You know, here’s a place. Maybe we can send Casaro,” because this guy wouldn’t stop at anything to do the best thing he could for these animals. I mean, this guy was not kidding. He really did, when he wanted to do it, he would do it, ’cause he had so much money and he really felt for the, had a real feeling for the animals. And I broached it, I went to Dr. Fisher, to Les Fisher and I said, “Here is maybe a place, there may be a chance.” And he said he agreed.

01:37:51 - 01:38:43

And so I said, “Do you want me to follow through on it?” He said yes, and so I did. I contacted John Aspinall and I said, you know, I told him what we had, who we had, an adult male gorilla. He wasn’t totally and absolutely a giant full grown, but he was pretty big. I mean, he wasn’t anybody you wanna walk into unannounced into a cage, ’cause he was a pretty big gorilla, probably sexual mature actually. Well, it turned out he was but, (chuckling) and we got ready to send him to England. And it was quite a project, quite a project. Who went with him? I don’t even remember. Jim Vance.

01:38:45 - 01:39:41

(laughing) Well, the keeper, head keeper in the monkey house or the ape house actually went with, accompanied him to England. And he knew his animals, so that was okay. And it was a deal putting him in, getting him in a crate and sending him over there. It was quite a, ’cause usually when you sent animals like gorillas, you would send young ones, and young ones are relatively easy to, easy to ship. They’re not, you know, they’re not dangerous. They don’t try to break out or you know, do any crazy things like that. So it was a big one though, and who was, an animal who was starting, really basically starting to feel his oats. It was not easy to ship.

01:39:41 - 01:40:30

It was not an easy animal to contemplate shipping him. And it was quite a deal. And we did though. They put him in a crate and flew him over there. And I’m very happy to say that he was one of the, if not the founder animal to all the gorillas that were born at Howletts Zoo Park, which is what they called Aspinall’s place. So that’s an accomplishment, I think. So this was kind of Lincoln Park doing some conservation work. Absolutely, yes of course it was, it was for conservation and it worked, I mean it really worked, ’cause Howletts then started breeding gorillas, and it was a worthwhile thing to do.

01:40:34 - 01:40:40

During this time, how were your philosophies or your ideas about zoos evolving or changing?

01:40:43 - 01:41:19

Well, I don’t know. You know, the thing is, my philosophy always was that if you were gonna keep animals in captivity, you had to do the best thing you could possibly do for them. And I think that, I think every good zoo person feels this way. And I think that almost every day when I was working in the zoos, I always questioned myself, asked myself a question.

01:41:21 - 01:41:22

Am I doing that, how are we doing that?

01:41:22 - 01:41:24

Am I doing that?

01:41:25 - 01:43:02

And most of the time I could say yes, with qualified yes. When you see, when I saw animals like Sinbad, the lone male gorilla in Lincoln Park, alone and living alone for his entire life, you sorta of saw it feel, you’ve failed in that regard. But it wasn’t, you know, we there then didn’t have that responsibility in essence, but he was under our charge, but we hadn’t done that. We didn’t put him in that position. And I think it was the, when people put him, the people that put him in that position really and truly didn’t have the knowledge about gorillas say, that we did have, because much more was learned about them in the wild. A lot more was learned about them in captivity. And so you can’t say or you can’t put the blame on those people for now not doing it the right way. But still it was, it was the wrong thing to do, and it was one of those things that you wish, I personally wished it was never done, because I think that it was a very poor way of keeping an animal, a very social animal traditionally, which is a very social animal, and I always felt sorry for him.

01:43:06 - 01:43:14

When you first came to Lincoln Park Zoo, I know that you were involved in the, a lot of things were thrown at you, the Children’s Traveling Zoo.

01:43:14 - 01:43:24

(Saul laughing) And, but how effective, you don’t have to tell any of these stories, but how effective would you say that type of program was?

01:43:24 - 01:44:28

I mean, you were thrown into it, and is the kind of thing- Yeah the first day I, the first day I came there, it was George Irving, who, you know, was doing the scheduling, said, “How would you like to go in the, you gotta take, take the children’s zoo out,” or the traveling zoo, excuse me, the traveling zoo. I didn’t even know what the hell the traveling zoo was, or what was on it. But as I recall, there was another person who came with me on the traveling zoo that day, the name of Mark Rosenthal, who was a zoologist. No, you were just a no, no, not a zoologist. That’s right, then you were just a helper, a helper going along yeah, on that. And I’ll have to give you credit for being smarter than me, outsmarting me. You may not, well you probably do remember it. I was not a person who was, you know, because all the places I had been didn’t really have reptiles.

01:44:28 - 01:45:50

Lincoln Park was really the first zoo that ever had reptiles. And I never was a, I never handled reptiles. And going out with me on this traveling zoo there was a caiman, which was, and the people, you know, caiman is a crocodilian, smaller than an alligator, not an alligator, but they’re, they can be pretty nasty in their own right. And if it’s a little guy, you can handle it, but the bigger they got, the tougher they got to be. And the people in the reptile house, I don’t know if they were doing it a purpose to indoctrinate me, (laughing) but they put a pretty good size caiman in the traveling zoo. And I had never, I had never handled the caiman. And I remember figuring, “Well this guy, he’s the helper, isn’t he?” (laughing) So I said, “You have to take these animals out of these cages,” in this like, was a bus actually converted into, like with cages, and you took them and frequently that’s what the helper did actually. Take them out and give them to the staff member, and you’d talk to these kids about the animals and try to, truly what it was, was entertaining these kids, honestly.

01:45:50 - 01:47:01

I personally felt that it was, what they were doing was a worthless, totally worthless, you know, activity, as far as education is concerned. But at any rate it was part of the park district thing, and that’s what you did and fine, so we did it. And I can’t say they didn’t enjoy it, because they did, but how much they learned from it is another story. And I figured when it came to this caiman, you know, I asked him, Mark Rosenthal, I said, “Well, get the caiman out and hand it to me.” (laughing) ‘Cause I had not ever done it. And give him the credit, he said, “Well, you know,” he said, “I never handled one before, but if you showed me how to do it, I’ll know the next time.” And that very good response going, because because I had to go get him. And I knew how to do it, I knew what you’re supposed to do, And I did, and I jumped, I just grabbed that sucker and pulled him out of that cage. And you thought I had done it a lot, because I did it right, that was perfect. And that animal was docile, I mean, I could control him and I did, but boy, that was the first time I ever did it.

01:47:01 - 01:47:05

(laughing) But, so I give kudos to him.

01:47:05 - 01:47:10

We were talking about, does a traveling zoo have educational value and could it?

01:47:11 - 01:47:53

Well, I guess it could have educational value I suppose, but you know, when you’re doing it during the summertime as part of a summer camp, or summer exercise outside of school, it doesn’t lend itself to that. That’s what I think. And so when you do it, like we did it, because it was supposedly good for the park district, I mean, that’s really what it was for. ‘Cause it went to park district, if I’m not mistaken, it went to park district facilities, didn’t it? Yeah.

01:47:53 - 01:48:02

And all of these kids had just been running around like, you know, crazy for hours, and then all of a sudden here comes an educational experience?

01:48:02 - 01:48:17

No, I don’t think so, it wasn’t. And it just wasn’t, but I think if it was in an academic setting, I think that it could be, yeah, I think it could be.

01:48:18 - 01:48:26

Were you involved in developing stud books for any various animals or not? Or did you work with them?

01:48:26 - 01:48:38

Well, I worked with stud books but I was not, no, I was not in it, in working with stud books, no. You wrote about the bush dog at Lincoln Park.

01:48:38 - 01:48:44

Could you give us some background about the study, and how significant was that kind of work?

01:48:44 - 01:49:49

Well, it was that work on the, the work on the bush dogs was with an animal that was unknown, I mean really, an animal that was unknown. I mean, if you ask today people in zoos, what is a South American bush dog, I’ll bet you most of them wouldn’t know what it was. Overwhelmingly in fact, I don’t think they’d know what it was. I may be wrong, but I don’t think so. Nothing really was known about them. And so we had had the luck to be able to acquire a small number, a few, three I think it was. I don’t remember, yeah three bush dogs and I wrote an article basically about observing their behavior, and it shouldn’t have been surprising that they were a family, obviously a family, a group animal, a family animal, and defensive. They would defend the family if it came down, when it came down to it, which they would do.

01:49:49 - 01:50:09

And that’s the reason that it was done, that I did it because just added a little bit of knowledge to the pool of animal animal knowledge, because nothing else, very little really, had been written about bush dogs, and I think very little is known, still known today about them.

01:50:09 - 01:50:20

Did you feel a responsibility in any way, maybe a bad word, to publish things that you saw based on your original things of working with the great apes?

01:50:23 - 01:50:34

Responsibility? Well, I think was important to do it, to yeah, I think that I had a responsibility, sure. Increase the knowledge that people had, other people had.

01:50:34 - 01:50:42

Other people would be in the same position, and why reinvent the wheel, if it’s here in this paper or here in this journal?

01:50:42 - 01:50:51

Yes I think, yeah I think I did. You indicated when you were at Lincoln Park that you would go around and see what was going on.

01:50:51 - 01:50:57

Was that part of your routine, is to make rounds, and how important do you think that is?

01:51:00 - 01:51:05

Well, I think how are you gonna know what’s going, really know what’s going on?

01:51:05 - 01:51:20

I think it’s important to make rounds, to be able to make a decision at some time in the future, because if you gotta know what’s going on with the various animals, various exhibits, things like that. Yeah. I think it’s real important to do that.

01:51:20 - 01:51:24

And we’ll talk later, but did you continue that when you went to San Francisco?

01:51:27 - 01:51:36

In a different way, I did. A lot of people thought I didn’t, but I was in that zoo almost every night after hours, yeah.

01:51:39 - 01:51:47

What would you say was, what kind of, what would you say was your most significant achievement at Lincoln Park Zoo while you were there?

01:51:47 - 01:51:48

What do you consider?

01:51:52 - 01:51:53

Makes you the proudest?

01:51:55 - 01:53:03

Oh, well I think that what makes me the proudest, I think is that, you know, we did things I think, that I helped build a primate collection that was a real good one, a lot of unusual animals in it. I think that the care, being extremely careful about caring for them and the care of animals. Although, you know, that that zoo was famous for that kind of thing anyway. I don’t know, it’s, you know, it’s hard for me to to say I honestly, what my proudest, what the proudest, I mean, having the gorilla baby I guess, you know, of course, was of great note. Well, on another different type of level, dealing with the press, and we’ll talk about dealing with the press in San Francisco, but dealing with the press at Lincoln Park. There was a kangaroo that was spotted, and you made a claim that you would eat the animal if it was ever found, it was quite a statement.

01:53:04 - 01:53:12

How did you regard the media then I guess, and would you have handled it differently in today’s climate?

01:53:12 - 01:54:01

Well, (chuckling) when I said that, obviously I didn’t mean that I would actually eat the kangaroo. But it was meant, because it was such an unusual statement, I felt, that it was meant to show people that there was no kangaroo out there at all, and that’s why I said it that way. And I wouldn’t doubt that I might say it again today in more or less the same way, just to make that point, that it is so outlandish, that you would automatically know that there wasn’t a kangaroo out there. And it was obvious that those policemen were trying to cover their asses when they, (laughing) when they said they saw a kangaroo and that’s why they were away from their car.

01:54:01 - 01:54:03

I mean, that was the whole thing, you know?

01:54:03 - 01:54:12

They couldn’t be reached by radio and they were running after this kangaroo, which obviously was incorrect. And I knew it, and everybody else knew it too, and that’s why I said that.

01:54:14 - 01:54:20

Did Lester, Dr. Fisher come back to you and ask you about that statement?

01:54:20 - 01:54:43

Because I know he got some notoriety for it. I don’t recall, I don’t recall that he did. Now you had to deal with members, while you were at Lincoln Park, with members of the park, commissioners, you had exposure to them. Yeah, yeah. What did dealing with some people, like the gentleman, Franklin Schmick, who had given a number of gorillas.

01:54:43 - 01:54:51

What was that starting, maybe to teach you about relationships with those type of people that later on you would come in contact with?

01:54:54 - 01:55:49

Well, I don’t know. He was a very forceful person. (laughing) Commissioner Schick was a very forceful person, a very, a great benefactor for the zoo. He, you know actually he was, he really was. And I can’t say that, you know, I didn’t have anywhere near as much contact with him, of course, as Les Fisher did, but I certainly was aware. It didn’t take a genius to be aware that you don’t want to insult him or get him mad about certain things. But I’m not saying he wouldn’t take the truth either, couldn’t take the truth, ’cause he can. He wasn’t a guy that required you to be a sycophant, to fall all over yourself again, for him, he wasn’t that way. And you didn’t have to treat him that way.

01:55:49 - 01:56:05

But you know, you wanted to treat that person with the respect that he deserved, and that’s what you, you know, showed me that, keep doing that and you’ll be okay. You would be, and wherever you went, you could be that way if you treated them that way, that yeah.

01:56:08 - 01:56:17

Was there any important things that you learned from your Lincoln park Zoo experience about maybe yourself as an individual working with animals or the zoo world in general?

01:56:25 - 01:56:33

That I learned for myself, by- For yourself, your time at Lincoln Park Zoo, or that you learned about the zoo world that you worked in?

01:56:37 - 01:57:37

Well, I mean everything, you know, everything I know basically was learned by, through experience and. You came into contact with- Dealers- Who were potentially not as honest as you would like them to be. You had to learn how to deal with those individuals. Well you learned, I think that you learned who you could trust and not trust pretty fast. I think I could. I was a relatively good judge of people anyway, relatively. And I think those people, I was very wary of many of the animal dealers and other people in zoos too. Some, I mean there, you know, people who work in zoos aren’t angels, all angels. (chuckling) They did things, you know, that was for their own benefit basically, and their own zoo’s benefit rather than you, your benefit necessarily.

01:57:37 - 01:58:05

Well I, my experience showed me what they like to do, things that they like to do. And obviously the wild has a great effect on that too. It’s the same kind of thing. But it just showed me what they liked to do, and how they made nests, so there was things provided for them to make nests, places and things. And that’s basically what it, you know, what it did.

01:58:06 - 01:58:07

Was that a team effort?

01:58:07 - 01:58:11

It was, because when I left, it still wasn’t finished, you know?

01:58:12 - 01:58:23

So others obviously added to that too, sure. Now you leave Lincoln Park in 1975. Yes.

01:58:23 - 01:58:28

What prompted you to leave Lincoln Park, and where did you go?

01:58:29 - 01:58:35

Well, I went to San Francisco and became the zoo director there.

01:58:35 - 01:58:37

But back up, what prompted you to leave Lincoln?

01:58:37 - 01:59:46

Well I left Lincoln, I didn’t leave Lincoln Park so much as go to San Francisco. Had I not been married, and it was relatively new. You know, I was married in what? ’72, And had a kid, and I guess that I thought it was time to make my own way and get more money. You know, that kind of thing, provide more security for the family, that kind of stuff. And ’cause I was, I would’ve been happy staying in San Francisco for the, you know, I would’ve been happy. It wasn’t that I was unhappy or had problems with anybody there. I just thought it was to time to go, and I went to, what I had done, I had gone to San Francisco, yeah. I was invited To the Western Psychological Association meeting in San Francisco, quite a while before I went there at all, you know went to, left to go there.

01:59:46 - 02:00:31

I mean, I didn’t go west to go to San Francisco, but since I was there to give this paper at this psych Western Psychological Association meeting, I wanted to go to the zoo. Well I went to the zoo and I just thought, I saw this zoo, and I knew the history that the zoo had was very, in a way negative, I guess. And certainly a lot of negative things were written about it. It really was a, did not have a good reputation and this and that. But when I got to that zoo, it was like warm and it was sunny and everything was blooming. And there were these big, big outdoor enclosures for everybody and things.

02:00:31 - 02:00:33

I think, “Jesus, what are these people complaining about?

02:00:33 - 02:01:23

This place is really, has got tremendous potential if nothing else.” The dirty word potential, which you know, but really, and I said, you know, “This place is nowhere near as half bad as they said it was. I mean you can, but if you come here, you got a chance to do something, and still it’s a nice, you know, it’s a good place to go, it’s nice.” So I went home and I remembered that they had been advertising for, did advertise for a director a while back. And I didn’t realize they had one, who wasn’t a zoo man, of course, you know he was a park guy, but I didn’t know that, and so I wrote a letter. “If you’re still looking for a zoo director I’m interested, I’d like to interview for the position,” you know, blah blah, I write that. Well, as I found later was typically San Francisco, nobody answered me.

02:01:23 - 02:01:41

And I thought, “Well, they probably have a director and they’re not looking for one now, and it’s the way it goes.” Then as also typical San Francisco, they called me up on the phone and said, “Well, are you still interested,” you know?

