Black History Month 2022

The Arizona Center for Nature Conservation (ACNC)/Phoenix Zoo is honored to join the
Association of Minority Zoo & Aquarium Professionals (AMZAP) as a Supporting Organization.

AMZAP strives to build relationships amongst minorities presently in the field and to increase minority representation
in all disciplines and at all levels in zoos, aquariums and exotic wildlife facilities through outreach, mentoring and professional development.

To celebrate this partnership and Black History Month, we are highlighting internal and external professionals who have shown excellence
in animal care. External professional profiles were created using information from the AMZAP website.

The Arizona Center for Nature Conservation (ACNC)/Phoenix Zoo is honored to join the
Association of Minority Zoo & Aquarium Professionals (AMZAP) as a Supporting Organization.

AMZAP strives to build relationships amongst minorities presently in the field and to increase minority representation in all disciplines and at all levels in zoos, aquariums and exotic wildlife facilities through outreach, mentoring and professional development.

To celebrate this partnership and Black History Month, we are highlighting internal and external professionals who have shown excellence in animal care. External professional profiles were created using information from the AMZAP website.

Stevie is an Arizona native and a Keeper II here at the Phoenix Zoo. She primarily works with our elephant, Indu, and our greater one-horned rhino, Chutti. Last year, we interviewed Stevie and wanted to follow-up with her and learn more about her passion for conservation.

Stevie played golf in college but knew from a young age that she wanted to work with animals. Last year, Stevie talked about the positive impact that family trips to zoos had on her childhood and how she watched the keepers as much as the animals. She expands on this and the importance of representation by voicing her hope that when a young person who relates to Stevie sees her working with the animals, it creates a connection and sparks interest in a career in conservation.

When asked who had the greatest impact on her career path, she responded, “I would absolutely have to say my mom. She didn’t know anything about zoo keeping and never understood how I connected with animals so well, but she saw my love for them and chose to nurture my passion.” Stevie describes her mom as the matriarch of the family who encouraged Stevie and her siblings to do what they love. Stevie is reminded of her mom’s encouragement any time she sees a hummingbird fluttering around the Zoo.

We asked Stevie about a memorable story since she started at the Zoo, and she recalled a time when Indu sprayed her after drinking a large amount of liquid. Stevie laughs as she tells the story and explains that it was in that moment that she knew Indu was acknowledging Stevie as a part of the team.

Stevie enjoys music and exploring nature. She and her wife live on a small farm that includes horses, goats, chickens, and three dogs.

Since Angie joined the Phoenix Zoo in October of 2002, she has made friends everywhere she goes. Team members know Angie for her passion for animals and the teams who take care of them.

The Phoenix Zoo grounds encompass approximately 124 acres so it can be very easy to not meet all your peers just based on space and responsibility. Kara Schilling, Curator of Mammals and Angie’s manager, remembers when Angie received her 15-year service award that was presented at a meeting for the entire Phoenix Zoo team. Kara recalls asking the room how many people knew Angie and almost everyone raised their hands. Kara says that sums up Angie. “To know Angie is to love her,” Kara says.

Angie started her career at the Phoenix Zoo as a Keeper in the Africa Trail. The following year she was promoted to a Senior Keeper position before becoming a Senior Relief Keeper in 2010. In 2015, she was promoted to Collection Manager – Carnivores.

Dawn Addelson, who was hired by Angie, had this to say about her:

“I’ve never worked with someone with such unbridled energy and enthusiasm. The word ‘can’t’ isn’t in Angie’s vocabulary. She tackles everything with passion, confidence, and good humor. As a leader, Angie is kind, approachable and supportive of her team. She takes care of her peers so that they can take the best care of the animals.”

Angie exemplifies the best in a leader by creating connections everywhere she goes. She has been a mentor to many who started their career in animal conservation at the Zoo. We are fortunate to have such an incredible team leader like Angie on the Phoenix Zoo team and acknowledge and celebrate her as an ambassador for animal conservation.

Chris joined the Zoo in 2004 after moving to Phoenix from Chicago, where he had been a nurse. Before that, Chris was a Navy Corpsman in Desert Storm. Co-worker Pam Garcia remembers his persistence with great fondness. She says, “I first met Chris when I was working at the admissions office and applicants had to fill out a handwritten application for employment. Chris came in every other week to apply for positions because he knew he wanted to work here.”

