Donor and former Zoo Commission President, Shelby Kaplan Sloan established the Sloan Animal Keeper Advanced Studies Fund in 2003 to provide keepers with opportunities for hands-on field experiences with particular animals. Upon completing their fieldwork, they share their experiences and insights with the staff and the animals at the Zoo.
June 2009 Award
One of the Zoo’s areas of special expertise is in herpetology, and the care of reptiles and amphibians has changed dramatically in recent years. One of the 2009 Sloan Grant recipients, Animal Keeper Jim Haigwood used the funds to attend one of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums most highly regarded professional development programs, the Crocodilian Biology and Captive Management Training Program at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm in Florida. Also known as Croc School, it focuses on captive maintenance techniques, husbandry, breeding, and special requirements for the care of crocodiles, caimans, gharials and alligators.
“It’s the first hands-on school of its kind where you get to work with the animals and also get to do classroom work,” Haigwood says. “St. Augustine is the only zoo of its kind —they’ve got every species of crocodilian in the world. So it really was a very unique opportunity. It’s a very highly regarded class. People from all over the world attend it every single year so it’s a great opportunity to collaborate with people and get contacts and you know crocodilians have been on the earth for 300 million years. Half of them are threatened with extinction. We still have a lot to learn about their biology and reproducing the in captivity and this school is really helping to promote that.”