02:01:41 - 02:02:48

And I said, “Well, yeah.” And they said, “Well, you need to be here on Friday.” (laughing) And this was like Monday or Tuesday. And I said, “What?” And she said, “Well you know, we’re trying to get to zoo society to pay for it, but we don’t know if they’re gonna pay for it,” and you know, this kind of stuff, just. And I said, “Well, if you don’t,” I’m thinking to myself, “No, I’m not paying for it. If you get the zoo society or if you pay for it, I will come, I will be there.” And they said, “Well okay, we’ll let you know.” And of course they let me know the day before. It’s very, also typically San Francisco. And I went, but I had to be back Friday night because that was the annual meeting of the Lincoln Parks Theological Society, and Fisher was having his operation. He had a, you know, it wasn’t a big thing, but it was a, you know, it was a thing had to be taken care of. So I had to run the meeting.

02:02:48 - 02:02:56

And so here I’m in San Francisco and I said, “I gotta go back,” get back there that night. Luckily the two hours worked in my favor that way.

02:02:56 - 02:03:06

And I did, I mean I got back, I went right to the meeting, the big tent deal they put up there and I ran- They were bringing you to San Francisco for what reason, interview?

02:03:06 - 02:03:24

Oh yeah, yeah. Then I asked them to see the zoo, and they didn’t even think they, (laughing) I’d been there of course, but I wanted to see it again and they didn’t have any way of me getting to the zoo. And they had to get some guy that worked for the park department to take me.

02:03:25 - 02:03:30

I mean, all I could say is, you know, what can I say?

02:03:30 - 02:04:18

That’s just, that’s the way San Francisco is, honestly. And I remember, and I didn’t hear from them for quite a while. And then I remember it was one of the, there was a zoo conference and, it was in, I forget where it was. May have been in Canada, I’m not sure. But there was a zoo conference and I was there, and you know, I get a phone call from Jack Spring who was the, had been the zoo director. But he was the, he now became the general manager of recreational park department. And he was a terrific guy, he became my boss, but he was excellent man. I mean, he really was good, a wonderful guy.

02:04:18 - 02:05:04

And I get a call from him. And I figured, well, when they’re calling me from San Francisco, they’re not calling me to say I didn’t get it. And Barbara was with me at the zoo conference, and I discussed it with her before I called him back. And I said, “Well, I think I’m gonna get that job. We gotta make up our decision, we need to give him an answer.” And she wanted to go, ’cause she, at that stage in the game, at that time, she loved, she had loved San Francisco when she came, and I guess she’d go there from Chicago and it’s in December, and it’s like 70 degrees and the roses are blooming there, and all of the stuff is out there. You fall in love with the place, you know, in a way. And she said, yes, you know, she’s in favor, let’s do it. And I said okay.

02:05:04 - 02:05:17

So I called Jack Spring back and told him yes, I would do it. And that was my, (laughing) that was my deal. So that’s well, how I wound up in San Francisco.

02:05:17 - 02:05:23

Now, did you talk to Dr. Fisher about the job after you had said yes?

02:05:23 - 02:06:11

Did you ask his advice, or- I told him, I told him about it and he was very, very congratulatory. He was very happy for me. And I think he liked the idea that another Lincoln Park alumni became a director, because that’s, the zoo is famous for that. You know, there’s been, down through history, I can’t tell you how many, you may know the number. I don’t know the number, but there’s a lot of graduates in a sense of Lincoln Park Zoo that became directors of other zoos. And there’s a big number. I can’t remember what it is, but it’s a lot. And so he was happy, that was one thing that made him happy, and he was happy that I became a director, ’cause he thought it was a good, you know.

02:06:11 - 02:06:13

He give you any advice?

02:06:13 - 02:06:20

No, nope, I didn’t ask him either truthfully. Well, it’s just not that I didn’t need it, but it was, he was my mentor.

02:06:20 - 02:06:24

I watched him, I watched him a lot, you know?

02:06:24 - 02:06:58

I don’t know how much I learned, (laughing) but I watched him, I can tell you that. No, I knew what to do. Now whether I did it or not is another story, but no, you know, it was, he was very, very happy about it. So you come to the San Francisco Zoo. Right, I drove out. That was another mistake I made. I drove, it was like a farewell tour of going around visiting all kinds of places. You know, people that I know and zoos from Chicago to San Francisco.

02:06:58 - 02:08:01

And of course we just had, my son was only eight months old, and that was not a smart move on our part to do, to be honest. And he was okay most of the time, but then right at the end, he got deathly ill. He got some stomach virus or something like that. And it was not a nice thing because my insurance had run out already the last day when I got to San Francisco, my last day of insurance on Chicago, and didn’t have any in San Francisco yet. And they wanted to put him in the hospital, ’cause we knew some people and they told us, “If you have problems, call this doc, this is the one you wanna talk to, and here’s a woman that you can talk to.” They set this up for us and we did do all that stuff. And they gave us their doctor ’cause they had kids too. And, but the kid was, my son was very sick and luckily everything worked out all right. But it was a, getting there was hard.

02:08:01 - 02:08:08

I mean, that was a tough part. At the end of it was a real tough, tough four or five days. Now you arrive at the zoo.

02:08:08 - 02:08:10

What did you find, what were its strengths?

02:08:10 - 02:08:12

What were its weaknesses?

02:08:14 - 02:09:11

Well, the zoo had, as I say, I think it had a lot of strengths or potential. Let me say that, a lot of potential strengths. But It had, I think the major weakness honestly, was that it was so insular. Everything about the place. They had no, there was no, there was very little new blood coming in, came into the zoo. It was all people who had worked there, working there, and they never hired from the outside, or rarely. In fact, I found out later on that they wanted to hire, the city people wanted to hire the Bill Montreaux, you know, the vet who was taking care of the zoo, just being caretaker, taking care of the zoo while, you know, I was coming. And the Zoo Society found out and they said no, uh-uh, over their dead bodies.

02:09:12 - 02:09:51

And I didn’t know that till later. So they were my champions at first and were not even, they really weren’t a Zoo Society per se. They were like the Friends of the Zoo. And that was a big strength of that zoo, that Friends of the Zoo. They never, they didn’t, they didn’t have any desire to run the zoo. All they had desire was to help the zoo. And they were, they were very, a tremendous strength of that zoo, tremendous strength. And they, it was a real big, as I say, it’s a real big strength of the zoo was them, and their attitudes were excellent at that time.

02:09:53 - 02:10:51

And also, I think that the keeper staff was also inbred, very inbred. Nobody, there was a few people that had worked at other zoos, but very few. And they all, and they really were, they weren’t well trained. They weren’t, they didn’t know anything. They knew very little about animals, honestly. I remember one of the first things I wanted to do was I, I took a, I walked around the zoo with a number of the head keepers, you know, and people had certain their area, they were area supervisors, and they were in their areas and I could talk to them, and that’s what I did. The first, I walked around and talked to everybody and all of their supervisors, and one place at the end, at the far, I wanna say my directions. The far eastern end of the zoo was that big hillside, big hillside covered in eucalyptus trees.

02:10:52 - 02:11:50

And it was a exhibit of sorts for wallaroo. And they had a bunch of, a lot of them, had quite a few. They were breeding them very well, and they were, they just had a lot, and it was a beautiful exhibit. I mean, wild, very wild, unkempt-looking on, it wasn’t, you know, on purpose. Nobody, you know, went in there with a gardener every week, but, and it was, and these animals loved it and people, you know, just left them alone and they were doing very well. And I just asked the area, the guy who was a supervisor, I said, “Well, how many males are in there?” And he looked at me, and remember these are wallaroo. And he looked at me and he said, “Well, how would you know?” And I looked at him and I remembered they told me, this guy has a zoology degree from Berkeley.

02:11:52 - 02:12:10

And I said, “Well, how wouldn’t you know?” Said, “The males are black.” (laughing) He said, “Oh, I wondered what that was about.” And I said, “Oh my God,” you know, “what have I got myself into,” you know?

02:12:10 - 02:12:24

And they just didn’t know, didn’t know, didn’t know that at all. And that may seem like a little thing, but it’s indicative, it was indicative. I would’ve found out, you know, had I been in charge of this area.

02:12:24 - 02:12:29

I would’ve asked somebody or tried to find out, what are the black ones, what’s the difference between those two colors?

02:12:29 - 02:13:35

He never did. And at time I said to him, “Well the males are black, and that’s how you can tell,” he said, “Oh.” And so, you know, that kind of thing. And it was repeated, it was repeated in a lot of areas. I mean, they all had, they had their set ideas on what they knew and what they wanted to do, and what they did do and they, I wasn’t ready, I was very naive in a sense, I wasn’t ready for a place like that, where the union was so strong. And I’m not against unions, I am pro-union. But the way this was is you’ve gotta render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and they didn’t do that. They did everything, you know, everything was for them period, and they got away with it, and they’d been getting away with it for years. And one of the things that was one of the divisive factors in that zoo was that they had what was called a signup.

02:13:37 - 02:14:36

That weren’t ran by seniority. Where even if they really weren’t, if these keepers weren’t suited to work in a certain, really work in a certain area, it doesn’t matter. They could sign up for it, and it’s very difficult to prohibit them from working in that area. You’d have a major battle on your hands if you were gonna be able to do that. And it happened all the time, and there were people who had no idea, and no experience working in an area and then it’s, “Oh, I wanna work there this year.” And that was one of the things that, and when I was first told that, I said, “Oh, you can’t be serious. You know that’s not, that can’t be possible.” It was very possible, and that’s the way it was. And It was a very, to me, that was a tremendous weakness of the zoo. I mean, there were people who you knew would do a fantastic job somewhere else.

02:14:36 - 02:14:41

You couldn’t put them there. Some other guy with more seniority wanted that position, so that’s who got it.

02:14:43 - 02:14:51

After you had time to walk around the zoo, talk to people, did you start to develop a vision for the zoo?

02:14:51 - 02:14:53

Well let me say- Start to implement it?

02:14:53 - 02:16:11

Yeah, let me say this. One of the things that was real good about the situation was that they had started, the city did something about starting to get architects on board to make a master plan for the zoo. And they were working on that before I got there, but I did have some input into it. And we did produce a book, a master plan book. And of course with, as with any master plan, you can make changes if you want to, but it gave you like, a landmarks. It gave you a road map as to where you wanted to go and how you, you know, what you wanted to do with it. And it was really, it was a blessing in disguise because what we really, what that zoo really needed was some new exhibits, new, modern exhibits being built there, because the stuff that they had was, you know, it held animals, yeah. But it was, there was a lot more needed.

02:16:11 - 02:17:13

You had to get with the, you know, make the zoo come into the 20th century, kind of thing. And luckily, I’ll tell you some, a very, very funny story, actually. We had a, as I said we had this master plan, and this is when the time, this is about the time, was the time, that the federal government needed to stimulate the economy. And so they said they, they were offering money. They were offering grants to places that were ready to go with construction work within like 90 days. And that’s, that’s tough if you don’t have the plan, where you’re starting physically in 90 days, it’s not, it isn’t feasible really to do that. Well, with all the approvals and all the visits you have to have. Well, as luck would have it, of course, we had a master plan, and it’s turns out, that’s what the Feds really wanted.

02:17:13 - 02:18:53

They wanted to see a plan. And so we said, we were, we got together with the architects and we said, “Well, we wanna do three things that are relatively easy to do, to get started right away.” ‘Cause you had to have, on the 90th day, you had to have somebody on payroll working on those projects. And the city plan, one guy in the City Planning Commission and the architect that worked with us from an architectural firm, we devised, they put together of the grant proposal, and the city had to approve the grant proposals. Well, the zoo has never been a, had never been a priority in the city. Had never been, you know. And they said, “We don’t want the zoo to get,” they didn’t say it out loud, you know out loud. But they were told, the guy at City Planning said he was told that, “Well, they don’t want,” they didn’t want to take away the possibility where the old people’s hospital, Laguna Honda, would get funded, and so they don’t want to submit anything for the zoo. Well it turns out, I didn’t know this till later, it turns out that when the day was over and the plans were sitting in the city in, all of the, the proposals were sitting in City Planning, the City Planning guy went over with our proposal and just calmly after work, after hours, put it on the top of the pack.

02:18:53 - 02:19:45

And they all got sent away to, it was to Washington. That’s where they, I don’t know why, but in Washington state, that’s where they were making the decision. And as it turns out, we got approved. And the city couldn’t say no, because it got to where, there was a big thing in the papers. How could they say, “Hey, we don’t want the city zoo to have money,” they can’t say that. So that’s where we started the, you know, Wolf Woods, you know, that was one of the, the first project we got going was Wolf Woods, because it was easy, that we had guys in there on the 90th day clearing brush. And that’s how we started, you know, redoing things. Now there was education going on at the zoo at the time that you got there.

02:19:45 - 02:20:29

What was your vision for an education element to the zoo, and how was that- Well that was very, that was actually done very well at the zoo. They actually handled that pretty well. They had a, that’s one of the things the Zoo Society was doing, and they did that pretty well. Docents of course, you know, were involved with it. And there were people who were in charge of the docent program that were very, very assiduous and very, very, you know, very good. And they did a very, very good job with tours, and with classroom activities. And the Children’s Zoo, you know, had a lot to do with that. They could do a lot down there and it was run, the Children’s Zoo was run by the Zoo Society.

02:20:30 - 02:20:39

And they did a lot of that. And I think that it was, they did a pretty good job. They did a good job.

02:20:39 - 02:20:44

Did you have any vision of what you wanted to put forth in education?

02:20:46 - 02:21:07

Well, one of the things that I really wanted, and this actually worked out well. One of the things I wanted was to do to, well let me say, first of all, there was almost there was essentially no zoo staff. And basically there was only a couple of people, you know, three or four people max, and there was nobody to make a sign.

02:21:07 - 02:21:12

How would you make a sign to tell what, to say what an animal is, who’s gonna do that?

02:21:12 - 02:22:10

There’s nobody to do it. And there was no, like lot of zoos would have educational graphics, you know, and that kind of stuff, which you should have. And there was nobody to do that either. So the first budget I had to deal with, I said I wanted to have, it was very important to have a curator of graphics, because I wanted somebody that could do work with like, see the docents and make educational stuff you could put all over the zoo. So it’s graphics, and sign, and all that kind of thing. And the only way I could get that was I had to, one of the people who used to, who ran for mayor once but was defeated, but was real cozy with the present mayor. He was a friend of one of the Zoo Society people, and it’s who you know, you know, the usual story. And he talked to the mayor and said, “They should have this, they need this.

02:22:10 - 02:22:42

They should have this,” so we got it. (laughing) And that’s, so everything, not everything is unlike Chicago, a lot of it’s the same. And that’s how we got it, and that’s how I got that position. And she did that and she was really, Elizabeth, Linda Taylor, and she was real good at it. And as a consequence of that, there were educational things starting to go up in the zoo, throughout the zoo. Graphics, you know, that kind of stuff, interactive exhibits.

02:22:43 - 02:22:50

How was conservation at the zoo at the time you came in, and what role did you see the zoo playing?

02:22:52 - 02:23:01

Well, I of course, I’ve always thought that it was a big thing in our, or else it should be part of our deal, you know?

02:23:01 - 02:23:53

And they didn’t really have a good idea of the kind of animals that they should have. In other words, it costs the same amount of money to keep a common antelope say, as it does to keep something rare. Same amount of money. Why not go to the one that’s rare and needs some help, and use that one, and you can tell an educational story about it. You could do all kinds of things like that with it. And that’s what I, that’s one of the things that I did. And I was, and I remember the people, a lot of the people on the Zoo Society saying, “We want, we need change. You know, that’s what you’re here for.

02:23:53 - 02:24:19

We want you to change this zoo.” And I said, “I will do so, I will do it.” And so I remember getting rid of, (chuckling) I don’t remember what the heck it was that I got rid of. I got rid of some very common deer. Maybe, it was in a pen in the middle of the zoo, and may have been, no, they were common.

02:24:22 - 02:24:28

Oh, you know, they have common antlers, you know what they are, we had them- Fallow?

02:24:28 - 02:25:10

We had fallow deer in a nice exhibit. I mean, it was a good exhibit, but, You know, I don’t think they needed the help. So I just, I said, “You know, we could do a lot better, and it would be better for the public too, I think. But to have a species of African antelope here that would be real nice and that we get along very well.” And I figured, well, we should have some water buck. And so I did, I put in, I got, I bought some, I got some water buck, and we put them in and they were really a very beautiful, spectacular animal did very well. They bred, and lots of young. And it was really a nice exhibit. Well, they were saying, obviously the fallow deer were some people’s favorites.

02:25:10 - 02:25:18

So they were saying, “What is he doing, what’s he doing?” The same people who said they want change were saying, “What is he doing?

