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National Zoo Keeper WeekMeet the Reptile Team

July 20, 2016

WHO ARE THE KEEPERS?

Dennis McNamara Lead Reptile Keeper, 16 years of service

Mike Dray Reptile Zoo Keeper, 3.5 years of service

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WHAT IS YOUR EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND?

Dennis I have a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Old Dominion University.

Mike  I have a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences, concentrating in marine biology and plant sciences.

TELL US ABOUT A FUN EXPERIENCE AT THE VIRGINIA ZOO

Mike  Weighing the Reticulated pythons is always a fun challenge – the larger one is more than 160 pounds!

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WHAT IS ONE THING PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE VIRGINIA ZOO?

Mike  That I work here! And of course, all the money, time and dedication the Zoo donates to various conservation efforts around the world.

WHAT’S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE FOR THOSE WANTED TO BE A ZOO KEEPER?

Dennis  Marry rich! Also, get out and volunteer in as many places as you can to gain experience. This experience will be great for your resume, but it will also help you figure out what you would like to work with. There is a lot of competition for jobs in this field so the more you know… This community is very small in the grand scheme of things, that’s where knowing people will come in handy. The greatest skill you can come to this career with is common sense. So, go to school, get a degree, volunteer, participate in field research, get to know the outside world, get experience, then start applying, and most importantly, HAVE FUN!

Mike  Prepare for lots of volunteering and internships! Keepers tend to bounce around the country for a few years before ending up in their ideal location.

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WHO/WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ANIMAL AND WHY?

Dennis  Elephants are my favorite mammal by far. Everything about working with them was challenging. Everything to do with them was heavy, so you had to attempt to work smart so you didn’t kill yourself while working hard. They were a mental challenge and training them was probably the hardest and most rewarding part of being with them. Great animals to be around and very interesting to watch and learn from.

Picking another favorite is tough. I would say that the Chinese crocodile lizards are my favorite lizard right now, but that could change tomorrow. The annulated boas may be my favorite snake species at the moment, although the reticulated pythons are the most challenging and the most impressive so they make that a tough decision. Amphibian species would probably be the Golden poison dart frogs. They are probably by favorite because they are the easiest to find on a daily basis and are hardy.

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Mike  Dudley the sloth (self-explanatory). I like the poison dart frogs because they are beautiful, active and fun to breed. And also AJ the male Aldabra tortoise because he is very friendly and loves attention.

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anything else you’d like to add…

Mike  Reptiles & Amphibians > Mammals & Birds