American Association of Zoo Keepers Honor
10 Saint Louis Zoo Employees with Top Awards
Ten members of the Saint Louis Zoo staff were selected for prestigious awards bestowed by the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK).
These were among the awards presented at the 42nd annual AAZK conference held for the first time in St. Louis between Sept. 27 and Oct. 1. That conference attracted more than 250 keepers and others engaged in caring for animals from across the nation and overseas.
They came to St. Louis to hear expert presenters and attend workshops on husbandry, training, enrichment, problem-solving and a range of other topics related to best practices in animal care.
Zoo Carnivore Keeper Erin Tully, of Alton, Ill., now living in the city of St. Louis, was awarded The Lutz Ruhe Meritorious Achievement – AAZK Professional of the Year Award, which honors the individual who exhibits day-to day professionalism. Those who win this award are distinguished by their participation in AAZK/Association of Zoos and Aquariums conservation projects and their dedication to helping other institutions with projects or programs that are focused on conservation, wildlife education and breeding. The award was established in 1982.
Invertebrate Keeper Daniel Koch, of Maeystown, Ill., was awarded a Certificate of Merit in Conservation Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the conservation of wildlife and wild habitats. This award was established in 2010 by the Conservation Committee of AAZK.
Primate Keeper Ethan Riepl, of Crystal Lake, Ill., now living in St. Louis, received the Lee Houts Excellence in Enrichment Award, which recognizes outstanding keeper-initiated contributions to the art and science of environmental enrichment. The Lee Houts Excellence in Enrichment Award was established in 2001 but renamed following the 2005 death of Lee Houts, to honor Ms. Houts’ many contributions to the field of enrichment.
The Zoo’s primate staff—Zoological Manager Joe Knobbe, of Webster Groves, Mo., and keepers Mylisa Whipple, of Arcola, Ill., now a resident of Affton, Mo.; Peggy Hoppe (now Zoological Manager-Great Apes) , of Richton Park, Ill., now living in the city of St. Louis; Ethan Riepl and Shannon Farrell, of the city of St. Louis; James Kelton, of University City, Mo., now living in the city of St. Louis; Alicia Marty, of Belleville, Ill.; and Brooke Thoele Johnson, of Belleville, Ill., now living in the city of St. Louis, received the Lee Houts Excellence in Enrichment Award recognizing outstanding keeper-initiated contributions to the art and science of environmental enrichment.
Erin Tully and Carnivore Keeper Carrie Felsher, of Hattiesburg, Miss., now living in the city of St. Louis, received the Excellence in Journalism Award for the article “A Progressively Challenging Enrichment Project for a Sloth Bear at the St. Louis Zoo.” This article, which appeared in the July 2014 issue of the Animal Keepers’ Forum, described a project that was important to the welfare of Daisy Sloth Bear. The story also inspired keepers from other institutions and was influential in guiding the goals of the Saint Louis Zoo Enrichment Committee, which facilitates and promotes Zoo-wide enrichment programs that are based on the animals’ natural biology. These programs promote a range of species-appropriate behavior, facilitate behavioral choices and enhance the well-being of individual animals.
About the American Association of Zoo Keepers
The American Association of Zoo Keepers, Inc. began in 1967 in San Diego, California, to promote professionalism in zoo keeping through education of zoological staff members in the most modern and current techniques of captive exotic animal care. AAZK’s mission is to provide a resource and forum for continuing education for animal care professionals and to support zoo and aquarium personnel in their roles as animal care givers, scientific researchers, public educators and conservationists. The organization is also committed to promoting zoos and aquariums as cultural establishments dedicated to the enrichment of human and natural resources and to fostering an exchange of research materials, enrichment options and husbandry information through publications and conferences which will lead to a greater understanding of the needs and requirements of all animals. Membership is at approximately 2,800 and includes individuals at all levels of zoo staff from directors, curators and veterinarians to keepers, animal health technicians, volunteers and students. Members are from 48 of the 50 States, 5 Canadian Provinces and 24 foreign countries, and they represent nearly 250 animal-related facilities.
About the Saint Louis Zoo
Named America’s #1 Zoo by Zagat Survey and Parenting Magazine, the Saint Louis Zoo is widely recognized for its innovative approaches to animal management, wildlife conservation, research and education. One of the few free zoos in the nation, it attracts more than 3,000,000 visitors a year.