02:25:18 - 02:25:32

He’s taking these animals, these are our favorites.” (laughing) So that was one of the first eye-openers sort of, it shouldn’t have been, I guess, but it was to me. But I persevered, I didn’t back down.

02:25:32 - 02:25:36

I said, “Well,” I told them the reason why, you know?

02:25:36 - 02:25:52

And well, they sort of agreed to that, I guess. You know, which they didn’t have to have course anyway, but I didn’t want to make enemies right away. So, but that was okay. But that was just one instance of the thing.

02:25:55 - 02:26:08

In response to an article in the “Rotarian” magazine, you wrote that, “Zoos may not save all the animals, but they’re going to, but they are going to be able to save a lot of them.” what was your zoo and others doing in this regard?

02:26:10 - 02:27:03

Well, you were breeding of course, trying to breed. Breed them, I mean breed animals. And I think that the, one of things that I was big about was causing, or looking at the population of an animal in all the zoos, like in the United States. You know, it’s, it’s not just, okay San Francisco had three of them, and Lincoln Park had two, and maybe Brookfield had seven, or, you know, that kind of stuff. But I wanted to look at the, to me, I looked at the entire number as being a single herd basically, or a single group. And you can move them around, you know, like the stud books are trying to do, and have been doing I know, at recent times. Now you also said that bars do not a prison make. That’s exactly right.

02:27:03 - 02:27:07

What’d you mean, and do think people understood or accepted that statement?

02:27:09 - 02:27:54

I don’t know, but I think that, I think that Lincoln Park was a great example. I used to use this, that yeah, there were bars at Lincoln Park. There were gorillas in bars. Well, look at what they were doing. Look how many gorillas they were producing, and the gorillas were, you know, it takes a lot of loving care, and that’s what it takes To make it not a jail or a prison, to make it a place that, it’s just a place where they stay that’s home to them, and I believe that. I believe that’s part of the reason Lincoln Park did so well was because of the way the keepers treated the animals, and took care of the animals.

02:27:57 - 02:27:59

How has zoos changed?

02:27:59 - 02:28:09

And specifically San Francisco, and how do you think that change that you were trying to initiate affected the animals, good, bad indifferent?

02:28:11 - 02:28:56

Well, I think that the animals were affected in I think a positive, quite a positive way. I think a positive way, yeah. And of course the story that you told to the public and the people loved to, you know, people liked the zoo and they came out to the zoo, and they wanted to see babies. They wanted to see animals doing well and that’s, they were seeing them doing well. You mentioned the Children’s Zoo before, and that the Zoo Society ran it. That’s correct, they did. No, they ran, they ran the Children’s Zoo, period. They did, they did, they ran it.

02:28:56 - 02:29:01

They built it apparently. I mean, they did, they built the zoo and they staffed it. They hired the personnel.

02:29:01 - 02:29:04

You didn’t have control over it as director?

02:29:04 - 02:29:08

Well, I had control over it, yes. Final control was mine, yeah.

02:29:08 - 02:29:10

How successful was this Children’s Zoo?

02:29:10 - 02:29:12

Was it an educational purpose?

02:29:12 - 02:29:14

What did, purpose did it fulfill?

02:29:14 - 02:29:45

Basically, yes. Basically. It was an educational thing, but obviously that didn’t preclude it being enjoyable. And they did a lot, they did breeding there too, believe it or not. You know, they had a pair of swans that for years and years, they had a pair of mute swans that kicked out, you know, a clutch of babies, and raised the whole clutch of babies every year. And they had other things there too, that bred as well. And although that wasn’t the primary reason for it, but you know, but they did that.

02:29:45 - 02:29:47

And they hired, they had zoo people running it, you know?

02:29:47 - 02:29:57

They had people who had been around, sort of. Yeah, definitely that, and it was, I enjoyed it myself. I thought it was okay.

02:29:59 - 02:30:02

While you were director, was science or research important to you?

02:30:02 - 02:30:04

I mean, you’d come from a research background.

02:30:04 - 02:30:08

Was it important to you or to the zoo at the time you were there?

02:30:12 - 02:30:35

Well, important yes. But I would say that I didn’t go out, and I didn’t really try to get people to do it. Do research, that kind of thing. If someone came to me and I would listen to a proposal for, and maybe agree to it, which did happen.

02:30:35 - 02:30:37

People did come to you with proposals?

02:30:37 - 02:32:01

Oh yes, yeah. Yeah they did. Any that stand out, that you’re happy they came to you, and- Well, I think that the guy who, the fellow who did research with our, with the siamangs, I think, it wasn’t he was manipulating them or anything, but he was observing them. And he was actually from LA, the LA area, but he knew that we had one of the few breeding siamangs in the country, and that was an area that I was very proud of. And so while, when I came there and we had the breeding pair of siamangs, after a while, you couldn’t keep all the siamangs. You had to send them someplace else. And I said, “Well, instead of having siamangs on one side of the zoo and gibbons on the other side, we should specialize in the animal that needs it the most, and that’s the siamangs.” I said, “Well give the, send the gibbons to another zoo. We’ll establish a secondary group of siamangs, and maybe we’ll get two breeding pairs.” Because the way they were breeding and raising their own young, and then the young ones turned out to be breeders too, but there was a secret to that, in that you had to leave them in with the breeding pair until the third baby was born.

02:32:02 - 02:32:36

Then you take them out, and they’re sure to be a breeder. And that’s really what happened. That was mostly my research actually, with that way. But he came on and observed them, and he stayed there at night. I let him sleep outside in the zoo, because he observed them all the time. Talking about science, before you became director, the former director authorized a very controversial study with a gorilla named Koko, and it became a documentary and so forth.

02:32:36 - 02:32:48

Can you tell us the story about Koko as you had to pick it up, and what lessons could be learned about dealing with scientists or science?

02:32:48 - 02:34:30

Well I can tell you right now, that was one of the least happy instances of my career. The moral, I’ll tell you the first the moral, don’t ever let an animal, your animal, out of your zoo. ‘Cause if you do, the chances of your getting it back are very slim. This happened to other places too. I can cite you other instances. But yeah, the director of some time, actually a number of directors before me, allowed this animal, their baby was born, and allowed this person, or a person, to do experiments with training this gorilla to do hand signs, hand signs, you know, the American hand signals. And while I don’t think that in itself is a horrible thing, he allowed her to take the animal out of the zoo and do the work somewhere else, at Stanford University. And she became very, very attached to that animal, which I know can happen, there’s no question of that.

02:34:30 - 02:35:55

And she became incredibly attached to it. And I understand it as a matter of fact, but I can’t condone it in this instance because that animal, that being a female Was very, was critical I thought, to our zoo’s breeding program, gorilla program. And I did not want, I really didn’t want that agreement to be renewed, and I wanted the animal back. And of course she had really done a number on the media, on the newspapers. I mean, she did a number on them that they all believed her, that this animal could, that she could converse with the hand signals, her hand signs. And it really was a, I had one heck of a time, just a hell of a time trying to get that animal back, I mean literally. And to do it, if I had to seize the animal, it would’ve been a public relations, of course, disaster. And she got somebody, there was two gorillas came up for to buy.

02:36:00 - 02:37:06

And Heine, I forget the guy’s name, but I know it, ’cause he actually was involved in the, one of the panda things going in Brookfield long time ago, back, way back. Heine, I forget his name, but he was the one that had them, or was selling them anyway. And even though there were an age, the Species Act was enacted. And I met with her on numerous occasions. It’s one of the first things I did, was go down to Stanford and see it, see what’s going on. And I saw that it was, the way she was the dealing with it Was very, very badly done. And she was trying to, you know, tell people, “Oh yeah, this animal, she, you know, says this and says that.” And it was like, I know you know what I’m talking about. Don Hunt, there was a guy that used to do an act with a chimpanzee, and the chimp used to go over, get him, pick up things and bring it to him.

02:37:06 - 02:38:03

The guy would say, “Oh thank you, Jimmy, for bringing me that towel,” or something like that. And then of course, that’s all Jimmy was doing, bringing something, he didn’t, couldn’t talk or couldn’t do anything, except you know, he was just going around. And that’s the way this gorilla was, as far as I was concerned. Very little, and people, a deaf person couldn’t understand her. Couldn’t see her doing that. And finally I told her that if you got these two gorillas and you give me that female, we’re all, we’re free, we’re home. I said, “The deal is done, it’s finished. You get to keep who you wanna keep, and with a male, and I have a female for our colony, for our group, and we’re all happy.” I said, “And if you need help getting an endangered species permit,” I said, “I will help you write it,” ’cause I had done a lot of that.

02:38:03 - 02:38:07

“I will help you write it.” And oh yeah, she was in all agreement with it.

02:38:07 - 02:38:29

Then time goes on and didn’t hear much, and then all of a sudden there was one of the women who was a docent, and was in high on education, says to me, “Oh, did you hear Penny’s getting the gorillas today?” I said, “Huh? How could she possibly get them without any permits?

02:38:29 - 02:39:21

And far as I know, she never, she didn’t apply for any permit.” And She said, “Well I don’t know, but they’re coming in.” And I said, “This is gonna be rich.” I said, “I don’t see that, how this is gonna happen.” Well, not only did it happen, but they came in with no permits, no approvals, no health approvals or permits. She just got them, brought them to her place and just went on her merry way with them. And I was gonna get that female, but as luck had it they both got sick and she, the female died. Now there’s a number of things. How did she get the, she never got it of course, approval.

02:39:22 - 02:39:25

But how did she bring them in without the permits?

02:39:25 - 02:40:05

You know how tough it was for any of us to get the permits and to bring something in without them they they’d be confiscated, you know that. And once I, and then after that happened, I got a visit from one of the guys, from one of the customs agents asking me about it, and asking whether she had permits. I said, “You’re the one should tell me, you’re the one that’s supposed to know.” I said, “No, she didn’t have permits.” And the guy said, “Oh well, we won’t do anything anyway.” That’s a true story, that’s what happened. So they’re all afraid of her ’cause of the media. That’s what the deal was.

02:40:05 - 02:40:09

I’m sure they wouldn’t say anything ’cause of the, she had the media in her, you know?

02:40:09 - 02:41:04

Well, she didn’t have a lot of the, well none of the scientific people, you know. A lot of the people at universities, and guy who was at Humboldt State University, who was the head of, you know, National Geographic Society who was funding her in part, as a scientific journal, not the magazine. And the editor of that journal was the guy who was at Humboldt State. And he said, “This is just a farce, it’s just a farce. There’s nothing she ain’t, she’s not doing any science,” but he couldn’t say anything because National Geo was funding it. They wouldn’t come out and say it. And finally, I said, “You’re gonna, if you get money and you pay for it, fine.” Because by this time I thought that she wasn’t gonna be a, she wouldn’t be a breeder anyway. And of course it turns out she never has bred.

02:41:05 - 02:42:07

And so we got, I think that time $10,000 I guess, which is, it was the best we could do. But lessons were learned. Lessons were learned. And it was interesting enough. Warren Thomas as director at the Los Angeles zoo let something like that happened to her, happen to him too, but it wasn’t as big an item as a gorilla, it was De Brazza’s monkey, that he let one of the docents take home and she wouldn’t give it back. (laughing) ‘Cause she got so attached to it. And you know, and I said, “Well you were my,” I told him, I said, “You were my mentor.” I said, “But I can mentor you a little.” I said, “I knew that a long time ago, months ago, years ago, I knew that situation. You’re never getting it back. Once you let it out of your zoo, you’re never getting it back.” And that’s, I learned that one.

02:42:08 - 02:42:16

Now you were continuing to try and do some building. In 1984, you got 250,000 for a bear grotto, to build.

02:42:17 - 02:42:20

How did you, was that part of the master plan?

02:42:20 - 02:42:21

How did you decide on that?

02:42:23 - 02:42:24

A bear grotto?

02:42:27 - 02:42:29

You were, were you continuing to build?

02:42:29 - 02:42:35

Oh, I don’t- With this master plan, were you continuing, you did Wolf Woods. Oh yeah.

02:42:35 - 02:42:41

What were some of your other things that you were, that were on the books that you were trying to put together?

02:42:41 - 02:42:50

Well, there was, you know, there were quite a few really. Don’t even remember the bear grotto, if we did one.

02:42:50 - 02:42:53

Well you brought in golden monkeys, didn’t you?

02:42:54 - 02:43:02

Yeah, but that wasn’t in a bear grotto. No but I mean, so you were looking to bring in- Well, that was part of the part of a, yeah, yeah.

02:43:02 - 02:43:03

It was part of a building program?

02:43:03 - 02:43:05

Or as part of an education program?

02:43:05 - 02:43:19

Well, the golden monkeys we brought in went into the primate center, that was done by that time. They were, they went into the Primate Discovery Center. Well then let’s- Okay, let’s talk about that.

02:43:19 - 02:43:23

How did that vision for the Primate Discovery Center come about?

02:43:23 - 02:44:21

Well, you know, the primate cages, the cages that, the monkeys were in cages, the apes were on concrete. They just were outdated, antiquated exhibits. And now what we built was, we built a, The Gorilla World exhibit. That was what, was part of that money that we got from the federal government. That was the, one of the things that really was a big, a big, really a big event. And it was a great, it’s a great exhibit. It was a very good exhibit, I thought. And people loved it because, that was one of the things that happened to me that really made me the happiest and the proudest, truthfully, that I remember.

02:44:21 - 02:45:19

And Sulak was, Michael Sulak was in the office when this happened. We opened up the exhibit to the public and people came lots. And there was a guy, a man, that came to the office and he knocked on the door. And you know, we said, “Come in.” You know we were, all of us were sitting around because the, it was all the, the exhibit was open and the animals were in it. And The man came in and said, “I wanna know,” he says, “I want to know who to thank for this, for this gorilla exhibit.” And I said, “Well, you can thank a lot of people here.” And then Sulak said, “You thank him,” and pointed to me. And I didn’t know who this guy was, actually, the man was, but the next day in the paper, there was a giant article about it. And it really made me really happy and proud. That was a, it was a reporter.

02:45:19 - 02:45:39

I didn’t know the guy, you know, and that was good. ‘Cause he had said that, “Well, I’ve been going to the zoo ever since I was a little kid, and nobody ever did this for the animals.” So that was a great, that made me very proud. Now this was, then the Primate Discovery Center was after that. Oh it was, the Primate Discovery Center was after that, yeah.

02:45:39 - 02:45:41

How did you start to form that idea?

02:45:41 - 02:45:43

What was going on that you started thinking about that?

02:45:43 - 02:46:12

We needed, we needed facilities for all of the apes and the monkeys, and I mean, in a full way. And there should be, you know, not these, all these same cages, that it’s, you know, it’s really silly. So they went, the Society was soliciting funds, and there was a woman who was the widow of a very famous builder in San Francisco.

02:46:12 - 02:46:22

You know, he built all these homes, and you may have heard a old, sort of a modern folk song, “Houses made out of ticky-tacky,” did you ever hear that?

02:46:22 - 02:47:02

Well, her husband built those homes (laughing) and he made an awful lot of money, and he died and he left the money to her, and she liked primates, she actually liked primates. She had primates, monkeys of her own. And she said she wanted, she gave a million dollars and she wanted, and you know we needed so much anyway, it didn’t matter what you built, really. You could have built a primate center. You could have built a, for cats, they both were needed. And so she, but she liked monkeys. What could be better than, and they needed it. So we built, we designed and built the Primate Discovery Center.

02:47:04 - 02:47:42

This must have been- Go ahead. And it filled, it fit into the master plan, you know, certainly. But your specialty, or you like primates, so that must have been- Well but, I know- Well, it was on my mind, but the cats were also on my mind because they needed it too, really. But probably though in truth, cats, you know, wanna lay around, you know, they aren’t active and they lay around, basically. But what you’re doing is, when you’re showing them in that kind of a display, you’re not telling anybody a story, you’re not telling anybody about them, so.

02:47:44 - 02:47:46

What were you trying to do in that exhibit that hadn’t been done before?

02:47:46 - 02:47:48

The primate center?

02:47:52 - 02:48:44

Well we were, well one of the things we did was we integrated a whole bunch of interactive displays, educational displays, with the live exhibits. There was a whole bunch of them in the, you know, that people could go and use, interactively use, and find out things about all of these primates. And then the exhibits themselves, I wasn’t particularly happy about all of them, to be honest, the way things worked out. I wasn’t particularly happy about them, but I was, they certainly had room, lots of room. They had natural conditions. I mean, there were plants in all of them and all natural, you know, basically naturalistic conditions. And they had lots of height. I mean, monkeys wanna go up, and these were high.