Chris was hired in Grounds Quality where he did an incredible job. His work ethic, easy-going manner and excellent customer service skills led him to his position as a Park Ranger. Bert Castro, President/CEO, describes Chris as, “being excellent at his job and his organizational skills made him our go-to person for managing all aspects of customer and team member parking. He created strategies and protocols, and expertly hired and trained staff, enabling him to effectively manage our parking lots.”

Chris was promoted to Park Ranger Supervisor in 2013 and his natural ability to train new Rangers made Chris the perfect First Aid Instructor.

One of many stories that describe Chris’ dedication is shared by Pam:

“One day there was a tortoise, which clearly wasn’t a native species, in Papago Park that a crowd had gathered around. Chris knew immediately what type of tortoise it was and began to field questions from curious onlookers. Chris stayed with the tortoise and arranged to transport it to the Phoenix Herpetological Society.”

It didn’t matter to Chris that the tortoise wasn’t on Zoo grounds; he went above and beyond to ensure the tortoise was safe, and people learned about conservation and animal safety.

Martin Pinksi, Park Services Manager, describes Chris as “a positive team player who wanted to see the best in all Rangers and the Zoo.”

Chris passed away in 2020 and is missed by all that knew him at the Zoo, especially the Park Ranger team.

The Zoo is planning a private memorial at a later date where a bench will be dedicated in his memory.

Amos Morris has held many titles in his impressive career in the zoo field. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) offers accreditation to zoos and aquariums that meet the highest standards in animal care and welfare. Amos’s accomplishments include holding the positions of Director or Curator at six AZA-accredited facilities. Amos was the first African American Zoo Director of an AZA-accredited zoo and the first African American to be elected to the AZA Board of Directors. He has served on the AZA Ethics Board, Vice Chair of the Small Carnivore TAG, Wolverine Studbook holder, Steering Committee for the Elephant TAG/SSP and as an AZA Accreditation Inspector, becoming part of the accreditation commission and continuing to conduct inspections today.

Amos’s interest in animals began as a child. He gained his love of animals from his mother, who was very passionate about their pets, and from his father, who was a biologist by profession and taught high school biology. After graduating from the University of Missouri in 1987, with a degree in Animal Science, Amos began working at the Saint Louis Zoo. On his very first day he was asked to catch kangaroos for pouch checks; his curator said he wanted to see how Amos’s football athleticism would help him with catching kangaroos. Several kangaroo later that morning, Amos found himself indoctrinated into the profession.

Amos has traveled extensively during his career to assist with many international animal care and conservation projects. He spent five weeks catching Agremi goats in the White Mountains on the Island of Crete, Greece for a professor, which was his personal “Mutual of Omaha” moment. Amos has traveled to Africa twice to remove elephant collars, taken guests to Africa for ecotourism, imported African wild dogs from South Africa, and visited Peru, South America twice. These trips were only accomplished through his work in various zoos, and he’s grateful to have had these experiences.

In 2021, Amos became the director of the Milwaukee County Zoo. He is the first African American zoo director in the zoo’s 126-year history.

Mary Wilson was the first African American senior zookeeper at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. While most women zookeepers at the time were assigned to work with smaller animals, Wilson worked with mammals from the beginning of her career. She was known for bringing home baby animals to care for them.

In 2020, NPR did a story on Wilson. During the interview, Mike McClure, a curator at the zoo, told the story of an incident where a keeper left a habitat door open, and a Kodiak bear was able to gain access to the service area. This was a serious situation, but Mary stayed calm and went into the kitchen. She grabbed a handful of apples. She then called the bear’s name to get his attention. The bear, named Junior, turned around and walked back through the door it just discovered and went back into the habitat because Mary was throwing him apples and saying, “Good boy, Junior. Good boy.”

Mary was born in 1937 in West Baltimore and attended Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. She began working at the Baltimore Zoo, now known as the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, in 1961. She was hired by Arthur R. Watson, who was head of the zoo from 1948 until 1980. Mary retired in 1999 after working 38 years at the zoo. In 2020, Mary passed away in Randallstown, Maryland, at the age of 83. The Maryland Zoo still has two otters named after her: Mary and Wilson.