02:48:44 - 02:50:02

All these cages were tall, and you could see in from a double, two levels. So we did a lot of that, that’s what that was. And, it was a way also of reinforcing the idea of evolution and our relationships to the primates, without saying a word, having to write it or say a word. Because we, one of our big funders was the Hearst, well I shouldn’t, Hearst Society, Hearst Foundation. And they didn’t like evolution. Well my idea, and this was my idea, I said that we don’t have to mention the word, ’cause that’s what gets them going. If you mention the word, that’s what gets these people going. But here was this, I said, “We need to build an oversize, like a langur,” I thought a langur would look nice, and oversize, a big one, a big fiberglass langur, and sit it, place it as if it was sitting on a bench.

02:50:04 - 02:50:43

Not a sign there, don’t say a word, because you’re not gonna have to. Everybody that sees this is gonna sit down next to this guy, and they’re gonna know. (laughing) They’re gonna know what you say, they’re gonna know what the story is, and that’s exactly what happened. And even the Hearst people, when they came through to see what was going on, they thought that was wonderful. (laughing) So that was a really a good, that was really, turned out to be terrific, I thought. That was one of the best things we did. Now did you, you mentioned that you had golden monkeys from China in this exhibit. Yes, on loan.

02:50:43 - 02:50:44

Did you reach out to the Chinese?

02:50:44 - 02:51:04

Was that your idea to kind of- Well, that was after the pandas, and we had a very good relationship after getting those, after getting the pandas. We had a good relationship with them, and that was another thing that We got from them. Tell me the story of the pandas.

02:51:04 - 02:51:06

How did it evolve?

02:51:07 - 02:51:08

Well, I’ll tell you.

02:51:09 - 02:51:10

What did you learn from that experience?

02:51:10 - 02:52:48

I am going to, I am going to take responsibility and, for getting those pandas. Because one day, when we used to do programs, we did a lot of, the Zoo Society used to do programs for the membership, at the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. You know, that big auditorium there, and that’s where we used to, we used to rent it and they used to, we used to put on educational programs, any kind of speaker you had, or films you wanted to show, that’s where we did it. And one, there was, I forget the program even, but we had a program going on there, and I looked around and I saw some of the guys from the Los Angeles Zoo there. And I said, “Geez, wonder what these guys are doing here?” So I, when the thing was over, I went over to them, you know, so we started talking, I said, “What are you guys doing here?” He says, “Well we’re getting, did you know we’re getting pandas from China, in honor of the Olympics?” I said, “No,” I said, “I really didn’t, that’s terrific.” You know it was, as far as I was concerned. And the guy says, “You know,” he said, “you should try to get them, because they’re just gonna go back when they’re finished with us. You should try to have them, you know?” I said, “Oh,” I said, “we’ll never be able to get them.” And he said, “Well, how do you know until you do it?” I said, “Yeah, you’re right there.” So I said, “I’m gonna, you know, I’m gonna do it.

02:52:48 - 02:53:06

It’s a very good idea.” So I went to my boss, who was by that time, another, you know, Tom Malloy, his name it was, who was very, a very, a go-getter, you know?

02:53:08 - 02:53:38

And I said, “Tom, you know,” and I told him the story. “You know,” I said, “we can get those. I really feel we can do it. Especially with the ties that Mayor Feinstein has to China,” ’cause she did. “And with our sister city being Shanghai and this and that,” I said, “You know, we could get them.” He said, “No,” he said, “you have to go to the, the president of China has to do it, you know, and all that.” And I said, “Well, so what?” He said no, he said no, you know.

02:53:38 - 02:53:41

I said, “Look, what does it hurt?

02:53:42 - 02:54:48

If we don’t do it, we won’t get them. But if we do get it, maybe we’ll be he able to get them, maybe.” “Oh,: he said, “oh, all right.” He said, “I’ll talk to the mayor about it.” So he went to talk to the mayor, and she thought it was great. She thought it was a great idea. And so they, the wheels started turning, and that’s why we had to go to China and you know, negotiate, ’cause they don’t come free. (laughing) There’s a lot of money gets involved, a lot. And Zoo Society said they were gonna, they would raise money for it, they would fund it. Which of course was really good. It was gonna help them too, because they ran the concessions, they ran the Children’s Zoo, you know, and any money the zoo brought in that way, it went to them. That was their deal.

02:54:48 - 02:54:58

They paid a percentage to the city, you know, but still. So they were gonna do it though, and they thought we wouldn’t be able to do it.

02:54:58 - 02:54:58

And I said, “You know what?

02:54:58 - 02:56:06

I really have this feeling it’s gonna happen.” They all go, “Well maybe so, okay maybe so.” One day, we had gone to China, and we had talked to a number of these people, but still we weren’t given a yes and weren’t given a no. And one day I was called by a Chinese woman who was living in San Diego. And she was translating for the head of the forestry department who had control of, you know, one of, sort of control of the pandas. And she said, “Well Mr. Lee wants to come and talk to you.” I said, “What does Mr. Lee come to talk to me for?” Said, its gotta be for the pandas. Anyway, I’d met Mr. Lee, I had met him, you know, in China. So we knew each other, sort of. And they came, they came to the zoo. We sat down in the office and we were talking, in platitudes, you know, as they do, and talking and not getting a yes.

02:56:06 - 02:56:38

You know, you can’t ask right outright. But I decided that I was going to do it outright, just say. You know, I said to Mr. Lee, “There’s a lot of things that we have to do for the pandas if we were to get them really, and that we need to, we can’t just do it in a very short time. We need a lead-up time, you know, to get them.” I said, “You tell,” I said, “I really and truly need to know whether we are gonna get the pandas or not.

02:56:38 - 02:57:02

I really need to know, because we have to get ready for them so we can treat them right, and do the right thing.” And he said in his true Chinese fashion, he said, “Well if I were you, I’d get ready.” (laughing) He did, he didn’t say yes or no but he said, I’ll never forget that, said, “If I were you, I’d get ready,” you know?

02:57:02 - 02:58:13

And I said, “Oh, thank you.” And then i knew boy, and then the wheels started turning and it was really a, that was the one event, you know, truthfully, getting the pandas was the one event that really brought us, well it brought our attendance over a million, and we hadn’t been able to do that for a long time. But it brought our attendance to well over a million people, ’cause that was, it drew, I can’t tell you how many people. And it was just an amazing, amazing thing. People just, they were just, you know, really panda-mania, panda-monium. Well, you know, it was mania, panda-mania, it was. Just incredible numbers of people, and it worked out exceptionally well. We made an awfully nice, you know, arrangement with the Chinese and we got those, you know, the golden monkeys for me was just as good as the pandas. I mean, getting them, you know, was a dynamite thing.

02:58:14 - 02:58:30

And it brought, people wanted to see them. Once they knew about them, they wanted to see them too. ‘Cause you know, they’re a striking animal, very striking animal, and it’s, and they did extremely well with us too. Was the, were the golden monkeys a separate- Yeah, agreement.

02:58:30 - 02:58:32

Deal or relationship agreement with the Chinese?

02:58:32 - 02:58:33

Oh yeah.

02:58:33 - 02:58:37

Was that something you wanted to initiate, or did they come to you?

02:58:40 - 02:58:47

I, boy it’s hard to remember that. I think they may have come to us, actually.

02:58:49 - 02:58:52

So in the end with the pandas, was it worth it?

02:58:52 - 02:59:40

Yeah, yeah. It was a, you know it was hassles, of course there were hassles. But you know the male panda, I don’t know if a lot of people know this, the male panda of the two, it was a pair, you know, two animals. The male got sick in LA the last few days it was there. And I said, “I don’t want this animal.” I mean, you can imagine it coming to the San Francisco Zoo and dying, and what the hell that would do. And of course, even though they got sick in LA, it didn’t matter, if it died at San Francisco, man, we’d be bad news. So I went down there, I went down myself. I flew up, I flew right down, which is not a hard thing to do to LA, but I flew down there and I went to the vet.

02:59:41 - 02:59:47

I knew all the guys there and I went to vet and I said, “look, how sick is this panda?

02:59:48 - 03:00:35

I cannot have him dying in San Francisco, I cannot do it.” And he said, “No he won’t, he won’t do that. That’s not gonna happen, he’s getting better now. And he’s, he just has a mild problem, it isn’t bad.” So I looked at him myself too, not that I’m an expert on pandas, but he seemed like he was active. He wasn’t laying morose in the corner someplace. He was relatively active and he, you know, so it was okay. And as soon as he came to San Francisco, that animal perked up, ’cause the weather, it was cool. It wasn’t that heat, you know, that humidity down in LA. And he immediately, as soon as he got here, he just perked up and it was extremely active and it was just, it was terrific.

03:00:35 - 03:00:40

I mean it was lucky of course, but it was great, yeah.

03:00:40 - 03:00:46

So if you were going to mentor some zoo director who was thinking about this type of exhibit, what would you be telling them?

03:00:48 - 03:02:02

Well be ready for a lot of crap from your other zoo directors who are jealous of you. That’s what I would say, ’cause that’s the deal, I think. When all these people who are so, you know, and who have done plenty of other things, you know, that were all, sound very, very sanctimonious and saying, “Oh, that’s not the way to treat, you can’t treat animals that way.” But you know, there hasn’t been a fatality. In all the panda things going back and forth, there hasn’t been a fatality. So I don’t know. (laughing) But I would say that if you’re a zoo director of a particular zoo, if you have the opportunity to get that kind of a bang-up exhibit for your zoo and don’t do it, you should be fired. And that’s right, if they’re not doing it for their zoo, then they’re not doing it. It’s great to speak platitudes if you don’t have a chance to do it. (chuckling) But when you have a chance to do it, most people will do it.

03:02:02 - 03:02:07

Did you have a lot of people who would become your friends all of a sudden, to be able to see the pandas?

03:02:07 - 03:03:05

Well no, not really. But I did take some people in, and in fact, this is a real funny, I think it’s an amusing story. There was a store here in Sonoma, a big supermarket, who I used to go to this supermarket and they knew who I was. And, I knew them, many of them by name, and they knew me. And when the pandas came, they were really, really wanting to see the pandas up here. And I said, “You know, if you people wanna come one night, we’ll set a day, come with me to, come down to San Francisco to the zoo, I’ll take you in and you’ll see the pandas close up.” And we did. (laughing) And nothing happened to, you know, they weren’t giving any diseases to the pandas, and I was with them and I did that, and it was real funny, actually I thought, we’re doing that.

03:03:05 - 03:03:10

Was the, did the Zoo Society pay?

03:03:10 - 03:03:45

I mean, there was obviously expenses to keeping the pandas, the exhibit work and just the things you had to do. Yes they, yeah- Was the Zoo Society coming through with all the money, or was it through the- Yes, they did. No, no, the city gave some money, but the Zoo Society did, yeah. The Zoo Society did, to give them their due, they really came through with that. Yeah, they helped us out and they did a lot. Of course we did work with the grottoes to get it looking nice and, with a lot of plants around it and stuff like that. And yeah, they did, they did.

03:03:45 - 03:03:49

Did the pandas help the funding for the zoo overall?

03:03:49 - 03:03:52

Were people more willing to give funding?

03:03:52 - 03:04:54

Well yeah, I would say yes, I would say yes. But you know, we had been improving a lot anyway, and we were getting some, we got some very, very good press. As I told you about the gorilla exhibit, we got very good press on all the new things that we were doing, and people really liked it. You know, the first thing when I, the first thing that I did when I came, actually, when I came to the zoo was, I wrote a letter to the membership, or to people really, it wasn’t just to the membership of the Society. But I wrote a letter that they could use, as getting members for the Society, they were sending out to mailing lists. And at that time, the Zoo Society had only 800 hundred members. And when they sent that letter back and all the returns had come in, they had 1600 when they Were finished. And the Zoo Society continued to go up, and continued to have members, get members.

03:04:55 - 03:06:26

And when you talked about good press coming because of the gorillas and the exhibit and the positiveness of the pandas, in 1988, the orangutan Josephine did cause a little bit of a stir. Tell us what happened with- That was, yeah, that was a deal with the, our sister city, Shanghai. We were looking for a place to put them anyway and, put the two young orangs we had. And, ’cause we had an older pair That were breeding. Although they were two different subspecies though, unfortunately, but they, Some people, it was a mistake that I allowed a couple of people to do some enrichment, in quotes, of work in the orang grotto. And they became, once again, they became really possessive of these animals. And they believed, well they believed that there was, that the female was, there was something, you know, she was not developing correctly. And when they found out that we were going to send them to Shanghai, they went on a big rampage with the media saying that she was gonna die, and she shouldn’t be moved.

03:06:26 - 03:07:07

She can’t be, you know, moved away, and just all kinds of stuff. And these are typical, this is a typical San Francisco thing, that there are people that get up in arms about certain things and they can’t, you know, they have no expertise whatsoever at all. But the media love, you know, love a controversy. And what they do is they don’t take sides. They report on the controversy. But it looks like they’re taking sides, but of course they’re not, it’s just reporting on the controversy. That’s what they wanna do. That’s what helps them sell papers and gets TV viewers and this and that, that kind of thing.

03:07:07 - 03:07:27

So they really, you know, and this is a whole bunch of other people, because they were saying, “We can’t send our San Francisco orangutan to China.” And you know, that’s all I need to hear, I can’t do it.

03:07:29 - 03:07:30

They’re gonna go, you know?

03:07:30 - 03:07:41

But it was the right thing to do. It was the right thing to do. I mean, it was a typical zoo move. And we did.

03:07:42 - 03:08:05

Oh, the ASPCA got involved in it, to make sure they were treated humanely, as if they would know how to treat them humanely actually, as a matter of fact, but they, (laughing) they were, and the guy says, the truck driver who, the guy driving the Humane Society truck said, “I’m here to watch this,” he said, “I don’t know why.” (laughing) I said, “Yeah, don’t worry,” you know?

03:08:05 - 03:08:09

And so it was, and we did, we sent them to China.

03:08:10 - 03:08:18

What was your philosophy though in handling the demands of these type of donors with the best interest of the animals?

03:08:18 - 03:08:37

Well the donors always wanted the best interests of animals, that was never a problem. I never had, none of these people were donors anyway, who were complainers, they weren’t donors of anything. They never gave anything to the zoo. So there’s no problem.

03:08:37 - 03:08:41

Did you have a philosophy for handling the type of press that you were getting with these people?

03:08:41 - 03:08:46

Well, we weren’t getting bad press from that. We never, we never really did.

03:08:46 - 03:08:50

I mean, they wanted to, but what could they find out was bad?

03:08:50 - 03:08:56

It was nothing. And even they were, they even, was it the “Today” show, or it was one of those morning shows.

03:08:56 - 03:09:00

The man who was the director of the Philadelphia Zoo, what was his name?

03:09:02 - 03:09:42

No, that’s a different, that was a different thing. Sorry, that was a different thing. (laughing) But at any rate, there was no, there wasn’t really any, you know, a lot, most people didn’t believe what this bunch was talking about. No, there was never a big thing about that. I mean, they made it to be, seem like it was, but it wasn’t. You had, we had talked earlier about, you had been involved in saving the life of Patty the gorilla, and ultimately Patty the gorilla came to the San Francisco Zoo. Well, that was after my time. Oh, was after your time.

03:09:48 - 03:09:55

During your time, was it difficult to replace animals?

03:09:57 - 03:09:59

Were you dealing mostly with zoos at the time?

03:09:59 - 03:10:03

Were you trying to, not to put a dollar amount on the animals?

03:10:03 - 03:10:06

Were you side dealing with animal dealers?

03:10:06 - 03:10:10

No, no I- How were you trying to acquire, or move animals?

03:10:10 - 03:11:56

Well, we dealt with, well one thing of course that we did, and that was a really fabulous move was the, prior to my time, the same guy who, the same director who had let this girl take the gorilla out of the zoo, wanted to get an okapi for the zoo. And there happened to be, I assume it was because there was a male, a surplus male okapi in Frankfurt Zoo. And that’s what he wanted, even though there two chances of getting a female, which I think it was, yeah, it was a female, which two is slim to none, you know, that’s the two chances. But he wanted that one, and he talked to Zoo Society, I guess, into buying it, getting it. And there was the, the okapi came to San Francisco Zoo, and it was of course a lone animal, was no female available. And chances are, of never getting one. Finally he worked with the Hunt brothers, who are well-known, you know, well-known animal dealers, in getting it to Brookfield Zoo, to go with their okapis, and they would owe, they would take some of that. They would take that money and owe, owe us, owe the San Francisco Zoo that amount of money.

03:12:00 - 03:12:43

And that was before my time, you know. But when I got here, I learned about it and I said, Well one of the things that I wanted to do was get animals, bring animals to the zoo that were animals that people wanted to see, and let them help fund animals, other animals coming here that nobody knew about, that I thought oughta be in the zoo. So I wanted to get something worthwhile. And I said, “Well this, it’s an okapi, and it’s obviously a worthwhile animal. It can’t go for two, a chimp and a zebra, and stuff like that.

03:12:43 - 03:13:01

It’s gotta go for something worthwhile.” So I told them, I told Hunts, “I want a flock of penguins, many as I can get.” ‘Cause you know, what’s the point?

03:13:01 - 03:13:09

Penguins need a lot, need a big group to breed, and to bring in five or six, what’s the point of that?

03:13:09 - 03:13:50

So I want a lot of pelicans, of pelicans. Of penguins, I don’t want a lot of pelicans actually, as a matter of fact but, “I want a lot. I mean, as many as you can get for that money that you owe us from the okapi deal, which was years back, that’s what I want.” And so they said, “We can do that, we’ll do that.” And I, it was like over 40 penguins, and we converted the, there was a pool, sort of just a long narrow pool in front of the lion house that could be, had been converted.

03:13:50 - 03:13:54

‘Cause you got that whole long swim, you know?

03:13:54 - 03:14:42

I said, “We can leave the pool the way it is, but we wanna do other things to make it right for the penguins.” ‘Cause you know, these penguins, they we gonna come from South Africa. You know, the Jackass penguins, of course. Which, a penguin’s, you know, a penguin. I mean, they’re good penguins and they’re burrowers. So you have to make them, give them a place to burrow. If you’re gonna breed them, which we wanna do, gotta go in the burrow. And I told one of the, well Nancy, one of the, the person that used to be head of the docents, she, I had got her on my staff, ’cause she was really terrific, excellent with birds. And I said, “You’re in charge of this deal.

03:14:43 - 03:15:22

Take it and run. These are for the penguins, this is what we want. We’re getting a whole bunch of these.” And I had Craig, the veterinarian, doing research on the proper food, the best food we can get them, and we did the whole four yards on it, whole nine yards on it. And they came in and it was a big deal, ’cause there were so many of them. And they paired off as I thought they would. ’cause they were, you know, a lot of them had their choices. They paired off, and I think it was like the second year they were laying eggs in the burrows. And they hatched young, and they took of care of most of the young.

03:15:22 - 03:16:04

Some we had to take care of, and we had a whole bunch of people hand-raising them, that they wouldn’t take care of, and we did. I can’t tell you how many, I don’t know where they stand now, but it has to be that, one of the most successful penguin exhibits ever anywhere. Now, what they’ve done with them now, I have no idea. I don’t know if they even still have them, but people love penguins. They love them, and they did. So you had a plan for slowly evolving the exhibits. Oh yeah, yeah.

03:16:04 - 03:16:06

And was it all worked off the master plan?

03:16:09 - 03:17:30

Basically, yes. I think that when we built the koala exhibit, there was another one that, that was very amusing in a way, exhibit or doing it. Feinstein, Mayor Feinstein got involved with Australia somehow. (laughing) I don’t remember how, and she got nutty about getting koalas. And I said, “Yes, we of course have had koalas in the past,” ’cause we did, and they survived somewhat. But you know, they died off eventually and I don’t think they ever bred. And I said, “Well we could do it, we can do this.” I said, “We can do it and we could raise them. And, but we have to have the right koalas, and we have to get them out of Australia.” And so I contacted Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane and they came over here and talked to me. And I said, “We have to have,” well first of all, going back a little bit.

03:17:30 - 03:18:27

I had Craig, the veterinarian, do a survey, research the basic cause of death of koalas in captivity. I said, “You find out,” because the veterinarians have their own database. I said, “What is the reason that these guys, you know, die in captivity?” And of course, I think I knew already what it was, but you know, you can’t just say, “Well, it was this,” you gotta have some proof. So he went ahead, and I never told him what it was, I thought it was. And he went back and did the deal. He says, “Well,” he said, “the cause is obviously stress.” I said, “Well, that is what I thought it would be, and the only way we’re gonna get koalas is, if we get corals that were hand-raised. Because there you would be used to people, they’re not gonna be, they aren’t gonna be under stress when people are around. They’re not gonna be under stress when they’re handled.

03:18:27 - 03:19:33

That’s what we’ve gotta have.” Well, the only place I could get those, because you know the Australian zoos do not value them very highly, ’cause they’re their own animals, I guess like us exhibiting a raccoon, and they don’t care about them, so they never had them. They never bothered with them, really. They just had them somewhere and if they bred, fine. And if not, “Well, we’ll go get another one, or some more.” And the only places that cared were ones that were making money off of them of course, the private places. And I spoke to this guy, I spoke to these people from Long Pine. They said, “We can get you,” you know I said, “I want six, I want a bunch of them.” And I said, “I wanna get animals that are perfectly well adapted.” He said, “Look, we’ve been through this with Japan.” He says, “We know what you want and need.” I said, “Right, okay.” They became real good friends of mine, by the way. I still have correspondence with them. But they sold out, they sold to Japanese actually, in Australia.

03:19:33 - 03:20:37

But at any rate they did, they supplied us with six koalas, and well the Australian government was going crazy about making these, you know, sure that everything was right. We had to send our bamboo to see they would eat it, which of course they would, because you know, it’s bamboo, they’ll eat it. And we had most of the permits from Queensland, from you know, the federal government doesn’t have that much to say about animals in Australia, you know. It’s the province or state actually that has, and Queensland is like the Texas of Australia. So they don’t like bureaucratic crap. So they gave us the permits, and they knew the animals from Long Pine, being in their state anyway, there’s nothing wrong, they’re good. And we had to, okay. But we had to get the veterinarian, some veterinarian of the Sydney Zoo.

03:20:37 - 03:21:20

He was doing something for the feds, to pass on, on the exhibit. Well, he came and said, “They’ll never survive. They’re all gonna die here.” He said, “The public is gonna make sure that they die here. You know it is,” and he just really, really, you know, wanted to destroy it. And I said to myself, “Well, you bullshit artist. You think you know, but you don’t know dick.” And he didn’t, because none of them died. They had babies, plenty of them. And I don’t know now, you know, it’s hard for me to say what now is, I don’t know what they’re doing now, but it was a perfect exhibit.

03:21:20 - 03:21:38

And we have, we have the eucalyptus for them, you know, obviously, and they were keepers who were, who that’s what their job was. To find eucalyptus growth, cut the eucalyptus, bring it back, feed it to these koalas. ‘Cause that’s what they, that’s you know, that is all they eat. And they were very, very successful.

03:21:38 - 03:21:44

And the city, like Feinstein says, “Oh I’ll find the money, we’ll build it.” I said, “Where am I gonna build an exhibit though?

03:21:44 - 03:22:22

I want them in a nice, this nice exhibit.” She says, “Oh, we own a hospital.” So the city was, there’s all kinds of weird things. They owned a hospital, not in the city of San Francisco, but somewhere down in the peninsula, down south. “We own that hospital. We should sell it and we’ll get that money to build the koala exhibit with that.” And I said, “Hey, okay with me,” you know, and they did. That’s where the money came from. You know, they could always get money when they want to. But that was, that was just really good. And really and truly it was, we had all these educational exhibits up with it, and it was a great exhibit, and they were active in the exhibits.

03:22:22 - 03:23:04

You know, you go to other places, you don’t ever see them doing anything. But here they really were because they weren’t afraid. They didn’t have stress. They had been used to it. In fact, when one, I can tell you right now, when at Lone Pine, there’s a, when a bus, they know a bus is coming with tourists, they send, they have a German shepherd that has a little saddle on it, this is true. Had a little saddle on it, a little harness, that they harness this koala to. And they went out, the shepherd, German shepherd, went out to greet the bus with the koala riding on his back. Now that’s hokey I know, (laughing) but hey, it worked.

03:23:06 - 03:24:04

It didn’t cause any problems, that koala seemed, you know to me when I saw it, I said, “Geez, this koala,” if you can say a koala is ever enjoying anything, this koala was, looked like it’s enjoying it. But I don’t know, but anyway, they really, was the most successful place in raising koalas anywhere in Australia. I really would’ve rather had the, what’s the koala from Melbourne, because they, the Queensland one is used to hot weather, and it’s not really, it’s not really fluffy and furry like the one from Melbourne, which I thought would do better in our climate, but it didn’t make any difference. Nobody in Melbourne was raising that many. These people were, they were doing it and raising a lot. We talked about mentors that you had, or people that you learned things from.

03:24:04 - 03:24:08

Were there other zoo professionals that you respected, and learned from, that had influence on you?

03:24:08 - 03:24:20

Well there was a lot of people I respected. I mean, honestly, I respected a lot of them, not that I learned much maybe necessarily, but there was a lot of ones.

03:24:20 - 03:24:27

I mean, Bill Conway, Louis di Sablo, just to mention two, you know?

03:24:27 - 03:24:47

And there’s plenty, I’m sure there’s more, you know, that I’m passing over. But you know those people, they were, I respected them. And I’m not saying I didn’t learn anything, I mean from them, but I’m just saying they weren’t, I didn’t work with them. You know, I wasn’t a, they weren’t mentors to me. You’ve met a lot of people though, as a director.

03:24:47 - 03:24:53

Who made the biggest impression on you, or maybe was the most famous that had an impact upon the zoo?

03:24:55 - 03:24:58

That I met, a zoo director that I met?

03:24:58 - 03:25:03

No, any people who were famous that had an impact on the zoo.

03:25:03 - 03:25:05

Did you ever meet Frank Sinatra?

03:25:05 - 03:25:14

No, no. Why did you, I didn’t, I never met Frank Sinatra, no.

03:25:15 - 03:25:20

Did the pandas bring any famous people to come and see them?

03:25:23 - 03:25:57

Well, a lot of politicians from Sacramento came. (laughing) But you know, most of the, to be very honest with you, most of the time the pandas were here, I was in Africa. (laughing) Believe it or not. You mentioned that you would make rounds at night. Oh yeah. Not necessarily during the daytime. That’s correct, well yeah, I used to go around daytime too, but sometimes. But I liked going around at night.

03:25:57 - 03:26:03

I thought that was a real good thing. I went around at night most, almost every night.

03:26:03 - 03:26:07

As zoo director, how involved were you in the day-to-day activities?

03:26:11 - 03:26:16

Well I wouldn’t, you know, I’m not really sure I know what you mean.

03:26:16 - 03:26:21

You mean day-to-day activities of feeding and cleaning and stuff like that?

03:26:21 - 03:26:22

No, the operations of the zoo.

03:26:22 - 03:26:27

Did you, you obviously had brought people with you, or you brought people in?

03:26:27 - 03:26:39

Yeah, I asked people to come, yeah. Well, I wasn’t, I wasn’t really involved in all the day-to-day things, no, not that heavy.

03:26:43 - 03:26:54

When you started at the zoo, were you looking to enhance, or did you wanna enhance the visitor service experience, and how were you able to change that?

03:26:56 - 03:27:51

Well, by visitor service, I’m not sure I know what you mean. You mean- Just the visitor experience period, or the- Yes, the visitor experience period, that may not have had to do as much with the animals, but the zoo itself. Well, I think that when you build something new, people knew you were trying, and that did bring, that enhanced it for them. The thought that, “Hey, there’s more coming in the future,” and them seeing things being done now, and there were more things done in the, there were more things coming. I think that really, that made them feel good. So that enhanced their experience right there, the zoo experience. During your time as director, what would you consider major events that affected all zoos in general, that in theory would affect San Francisco Zoo.

03:27:51 - 03:27:54

But were there things that were going on that affected all zoos?

03:27:58 - 03:28:22

Well, you’re talking about governmental regulations and things like that, or- It could be government regulations that had an impact, or things that AZA was doing, or programs that were being initiated that were affecting all the zoos, and certainly down in San Francisco. I don’t really, I don’t really think I know how to answer that question, honestly. Well- I don’t know.

03:28:23 - 03:28:26

What were some of your frustrating times as zoo director?

03:28:28 - 03:28:29

You mean nine out of 10 days?

03:28:29 - 03:29:46

Nine out every 10 days? (chuckling) Yeah, well there was a lot of frustrations, a lot of frustrations. One of the things that I probably, I’ve been, I thought of lately, when I got your, you know, I got a lot of these thinking questions to do. And one of the things that I probably should have done, as a, I should have probably done, was get a personnel director. That’s one of the things that really, I think would’ve helped me the most. And I never used to think that way. I used to think more of helping the zoo and being, you know, than to help me. But in the long run, I honestly feel that had I had a personnel director, it would’ve been a heck of a lot easier for me, and as such, I would’ve been a more effective zoo director anyway. And that’s what I didn’t do, but it’s a mistake that I made and that I regret making, because, I’ll tell you a story that will tell you the whole thing about San Francisco Zoo in a nutshell.

03:29:47 - 03:31:02

Before I got there, the zookeepers made some, made demands. They wanted certain things to happen, and one of the things they were asking for were uniforms, which of course seems to be obvious, and I totally agreed with. And I told them that, that I agreed with that, “And I’m gonna do everything I can to get them for you, because it’s only obvious that you should have uniforms, for very many obvious reasons.” So I think my first or second, my first budget I think, I think I was dealing with. I put in, I researched how much these uniforms would cost us, and I got it in the budget. I put it in the budget and it passed muster, and we were gonna get them. And so I, but I wanted to bring them into the picture and not say to them, “Oh, these are your uniforms. You know, here they are, you got them now, so stop complaining.” And I didn’t want to say that obviously. So I said to them, “We’ll vote, you guys can vote.

03:31:05 - 03:31:55

Let’s vote on what you want. I don’t wanna dictate the color. I don’t wanna dictate the style. You vote and we’ll, that’s what we’ll go with. The majority will rule.” All right, so they of course voted and naturally it came out a tie, in every way and all ways. And I said, “Well, you know obviously you’re not making, you’re not helping me to make a decision. So I am going to, I am going to, my job is to make the decision, so I am going to do it.” And I said that, “The decision I make is we’re gonna have blue, not green, because everybody has green, let’s have blue. And then, let’s have a one-piece overhaul suit,” because it’s frankly cheaper that way in getting them.

03:31:55 - 03:32:46

“But we’ll, we’re gonna be responsible to launder them.” I said you know, “And you’ll be, wear them, and we’re all gonna be happy.” Well, they weren’t happy of course. But anyway, they got the uniforms, got a uniform service to, you know, to do exactly what I said to do. They would get uniforms, clean uniforms, so many a week and they would give them, turn the dirty ones in, the dirty ones would get washed. “You’d get them back the next week, and that’s how you’d have the uniforms. And it’s, you don’t have to worry about your own clothes anymore. And people will know who work here, and it’s just the way it ought to be. And you, and you know, you’ve got them now,” okay. Well, I’d go around the zoo, and I’d notice very few were wearing the uniforms.

03:32:49 - 03:33:32

So finally I figured, well, I gotta take the bull by the horns. ‘Cause this is costing the city a lot of money. I mean, it was not expensive, was not cheap. It was very expensive. So I figured, all right, so one day, so I had a meeting, you know, and I said, “Well you know, we’ve had the uniforms now for a number of weeks. And I think starting on Monday, you’re really gonna have to wear the uniforms.” And wow, ooh, I was gonna make them do something. And they absolutely, absolutely went crazy.

03:33:32 - 03:33:36

I mean, just saying, “How can you make us do it,” you know?

03:33:36 - 03:33:42

I said, “You wanted them.” I said, “You wanted the uniforms. I got the uniforms for you.

03:33:42 - 03:33:47

Did you think that I was gonna let you leave them in your locker to stay, and you would never wear them?

03:33:49 - 03:34:03

You had to know that you were gonna be, you were gonna wear the uniforms.” “No, no, you you’re making us wear them,” and that was the deal. That was their deal, that was their gripe, and they wouldn’t wear them.

03:34:03 - 03:34:06

How did you get those keepers to wear the uniforms?

03:34:07 - 03:34:39

When you had to negotiate a contract, it wasn’t a contract, they couldn’t have a contract with the city, they could, I remember it’s called a memorandum of understanding. And that had to be in the memorandum of understanding that they wear the uniforms. And once I did that, I got it in the memorandum, they wore the uniforms. You also had a unique opportunity, doesn’t happen often, to live in the zoo. You actually had a home in the zoo. I did. It was given to you.

03:34:39 - 03:34:42

What are the pluses and minuses?

03:34:43 - 03:35:13

The pluses are that you can live right by where your job is, the minus is, you can live right where your job is. (laughing) That’s, and that is, that is boy. That’s a, that’s a minus truthfully. It’s more of a minus than a plus, really is. People think that that’s a great thing. “God, you can, you live right there. You can walk, don’t have to commute. You can walk down to work.

03:35:13 - 03:35:52

You can, you know just, and see and listen to the animals at night,” which you can, and it just would be a wonderful thing. But it isn’t wonderful at all. Every, every zoo director, I believe. I’m trying to think if that’s the statement, this statement is true. Every zoo director got divorced. Yeah, every zoo director got divorced, living there, yeah. Well living there, you’re all alone, you’re totally alone. There’s nobody, and a lot of them had kids.

03:35:52 - 03:36:13

We had a kid, little, little kid, and it’s just, you know, you wake up on Sunday morning and there’s a disgruntled keeper sitting on the steps, waiting for you to come wake up, so he can bitch about his supervisor. That happened many times, and that happened a lot.

03:36:14 - 03:36:19

And it’s just not a place, you know?

03:36:19 - 03:36:49

And of course it was often where we were, you know, we’re off in the back of the zoo. So that the road that if it had gone straight, it could go straight had, lead you to the ocean, that was blocked off, and there was a lot of people used to park there for a variety of reasons, but it was, there were people that, a guy who was one time, he claims he was kidnapped.

03:36:49 - 03:36:56

I don’t know what happened, but he was tied up and he was thrown out of a car naked (laughing) in the back of there, you know?

03:36:56 - 03:36:58

I don’t know what his story was.

03:36:58 - 03:37:14

The police took care of it, but it, you know it’s just, I remember there’s, people love to bring animals to the zoo and give, you know, they thought, “Oh, well the zoo will take care of it.” By animals, I’m talking about cats, you know?

03:37:14 - 03:38:16

And other odd things would show up, truthfully. But one day, one evening, I remember I heard a car drive up and I heard (mimicking bleating) like that. And I said, I got so mad, ’cause I knew exactly what had happened. A guy drove up and he was gonna let a sheep, he was trying to let sheep go there by our house. And I ran out of the house and, and I was in my, our side of the fence, you know, but I ran out of our front door and I got to the gate, and I looked, and there was this sheep trying, clawing, trying to get back into the truck. And the guy I yelled at him, I said, “Don’t leave that sheep here.” And he said, “It was here when I got here,” he said, and he drives away and here’s this poor sheep. And I told Barbara, I said, “Well, we gotta go out and get him.” I said, “I can’t let get him be hit by car.” I said, “That’s, we can’t do that. So we’re gonna have to go out and get him.

03:38:16 - 03:39:07

So come out, you know, come out and help me get him.” And that’s all dark and nobody’s around. And of course, when we get out there to do it, to try to catch the sheep, here comes, above us, across from the zoo, there was a hill. And on that hill, there was a National Guard unit, but they don’t stay there, you know, but they go there when they get called up, units, you know, when they do have to do their maneuvers or whatever. So here we are out there in the pitch black trying to catch this sheep and all of a sudden here comes, the National Guard had an alert. And so here come all the National Guard cars, (mimicking engine revving) driving up, and they didn’t even slow down. They just went around us and went up to their deal. They must have thought these zoo crazies again are at it, doing some damn thing, and they didn’t even bother. And we found, I got the sheep finally.

03:39:07 - 03:39:55

And it was a little one, it wasn’t a full-grown one. And I took it down to the Children’s Zoo who was getting, who was used to having animals stolen from them. Oh yeah, that went on a lot. But here I, I put the sheep down there. I didn’t say anything to anybody. And so I came down the next morning and they said, “Hey, did you hear that somebody put a sheep in the zoo, in the Children’s Zoo?” I said, “Really?” I said, “Hey, that’s terrific.” But it is, you know, as I say, it’s hard on the family. It’s just very hard on the family. And not, you know, they thought it was a good deal because, and monetarily this was because the salary at the zoo was really not a very good salary.

03:39:55 - 03:40:54

But they were saying, well they’re giving you this, you’re getting all the housing, not free exactly, you paid a little, but it was very little. And still, it was not a good, not a good deal. San Francisco Zoo’s problems with animals getting hurt or keepers getting hurt was a norm rather than the exception. Or, how were you able to try and curb these instances, anything from, well, you know, animal attacks or- Well, had most of these people followed protocol, they wouldn’t have gotten hurt. That’s the deal right there. One person is not to be around an elephant that’s handled, only one person, it has to be two people. Well, that woman who got squished by, you know, by the elephant, she was alone, and she went in and knowingly alone.

03:40:56 - 03:41:07

And you know, and then that’s, you can put all the protocols that you have into, you know, put them down in writing and say they know it, but if they don’t adhere to it, what are you gonna do?

03:41:09 - 03:41:16

It’s very difficult, and most of that is because of that. Not all, not all of it, but most it’s because of it.

03:41:16 - 03:41:20

Did you have any strategies for trying to deal with the negative press?

03:41:22 - 03:41:33

Well, I think that you had to meet things head on, and not make excuses, but have reasons, you know?

03:41:36 - 03:41:56

And if you were wrong, if something that you did led to it, or some of the zoo, whatever, facilities or protocols led to it, you have to own up to it. But I really don’t think that’s the case. I mean, in most instances, I really don’t.

03:41:57 - 03:42:00

How would you describe your management style?

03:42:01 - 03:42:40

What management style? (laughing) No I, you know, I tried not to be a dictator, although I was accused of it, certainly. But there, you would always be accused of it. You made them do anything, you were a dictator. But that’s, you know, I tried to be non-dictatorial and reason with people. That’s what I tried to do. But it was very difficult to do that with those people that we had, it was extremely difficult to do that.

03:42:43 - 03:42:55

Do you feel that in a zoo it’s better to have an animal person as the head of the organization or a business person?

03:42:59 - 03:43:50

You know, I switch back and forth on that, I really do. Sometimes I think, well it’s better the animal person needs to be in charge, but I don’t know, maybe not. I’m not positive about it. In years gone by, I certainly would’ve said the animal person should be in charge. And I think that any animal decisions should be made by the animal people, although there is a, you know, a director that is the person who is responsible, truthfully. So that person who is responsible has to make the decision, I would say. You indicated before that if you had the choice, you would’ve wanted a personnel director.

03:43:50 - 03:44:05

Were there other things that either you did implement in the way of structure that you would want, or you think a zoo should have from a person outside?

03:44:06 - 03:45:05

Well, most of the things that we did basically were done by other zoos. It was sort of standard procedure. This zoo just wasn’t, there was nothing standard about this zoo. So they didn’t do things like that, but it was just stuff that other, you know, other zoos did already. But is there somebody, like you said, a personnel person, is there other things that you said, “Oh, I should have had this,” or, “I should have had this, and we did get it. We needed a so-and-so.” Well, I did get that graphics curator. I mean, that was a very important part of the, really for the zoo, that was very important. But about equally important really and truly was that personnel director who’d really been, who could have really been a personnel director, you know, that really Would’ve been able to handle a lot of the personnel problems, and I wouldn’t have, you know, eventually I would’ve had to handle it, yes.

03:45:05 - 03:45:08

But not, you know, not until the end.

03:45:08 - 03:45:11

What was your relationship with your senior staff?

03:45:13 - 03:45:18

Were you trying to, did you encourage training and professional development?

03:45:19 - 03:46:09

Oh yeah, yes of course. I would say that some of them, where some of them truthfully were traitors to me, They couldn’t make the break between keeper and staff. It was very difficult for them. So when the keepers could impress, impose on them to side with them, even if it wasn’t true, what the, you know, what they were, you know, it wasn’t the truth. They would say something about, you know, they would be on their side and, and that really, yeah, that was bad. It was not a good thing. To have traitors in your midst is not a good thing. And they were.

03:46:13 - 03:46:20

Now you were part of The Zoo Association, or the zoos when they were part of the parks department?

03:46:20 - 03:46:21

Yes, I was.

03:46:21 - 03:46:33

And what was your impression of the AAZPA when it was part of the Parks Association, and as it evolved to break away?

03:46:33 - 03:47:28

Well, obviously I felt very strongly that we had to be independent of the Parks Association. I mean, we had nothing really, well we had, I can’t say nothing in common, we of course did. But very little in common with them. And I think that those guys who, one of the, you know, one of the big straw that broke the camel’s back was that they put out a publication, you know, every month, I guess. And there was a section for each one of the divisions and the zoos were a division, you know. And on the cover of one when, this was when Vietnam was going on, you know. On the cover was a tiger that US troops had killed as part of recreation. That’s really the straw that broke the camel’s back, that made us vote to get out of that organization.

03:47:29 - 03:47:31

And I remember it very distinctly.

03:47:33 - 03:47:35

How involved were you in the new AZA?

03:47:38 - 03:47:42

AZA? I was never involved in the- On the American Zoo- AAZPA you mean, AAZPA?

03:47:44 - 03:47:51

Well I was involved in the sense that I was on their executive board at one time.

03:47:53 - 03:47:57

You feel it’s important for directors to be involved with the national organization?

03:47:57 - 03:48:11

Sure, I do. Because you want, you know, I think you have to give your, I mean, there’s an organization of organizations and you’ve gotta be there to give your ideas to help. Yeah, I think it is important.

03:48:12 - 03:48:19

If somebody said to you, “So what’s it like being a zoo director?” kinda, how would you answer?

03:48:19 - 03:48:29

And then the secondary question would be, after X number of years on the job, did the initial glamor wear off or was it always there?

03:48:31 - 03:48:52

And you can use any other word other than glamor, but. Well, I don’t know. I think that, and it’s like being a servant, basically really to, you know, you really, you need to do, you have to be ready to do the dirty work.

03:48:53 - 03:48:55

And I don’t mean clean, you know?

03:48:55 - 03:49:43

Well, you can clean up too for that matter, ’cause I’ve done that too. But you’ve gotta be ready to take a lot of guff to reap the rewards. And that’s, and it is. You’re really at the behest of all kinds of people, all kinds of people, and people that you know don’t know as much as you know, but you still have to be, you know, at their behest. And it’s just, but it’s a little different, if it’s just between a different, there is a difference between a city-run place or some kind of a governmental-run place than one that’s a private place. There’s a little difference there.

03:49:44 - 03:50:01

And speaking about being the behest of many people, did you have a marketing strategy for getting people to come to the zoo, aside from building a new exhibit or bringing in blockbuster pandas?

03:50:01 - 03:50:02

Well, why would they come to the zoo?

03:50:02 - 03:50:05

I mean, why are people coming to the zoo?

03:50:06 - 03:50:33

I mean, they’re coming because they wanna see animals, basically. I mean, that really is the reason. And you know, it’s not the kids that bring the parents. You know it’s the parents that bring the kids. I mean, so you’re telling me the kids are for zoos. Yes sort of, but they’re not the ones that, very rarely do they initiate the trip. I mean, there’s a lot of research been done on this, and that’s the case. It’s like in my case, my father took me to zoos.

03:50:33 - 03:50:48

I didn’t say, well maybe when I got used to going and liking it so much, I may have said, “Let’s go to the zoo,” but he’s the one that started it, not me. And that’s the case pretty much with almost everybody, really.

03:50:48 - 03:50:51

Was the Zoo Run a good promotion for the zoo?

03:50:51 - 03:50:53

The Zoo Run, did you have a run?

03:50:53 - 03:51:16

Oh yeah, of course we did. Yeah, we had a Zoo Run. Yes, it was a real, yes it was a good promotion. Yeah it was. That was started actually before I got on the scene, but yeah, it was a good, it was a good promotion. Did it help increase membership or notoriety or- Probably yeah, all of the, all of that. I don’t say gigantically or, or may have made 10,000 members, new members. No, but I bet it did.

03:51:16 - 03:51:18

I don’t know if I had any proof of that, but I’ll bet it did.

03:51:19 - 03:51:23

Did the Fleishhacker Pool incident work against the zoo?

03:51:23 - 03:51:27

Oh, I don’t think so, I don’t think so.

03:51:27 - 03:51:28

What was the Fleishhacker?

03:51:28 - 03:52:26

The Fleishhacker Pool was a, the biggest salt water pool in the world, that Herbert Fleishhacker donated land, well supposedly. He really didn’t donate land, he sold the land to the city. And they built that pool, and while it is true, there may have been a few days in the year that you could have swum there, the reason that it went out of existence is because nobody did swim there, very, very few. I mean, can you imagine, that’s where the coldest area of San Francisco is, and there was no heating in the pool. There was no sanitation system for the water whatsoever. It was the craziest thing that I, you know, I’ve ever heard in my life.

03:52:26 - 03:52:28

Why would you put a pool there?

03:52:28 - 03:52:29

Why would you put a pool there?

03:52:32 - 03:53:01

No, I’ve never heard of a good answer to that question. And at the end nobody, there were like five or six people swimming in that pool a day, toward the end of the deal. And I talked to, I knew people who had taken care of that place, ’cause they were still in the park department and I talked to them and they said, I said, “Well, how did you keep it clean?” ‘Cause there was no cleaning system.

03:53:01 - 03:53:05

And they said, “Well, you looked at it,” you know?

03:53:05 - 03:53:34

I mean, I am not kidding, these are, I mean guys who worked at the park department in Chicago, I’m not kidding you, they were great. And I said, “Well, how did you clean it?” He says, “Well, you looked at it.” He said, “You looked at it and you’d see, and it didn’t look clean.” Said, “Looked kinda dirty, you’d throw a handful of this blue stuff in it.” And that’s the God’s honest truth, what they did, and that’s how they did it. And I mean, I mean now it would be closed down, health reasons, you couldn’t open the thing like that.

03:53:34 - 03:53:36

I mean, how could you?

03:53:36 - 03:54:15

It was salt water from the ocean. I mean, definitely was intake, salt water intake from this ocean. But you know, it sat there for, I don’t know. I said, “Well, when did you ever empty it?” “No, no, because it’s too hard to fill, takes too long.” I mean, it’s a monster really. It’s a monster pool, absolutely a monster pool. It was amazing. But you know it was a, in San Francisco everything, if a thing has been around for a week and a half, it’s a tradition. And if one thing San Franciscan’s want boy, it’s their traditions, that’s what they want.

03:54:15 - 03:54:18

And that’s exactly what they wanted.

03:54:18 - 03:54:25

I mean, there was, I remember going to hearings, I had to go to hearings about the pool, and they wanted to convert it into an ice skating rink, you know?

03:54:25 - 03:54:35

Can you imagine? (laughing) I mean, it was impossible. It couldn’t be done, you know, it just couldn’t be done. And one guy, well they were all, anybody could say anything they wanted to there.

03:54:35 - 03:54:40

And guys got up, I remember guys getting up, “We should bring dolphins in there, and we could all go swimming with the dolphins,” you know?

03:54:40 - 03:54:42

And he was serious.

03:54:42 - 03:54:43

He thought that was a good idea, you know?

03:54:43 - 03:55:02

But yeah, I mean, and just went on and on, you know. There was a whole bunch of people that always showed up at every meeting and boy, they were, they were a small number of people, but they kept at it and that’s what caused it to seem like it was a big flappy-doodle, you know, but it wasn’t.

03:55:02 - 03:55:05

Most people agreed, they said, “Well how could you swim in there?

03:55:05 - 03:55:20

Look how cold it is.” I said, “Yeah, right.” And of course people didn’t, that’s the point. So it didn’t affect the zoo so much. No, it didn’t affect it at all. So what did you do with it? The pool. It was left standing.

03:55:20 - 03:55:22

You didn’t convert it at all?

03:55:22 - 03:55:31

Now it’s, well they, you now I think it’s gone. I think they’ve got, it’s gone now. But in my time it was just left there, fenced off.

03:55:32 - 03:55:34

Did the zoo wanna annex it?

03:55:36 - 03:55:52

Well they did, that’s sure, oh yeah. Yeah, the idea was part of the master plan, actually that, and it has become actually that, it’s parking. So that’s what, that’s what it is now. It’s my understanding, anyway.

03:55:53 - 03:55:59

How much would you say politics and, of the city or the state affected the working of the zoo?

03:56:05 - 03:57:24

Well, it’s hard to say. I would say it’s not, it was relatively, I would say it’s relatively minor, but there were, there were times that certainly politics did get in the way. I mean, you know, they really, yeah, the politics with the city and between the city and the unions was the big thing. And once I made a big push to try to get rid of, to try to get rid of that sign-up system. And although Diane Feinstein was very much in favor of the zoo, to do what we wanted to do, she was, had to deal with the unions. And so she wouldn’t go along with, you know, they wouldn’t go along with it, and she went with them. And the one time we had really a serious, made a real serious effort take rid of it, we couldn’t. And that really has had a very, you know, deleterious effect, I believe, on the zoo.

03:57:26 - 03:57:30

The wrong people were doing the wrong things, you know?

03:57:30 - 03:58:11

The wrong people were doing this stuff in a lot of cases. And while there was a provision there that said, well you could get, you know, you could protest it and you could get rid of them, in reality, the reality of it is, very, very difficult and probably a waste of a lot of time, so. Did you cultivate, did you try and cultivate politicians to- Well, I cultivated, I cultivated anyone that had an interest in the zoo, anybody. The city attorney who really liked me, she gave me a special award.

03:58:11 - 03:58:19

They gave me some special award ’cause I was, I was the best, you know, presenter of the stuff, you know?

03:58:19 - 03:59:24

‘Cause when I talked to them, they all would listen. And sometimes I had to get into a fight, you know, some kind of an argument with some of them, but, you know, I mean, there were a lot of them that I got along with very well, and some might, well, I didn’t really get along with any of them badly. And some I got along with very, very well. But I always wanted to, my standing offer and frankly it was to almost anybody was that I would take them on a night tour of the zoo alone. I would take them, we’d go around the zoo, they’d see anything they wanted to see and we would do it. And boy, I used to get them up close and personal. I mean, and once you got somebody, and once I was able to do that with them, there was no more trouble with them, because they saw the way it was, the way it really was. One of the great scenes that I always cultivated, and what happened always because of the kind of animal it was, was in the back.

03:59:24 - 04:00:07

I would go in the back area and we’d go with these people. And I’d go to the back of the hippo area and I’d open up this big iron gate, you know, window-like thing in back of the thing. And the hippo, male hippo was there, which I knew, of course he would be. And he, (mimicking hippo vocalizing) and he took his whole head and mouth are out, and instant, like it was instantaneous, like a horror movie. I mean basically, a whole giant, you know, maw out there. And when people saw, you know, it’s just, it’s just unbelievable. You know, they’re so monstrous, they’re so huge. And I used to have, I would tell guys, you know, the keeper, “Well we’re gonna be out, I’m gonna be out here tonight.

04:00:07 - 04:00:42

So have some lettuce, whole heads of lettuce for me laying here, you know?” And so I would give them, I’d say, “Throw it in his mouth,” whole, and he’d get it. And you do that and they, or bring them right up next to the elephant. Not in, I wouldn’t do in it, I ain’t doing that. But you know, go in the elephant house, and the elephant would be near the door and I’d say, “Well here,” and they’d look out and all they’d see was some skin because the elephant was right next to them like that. And you know, once they did that, that was, you had no more trouble with them, most people anyway.

04:00:43 - 04:00:45

What was the Resource Recovery Site?

04:00:45 - 04:00:48

Why was it a necessary place for the zoo?

04:00:50 - 04:01:01

It wasn’t necessary for the zoo. The Resource Recovery Site was a place that they, I’m pretty certain that was what they called the recycling center, recycling place.

04:01:01 - 04:01:02

Was that on zoo grounds?

04:01:02 - 04:01:22

No, it was off the zoo grounds across the street from my house, actually, near a National Guard unit also across there. Yeah, that’s what it was, I think. I mean, if that’s what I’m thinking, ’cause there was a place like that. You’ve had media, the public relations, good, bad over the years.

04:01:22 - 04:01:24

How did you view the media?

04:01:25 - 04:03:10

Well, you know I viewed them, you can say media, but you know, in fact it’s a bunch of people, it’s a bunch of different people. And as probably with life, the ones that are the best are the guys that have been around a while, the old-timers. I never had a problem with an old-timer, never, never. The only problems I ever had was with a hotshot young woman reporter. That’s who I had a problem, that’s the one that would give you problems. That’s where you had problems. Other than that, I didn’t have, in fact, when there was problems, when we had some problems and there was a lot of media crap around the zoo, I had a reporter, an old-timer, call me up and apologized to me the way his channel with TV was treating me and, and treat, you know, and he said, “I’m quitting.” He said, “Because this is just a one part of the iceberg.” He said, “They do this with everything, but they did you real bad, and I’m apologizing for them, and my, maybe role that I might have had in it.” And you know, if you had a great, if you’ve researched it, you found some long articles in the paper by a guy named Harry Jupiter or Bill Boldenweck. Those were the great articles about the zoo, fair articles of about the zoo, not taking one side or another, but being, showing the two, both sides.

04:03:11 - 04:03:30

But when you got one of these young reporters in, they took sides, and some were favor of me and some weren’t. But I didn’t ask for people to be in favor of me. I just asked for a fair shake. That’s all I ever wanted.

04:03:32 - 04:03:36

Did you plan events to cultivate the press?

04:03:36 - 04:03:49

For the media? Oh yeah, oh yeah. Yeah, they were invited to various things about, you know, before things opened, you know, and that kind of stuff, they were invited to things like that, yeah sure, always.

04:03:51 - 04:04:00

What did you learn about using the media to your benefit that maybe a novice zoo person might not know and would benefit from learning?

04:04:00 - 04:04:35

Well, one of the things that I tried to do was I tried to have, to get, I’ve asked editors to send the same person to do an article on the zoo, because if you don’t, then you gotta bring the next one up to date, or up snuff. And it’s very difficult to do that. But if you have the same person all the time, or the same people maybe all the time, you don’t have to do that, they already know. And I tried and it worked to, up to a point, it worked up to a point.

04:04:35 - 04:04:39

They didn’t like people telling them what, how to do their job, you know?

04:04:39 - 04:04:46

In most cases, but hey, you know, didn’t hurt to try. But I had, there were a number of them.

04:04:46 - 04:04:52

I had a lot of very good, very good people doing it, you know?

04:04:52 - 04:04:57

Reporting on the zoo and doing things, and some are still around.

04:04:57 - 04:05:01

How did Sans Francisco Zoo get its money in the beginning?

04:05:01 - 04:05:03

I mean, it all came from the city?

04:05:03 - 04:05:05

In the beginning?

04:05:05 - 04:05:06

Well no, when you were there.

04:05:06 - 04:05:07

Was it mostly city money?

04:05:07 - 04:05:09

Oh yeah.

04:05:09 - 04:05:12

And the Friends of the Zoo helped?

04:05:12 - 04:05:22

Well, it wasn’t operating money. Friends of the Zoo didn’t give operating money. They gave money for special events and special things, maybe some animals, you know, that kind of stuff too.

04:05:26 - 04:05:30

Was Zoo Fest a moneymaker for the Zoo Society, ultimately the zoo?

04:05:30 - 04:05:48

Well, I think it brought a number of people there that might not, that would become members and know something about the zoo that didn’t before, yeah. Yeah, it was a big event and a good event. Was that a major cultivation event for you to be there and- Oh, I was always there, yeah of course, of course.

04:05:51 - 04:05:56

How did the, what was your interaction with the board of directors of the Zoo Society?

04:05:57 - 04:05:58

Were they there to help the zoo or no?

04:05:58 - 04:06:53

No, I was at the meetings. I would go to all the meetings. I was yeah and I, basically, that’s what I was. I was there at every, all the meetings and they could question me if they wanted. If they needed to know something I was there for them and there was a number of people on the zoo board that were scientists. And those guys were, you know, were my staunchest allies. They were just really the best people you could ask to, ask for. There were some guys from the museum and they were from, one guy was from the University of California Berkeley, you know, and there was a number of them like that.

04:06:53 - 04:06:58

And they were big allies for me.

04:06:58 - 04:07:00

Were you expected to be a fundraiser?

04:07:02 - 04:07:15

I went out on fundraising things. The Zoo Society did have people, special people to do that. One of them lives in Sonoma now, by the way. (laughing) But yes.

04:07:15 - 04:07:18

How did you adjust to the task of fundraising?

04:07:18 - 04:07:20

Like it, didn’t like it?

04:07:25 - 04:07:44

Well, I can’t say I didn’t like it, but neither can I say I really liked it that much either truthfully, but sometimes I had to be there, like to put the final touches on what the money is gonna be used for, or that kind of thing, you know?

04:07:44 - 04:07:45

So I was there.

04:07:47 - 04:07:50

Was it difficult to secure private money for the zoo?

04:07:54 - 04:08:12

At certain times it was, but at certain times it wasn’t. It’s maybe, you know, when the zoo was having some bad publicity, then it isn’t easy. But when there was good and there was plenty of good, it was relatively easy.

04:08:14 - 04:08:15

Were there any surprise donations?

04:08:15 - 04:08:33

Somebody come in your office and, “Here’s a check for a million bucks Saul, you’re doing a great job.” Well not a million bucks but, (laughing) not a million bucks, no. But there were people who came in and gave money, yeah. Not that amount, not that kind of an amount, but there were people that came in and gave money.

04:08:34 - 04:08:38

What made you a good director?

04:08:40 - 04:09:53

Well, I think I was probably the best zoo director San Francisco ever had, but that isn’t saying a lot, I don’t think honestly, but I was always honest. And I think that was the thing that the news media liked about me. ‘Cause they knew it and they’d never get a lie from, they wouldn’t get a lie from me. I always told the truth, ’cause it’s too hard to remember your lies, for one thing. So that’s, I had to tell the truth always, and I did. And I think that I always had the animals’ welfare at heart, and I also always had the people who came to the zoo, their interests at heart too. Which I don’t know is a lot of people, a lot of zoo directors do have that. But seeing it was a city-operated facility, I always felt that I needed to go the extra mile for those people, and I believe I did it.

04:09:55 - 04:10:01

What skillset does a zoo director need today as compared to when you started?

04:10:01 - 04:10:41

I suspect that it doesn’t, it’s the same. I suspect there is no difference anymore. You have to have the same skillset sets as you used to have. You gotta be a people person. Even if you’re a great animal person, if you’re a lousy people person, you’re probably not gonna be a very good director. That’s what I think, it’s never changed. It’s probably never changed since, I used to kid my son about Ugga Mugga, who was a cave man. I used to tell him, “Well, it’s like Ugga Mugga, he’d do the same thing.” It’s the same thing, Ugga Mugga had to be a good people person. (laughing) And that’s the deal.

04:10:43 - 04:10:53

What could a small or a medium-size zoo, municipal zoo do today to be involved in wildlife conservation nationally or internationally?

04:10:55 - 04:11:24

Well, I think that they have to, it would be good for them maybe to specialize in something in particular. To be, you know, to specialize in a certain animal or certain group of animals that they could do a really good job on, even though they’re small or a medium, it doesn’t matter. They can do as good a job as anybody else, if they choose the right thing to do. And I think that’s the way for them to do that sort of thing.

04:11:25 - 04:11:35

Following up on that, considering the financial resources available to the small or medium-size zoos, what should be the focus of the collection?

04:11:35 - 04:11:39

Should it be a regional, you know, North American, wherever they are?

04:11:39 - 04:11:41

Or should it be endangered species?

04:11:41 - 04:11:46

Do they need the help, or non-endangered species?

04:11:51 - 04:12:20

I don’t think that, being a small local zoo, I think that people really, no matter what kind of a zoo you are, people want to see a variety of animals, period. They really do. And you know, all you need to do is you should be doing something with some, maybe you wanna do it with small animals, that’s fine.

04:12:20 - 04:12:22

If you wanna do it with a large animal, so what?

04:12:22 - 04:13:03

Breed them, tell their story, send offspring to another place to help that facility, or to keep the bloodlines going. That’s the only thing you can do. And of course you can, a small zoo can have a real good education program because, you know, education programs aren’t, can be done with volunteers. It’s not necessary to pay them, in most cases. You may have to have one paid person or two, but the rest wanna do it. There are people that wanna do that, and that’s a good way to be. Those people really want to do that job. And you can, they can do that there.

04:13:03 - 04:13:10

We’re in a small zoo, it doesn’t matter. You can be a volunteer or docent anywhere. You don’t have to be in a big zoo, you can be in a small zoo.

04:13:10 - 04:13:19

Are there certain type of primates that small or medium-type zoos should be concentrating on rather than the big gorillas or orangutans?

04:13:20 - 04:13:46

Well, I suspect they wouldn’t, a small zoo, today especially, wouldn’t have a gorilla or orangutan because of price, cost difference, the cost problem. I wouldn’t imagine that, I don’t know. But you know, there are a lot of things they could do. They could pick a, maybe a gibbon species. That’s, you know, they’re not doing so great in the wild, and work on that, doing that.

04:13:46 - 04:13:53

With primates, how do you feel about the continuing research on primates from behavioral to invasive?

04:13:55 - 04:14:59

Well, it’s hard for me to say no on medical research. I have benefited a great deal from research that was done, you know, that’s been done as years gone by. I think it needs to really be a valuable piece of research because now they’ve got so many computer programs that can do a lot of it, they should be doing that instead. But some you can’t, I think there’s some you can’t do, and you need to do it on, on your nearest relatives, truthfully. And some of that I see as okay. But I think that maybe there’s, some of it isn’t okay, too. Zoos in many cases today are afraid to confront animal welfare or rights groups that are against zoos. We even have people in top positions in our field who seem to align with these non-biologists.

04:14:59 - 04:15:04

Could you give us your thoughts on how best to deal with these groups, or how best you dealt with them?

04:15:05 - 04:16:05

Well I tried to, the best way to do it is to try to co-opt them. You know become, not become necessarily a part of them, but to try to get to where there are some things that you can agree with them on, and I think you can. I’m not saying some aren’t nutty. I mean there are, no question, there’s plenty of them I think that are. But I think there are a lot of ways of, instead of being confrontational and wanting to be, ’cause I know how that feels, wanting to be confrontational with them and wanting to, you know, to spew out a whole bunch of facts that will destroy their argument. But you can gotta remember, this is a very, it’s an emotional thing. They’re not basing what they’re talking about on science or logic, they’re doing it on their emotions. And I think that you have to get with them and make some kind of an agreement with them.

04:16:05 - 04:16:14

I think it can be done, I really do. Some you can’t, some you’re never gonna be able to, I mean, I know that. But I think there’s a lot of them that you could.

04:16:18 - 04:16:26

What’s the largest professional problem you think is facing US zoos today, and what can be done to correct the problem?

04:16:30 - 04:16:57

It’s very difficult for me, honestly, to say that. I don’t know, I really don’t know. I suspect it could very well be a, making very poor decisions. They may have made, a lot of them maybe have made very poor decisions on staff, and maybe it’s that they don’t have the experience that’s necessary to do what they want them to do. I mean, I don’t know that for a fact but I have a feeling it could very well be.

04:16:58 - 04:17:16

Because there there’s a, you know we, Eddie Almandarz is the man who was the reptile curator of Lincoln park Zoo when I was there, and had been for many years, probably was about as good a practical snake man as you could ever find anywhere, but would he get a job today?

04:17:18 - 04:18:03

He wouldn’t, nobody would do it. And it would be losing, you know, a tremendous, not a only a tremendous person, but a tremendous source of information. I wouldn’t, there was nobody I’d want to handle any reptile, poisonous reptile around me than him. And he knew all that stuff. You know, I don’t know, maybe some of these new people know the same thing, but I would doubt that very seriously. They may have degrees, but they don’t have the practical experience to do what a lot of people have done in the past. And the big names in the zoo field, which would, they would never get a job today. And that would, that’s a problem.

04:18:03 - 04:18:05

I think it’s a real big problem, but.

04:18:07 - 04:18:17

Well given your years of experience in the field, how do you feel zoos should be designed and managed, but certainly designed?

04:18:17 - 04:18:23

Is there a direction that you tried to take that you feel worked, or?

04:18:26 - 04:19:36

Well, you could design it maybe as a, like the Earth is designed. And I’m saying you could have exhibits that are basically on, in, take an area or a country, not a country, that’s an artificial boundary. But an area of land. So you say the, not as a whole country, but maybe the swamp area, you know, of Botswana, and try to develop that. You have a big choice of animals that you can put in there ’cause they’re all there. And then if you go to, maybe you wanna go to another area, which would be a local area, one of your local areas, you could do that. Although it’s been my opinion and my experience that people really, when they go to a zoo, they don’t wanna see a raccoon. They don’t wanna see a, so they wanna see a lion and a tiger and a giraffe and a rhino, hippo.

04:19:36 - 04:19:47

That’s what they wanna see, because they wanna see a raccoon, they probably can see it running across the street at night near your home. They don’t wanna see that really. So, I don’t know.

04:19:48 - 04:19:53

We’ve talked about research and science, should zoos play a role in research and science?

04:19:55 - 04:20:26

Oh yeah, I think so, I think so. I think that for a zoo, a non-invasive research of course would be, that would be, you know, would be the best way to go. I don’t think, you know, you wanna do invasive research there, but regular, you know, research on behavior and, you know, research on even varieties of animals, I think can very well be, would very well be done and should be done in a zoo.

04:20:30 - 04:20:39

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

04:20:44 - 04:21:18

Well, I don’t know, truthfully, I… I’m sure people have given you lots of advice. Well, I would say, not many. (laughing) I would say not many people have given me a lot of advice, as a matter of fact, Some, I guess have but. Nothing stuck with you. No, well I just don’t, I just can’t remember anything.

04:21:24 - 04:21:27

Should every zoo strive to have a breeding program?

04:21:31 - 04:21:37

Well, I think that it’s sort of inadvertent, anyway, a lot of times.

04:21:37 - 04:21:40

They’ll breed without your having to give them a program, you know?

04:21:40 - 04:22:24

I think they will, you know, any place, any zoo person I’ve ever known, I think honestly wants to have their animals be successful, which means reproduce and live a long time. I don’t think that’s a problem or any, you know, or would be a problem, or whether you should have it or not, because they’re gonna have it regardless, I think. Today we have zoos that are spending tens of millions of dollars on exhibits. 30, 40, $50 million on an exhibit, but not any of that money seems to be going back to the wild.

04:22:27 - 04:22:28

Is that good, is it bad?

04:22:28 - 04:22:47

Well I personally, if this was the best of all possible worlds, of course yes, you should be giving money back to the wild, but this is most assuredly not the best of all possible worlds.

04:22:47 - 04:22:52

I think that, where are you going to be giving money to?

04:22:53 - 04:22:57

Where is the wild, and who are the stewards of the wild?

04:22:57 - 04:23:34

If there is no guarantee that’s gonna be doing any good, some cheap politician is gonna take it rather than give it, put it where it’s supposed, or leave it where it’s supposed to be. I would say, don’t give it to them, don’t give it in. Don’t give it to the wild, because it’s not, it’s just gonna be wasted and it’s better off spent in your zoo, is what I think. If there are places that you can, that can prove that they are doing the job and protecting the wild, they should be getting a cut of that. But there’s not very many. They would have to really give me a lot of purpose, a lot of proof that this is happening.

04:23:36 - 04:23:39

It isn’t, I mean, why would you give money to Kenya?

04:23:39 - 04:23:43

Who’s protecting their elephants and the rhinos in Kenya really?

04:23:44 - 04:23:49

Would you give money to them, to protect, you know, for their animals?

04:23:49 - 04:24:35

I wouldn’t, because there’s some cheap politician probably buying the goddamn ivory. I wouldn’t, and that’s what’s happening, because if they wanted to stop it, they would stop. They could stop it, they could stop it, Because of the poaching, they could stop it and they don’t want to stop it. ‘Cause there’s too much money involved. And that’s what the deal is, they can say, give you all the highfalutin remarks they want, they’ll say, “Oh, they’re all forward,” to this and that, actions speak louder than words. And all I can say is, I know that there are more elephants being poached now than ever before. More rhinos are pushed to the brink. If they could, if they wanted to stop, they really wanted to stop it, they could stop it.

04:24:35 - 04:25:08

And the point is they don’t wanna stop it because too much money is involved. And that’s the deal, unfortunately. So I would say it’s not wrong not to give it to them because in most cases, in my opinion, it’s right not to give it to them until they can prove that they, you know, they really are doing something. A constant complaint from some zoo’s directors is that there are too few good curators in the community today. And you had to hire your own people.

04:25:10 - 04:25:14

Did you see that there was a problem in that area?

04:25:14 - 04:25:20

How do you think curators should be, or can be trained today to do what’s expected of them?

04:25:22 - 04:26:07

Well, I think first you have to wanna do it. You have to really actually wanna work in a zoo. And not that you fall into it as a job, and only a job. And I don’t know how many people like that are left around. I mean I don’t, you know, I just think that there may not be, they may be right, that there aren’t enough people. And you know, I always used to get people come, I would say probably once a week, I’d get either a phone call or somebody coming into my office and saying, “Well, how can I get a job in a zoo?” And I always told them, education and experience are unbeatable. That’s the two things you gotta have. And frankly it’s every field, I mean, I think.

04:26:07 - 04:26:32

But zoos, certainly is the case, experience and education. And to get both of those, you know, it’s gonna take you time. It’s not gonna be something that’s done overnight. It’s gonna be years before you get that. But you, if that’s what you wanna be, you gotta work for it. And I think people today, aren’t you know, I don’t wanna say people today are different than others, but I think a lot of people just don’t wanna put in that work, And I think it takes that.

04:26:34 - 04:26:45

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

04:26:51 - 04:27:30

Well, an awful lot of people still go, still go to zoos. I mean, that’s the only way I can judge it. A lot of people still go to zoos, and they go there because they like them. They don’t, you know, go ’cause they hate them. Well, some people probably do actually, but I think most of them go because they like it. And they want to think that their zoo is taking good, the best care of their animals, of those animals. That’s what they want to think and want to believe. And you need to give them the, you know, you need to give them the evidence that they are being taken care of correctly.

04:27:30 - 04:27:53

And I mean, breeding is part of that, part of the evidence, I think honestly. When they see a baby born that gives them more evidence, that gives them the idea, “Oh yeah they are, look, they’re caring for them, ’cause here’s a baby here.” And then, you know, they want, like that. They like that and they want to see more of it.

04:27:54 - 04:27:57

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

04:28:02 - 04:28:12

I don’t know. I mean, honestly, you know they, I really can’t say. I really don’t have an opinion that way, I don’t.

04:28:12 - 04:28:14

How important is the community support?

04:28:14 - 04:28:16

Can zoos survive without it?

04:28:24 - 04:29:00

Yes, but I think probably, but you would certainly, you certainly want community. I think it’s real important to have your community support, as local as it can get. I really, you know, when I was the director here in San Francisco, I went around and gave talks constantly to all of those service groups, you know, and local chambers of commerce and things like that, because it’s their tax money. You wanna make them feel that it’s going to a good place.

04:29:00 - 04:29:03

And I always went, you know?

04:29:03 - 04:29:10

I mean, I never, if I had a chance to go, I would always go. ‘Cause I think it’s important to do that.

04:29:13 - 04:29:24

Can you build a zoo that’s airtight insulation against interference, external politics, or otherwise, and is there a way to prevent that?

04:29:24 - 04:29:28

I doubt it. (laughing) I doubt it very much.

04:29:32 - 04:29:44

While you were a zoo director, did education do any good, particularly in boosting the image of the zoo among the public, in the face of the anti-zoo forces we’ve talked about?

04:29:46 - 04:29:51

Well, anti-zoo, education, I’m educating them about the zoo and stuff?

04:29:51 - 04:30:27

I would say yes, because I think that there were a lot of times when some of these animal rights groups would act up and it wouldn’t, they would sometimes, sometime they’d be out in front of the zoo, picketing the zoo. I never saw anybody that would turn away, that turned away. That never turned to anybody, especially in San Francisco, people are tired, they have radical, they’re radical, they’re tired of radicals. And when they see that they all say, “Oh, some more the crazies that are, you know, doing stuff so,” and they just don’t pay attention anymore. I don’t believe that they do.

04:30:29 - 04:30:36

In zoos, is there anything that could make the visitor connection more meaningful for zoos?

04:30:40 - 04:30:44

Is it important, that visitor connection?

04:30:44 - 04:31:14

Well it is, I think it is. And I think that they, the closer that they can get to the animals, I think that the greater the connection will be. And that’s what I think Will work great, you know, will work very good, should work very good, is get them real close to the animals. And that, I think is better than anything else you can do.

04:31:16 - 04:31:24

Are there areas in zoo education as it relates in conservation or education or the research that you think zoos should be trying to do?

04:31:26 - 04:31:28

Any areas in these, the direction of these?

04:31:29 - 04:31:44

Well, I think that they basically do all of the things. Some do it better than others, you know, I guess. But I think every, I think pretty much they do all that. They do all of those things. You talked about, sometimes the zoo is not necessarily in the papers.

04:31:44 - 04:31:50

Is there any advice to the neophyte zoo director that you would give about the importance of marketing a zoo?

04:31:52 - 04:32:02

Well, it’s just like, I guess they asked Philip Wrigley, that why does he do so much advertising about his gum?

04:32:03 - 04:32:15

And he said, “Advertising is the engine in the locomotive. Take the engine out, and the locomotive stops.” See, that’s what advertising is really.

04:32:15 - 04:32:20

And people don’t not advertise because it brings more people in, right?

04:32:20 - 04:32:27

I mean, they advertise for a reason, because it works. You have to keep your name in front of the public.

04:32:28 - 04:32:36

What did you find was the most important or the best form of advertising for the zoo when you were zoo director?

04:32:41 - 04:33:05

Well, a lot of people still read newspapers, at least then they read them, now I’m not so sure, but they read newspapers. And I think that the advertisements in newspapers are very good, do a good job getting the word out. People still read newspapers, still look at them every day. And that word is, you know, that will be out there, and you get it out there every day.

04:33:07 - 04:33:15

If you had experience with the zoo unions or unions in the zoos, is there any advice you’d give on how you should be dealing with unionized keepers?

04:33:17 - 04:34:12

You have to, well you have to go with the flow. You have to go, instead of fighting, necessarily fighting them, although sometimes that’s inevitable. You have to, if you need like a memorandum of understanding or a contract that you can write with them, do it. Instead of complaining about it, do it and see, and make them come to that kind of, that conclusion, make them conclude that, you know, you’re allowed to do that sort of thing. And that’s the way, give me, you know, there’s give and take when you negotiate things. You can give some things, but you’re gonna take, you wanna take some things too. I know at Lincoln Park you worked in, I’m just gonna do a specific name, ’cause it applies to the question, with Roxanne Kramer, and she’s been doing conservation with a very specific type of animal.

04:34:12 - 04:34:19

Should zoos take up the cause of a specific type of animal in the wild?

04:34:19 - 04:34:24

Does that, is that a positive, or does it matter?

04:34:28 - 04:34:50

I think it is a positive because, I think it’s a positive, I don’t know if it’s a necessary thing to do. I think it’s a positive, but you know, the whole, the major, the whole cause of conservation is more important than one, the cause of one animal. I do, I do think that.

04:34:53 - 04:35:01

Since you’ve had a lot of experience with primates, and other animals, but what would you say a zoo should be doing about primate conservation specifically today?

04:35:03 - 04:35:10

It necessarily is not limited to just the nature maybe within zoos, but how should they be focusing in that aspect?

04:35:10 - 04:35:44

Well, if you wanna save the animal, you gotta save its habitat. You can’t divorce the two of them. And the forests are being cut down at record rate, and all over the world, and primates are gonna go with the, as the forest go primates go, that’s their home. And if there’s no more forest, there’s not gonna be any animals, very simple. I mean, it’s not so simple, but that’s it. And once again, it comes down to truthfully, a politician having guts.

04:35:45 - 04:35:48

In Brazil, are they gonna stop cutting the forests?

04:35:48 - 04:36:33

Is there a politician that’s gonna be brave enough to stand up and say, “Well no more, no more. We’re not cutting down any more of those forests,” I doubt it. I wish there were, but I don’t think so. There’s so much money involved, and so much money that they’re probably getting for themselves. So it’s very difficult. You know, if the zoo was the only place animals were to survive, I think it would be a pretty bad situation. So I don’t think that, and if you have to do that, you’d come down to it, maybe you could do it. But I would not be happy myself if that was the case.

04:36:35 - 04:36:57

If there were no place in the wild, you know, their place. Where is their place? That’s their place. You worked- I’m sorry, that should be. You’ve worked with SSPs and the taxonomy advisory groups, prosimians to great apes.

04:36:59 - 04:37:04

Are they doing a job that is helping these animals?

04:37:05 - 04:37:07

Are they making a difference?

04:37:11 - 04:37:35

I’d like to say yes, but I honestly think not. Some, they may some I shouldn’t, you know there may be some, they may have done some things that are helpful, that are good, but it’s the whole story. I mean honestly, it’s the whole story of saving the forests, that’s all that can save the primates. That’s all that can save them.

04:37:35 - 04:37:38

‘Cause that’s where, where else are they gonna go?

04:37:38 - 04:37:41

That’s what’s gonna save them, I think nothing else will.

04:37:46 - 04:37:54

What can then US zoos do, and aquariums, to help upgrade developing countries with their zoos?

04:38:01 - 04:38:29

Well, you could certainly send experts, your own experts to them, and help them that way. I don’t know what else, you know, truthfully you can do. When you were with AAZPA, but now there’s the same Zoo Association, just different.

04:38:29 - 04:38:35

Is there issues that you’d like to see the Zoo Association tackling?

04:38:36 - 04:39:32

They should remember where they came from. There are people who don’t, you know, it’s the old story. If you don’t remember the past, you’re going to repeat it again. And I would say that that organization has treated, it’s the people who brung them there, the people who brought the organization to where it is today are forgotten, and they’re not given any kind of, you know, you couldn’t even now when we’re retired, we did get the bulletin for a while, but then they said, no, if you wanted it, you had to pay for it. Well, because of us, that there is an organization. They don’t care or know about that. And you know I don’t, they gotta remember where they came from. They gotta remember people who brought them there.

04:39:36 - 04:39:43

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

04:39:49 - 04:40:26

Well, it’s very difficult topic truthfully. But if it’s not done right of course, then it’s, they shouldn’t have them. Doing it right will cost a lot of money, take a lot of expertise, and a lot of space. So I think in all probability, there are certain small zoos that probably shouldn’t attempt to keep an elephant. But if you’ve got the room and the space for it, I am not opposed to keeping elephants at all if it’s done correctly.

04:40:33 - 04:40:39

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

04:40:44 - 04:41:19

Well, they may be right. But I don’t think that’s, that’s not the reason they’re there. You know, it’s like the old story, I think I said this before tonight, that bars do not a prison make, and they don’t. But you can’t really, you know, many of those people are people that are, you can’t really reason, very difficult to reason with people like that. And all you can do is try.

04:41:22 - 04:41:31

Aside from the watch in South Africa, if you could go back in time, what if anything would you have done differently?

04:41:33 - 04:41:39

If I could go back in my time only, or- In yes, when you were at the zoo.

04:41:39 - 04:41:43

If you could go back in time when you were at the zoo, is there anything you would’ve done differently?

04:41:51 - 04:42:49

Well I, specifically it’s hard to say, but I think that I would have, I would have been more, aggressive is not exactly the right word. I would’ve been more aware of the keepers who were not doing what they were supposed to be doing, and, you know, changing their way of doing things and change, try to change how they do things. And that, and the way I interacted with them, actually. I think that’s real important. I probably would change that too.

04:42:51 - 04:42:53

Do you have a proudest accomplishment?

04:42:53 - 04:42:57

You’ve done a lot of things, but is there one that stands above them all?

04:43:00 - 04:43:23

Well, I think getting, taking, taking the San Francisco Zoo, and grabbing it and kicking it, taking it kicking and screaming into the 20th century, I think that’s what I did. You’ve been around- You’ve been around the world. You’ve seen a lot of places, a lot of zoos.

04:43:23 - 04:43:29

Are there any that you particularly admired, and who are they and why do you admire them?

04:43:31 - 04:43:42

Well, I think that, I think I really, I think I admired the Bronx Zoo more than any, any truthfully, the most, and more than any.

04:43:44 - 04:43:49

They put their mouth where their money is for one thing, as far as wildlife is concerned, you know?

04:43:49 - 04:44:28

Not just the zoo, but wildlife was concerned. They had the, you know, the Wildlife Society, and they did put a money into that. And the way they displayed their animals, they did a good job I think, always did a good job on displaying their animals, given that they are in a place that has winters. You know, snows and it’s ice and it’s cold. So they gotta have indoor quarters, which doesn’t make things is easy for certain kinds, you know, a lot of animals, most animals really. But I just like the way they do things, they did things there, and it was always real well done. I thought, that was my feeling. And there’s a lot of other good ones.

04:44:28 - 04:44:29

I mean, there’s good ones.

04:44:32 - 04:44:38

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

04:44:40 - 04:44:41

What do I know about it?

04:44:41 - 04:45:02

Yeah, the zoo profession. Well, I know that it can be extremely rewarding, but could also be extremely heartbreaking. It just, I mean, those are the two things that I definitely know about it.

04:45:02 - 04:45:07

How would you like to be remembered?

04:45:17 - 04:45:42

I suppose I’d like to be remembered as being, having told the truth. You know, I told like it is, I told it like it is. ‘Cause I never, you know, contemplated not doing that. So, I think that would be okay.

About Saul Kitchener

Saul Kitchener
In Memoriam
Jan 1, 1938 - Feb 7, 2015
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San Francisco Zoo: San Francisco, California

Director, Retired

After graduate school Saul started his zoo career at the Oklahoma City Zoo. It was 1963 and he was hired, by zoo director Dr. Warren Thomas, as Curator of Primates. When Dr. Thomas went to Omaha Zoo in 1966, as director, he offered Saul the position of General Curator. In 1968 Saul accepted the position of General Curator at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo under director Dr. Lester Fisher. Soon he was promoted to Assistant Director.

In 1975 he was appointed director of the San Francisco Zoo. A main interest was the great apes and he was instrumental in helping to develop and build great ape exhibits in Lincoln Park and San Francisco.

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