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How would I do running a zoo? Some wild speculation

9/4/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

On the Mark — By Craig Marks

Dear Animal Lovers:

As you know, when Akron Zoo President and CEO L. Patricia Simmons left to become the deputy director of the North Carolina Zoo, I was given her position. This came as a surprise to many. My zoological knowledge has long been suspect, ever since I attempted to give a complete physical examination to what turned out to be Zippy the Kangaroo.

But getting the Akron Zoo job was the fulfillment of a dream. As a child I couldn’t get enough of the Dr. Seuss book “If I Ran the Zoo,” in which a young boy lets loose all the “old fashioned” animals and replaces them with weird, exotic ones. And while in retrospect I wish the book had come with a disclaimer (“If you ever do run a zoo, do not try this!”), I hold no one but myself accountable for what transpired during my short stint there.

As I take my leave of this position, I will note a few of my missteps, if only to help my successor avoid making the same mistakes.

  • I should not have changed the zoo’s slogan from “You’ve never been this close” to “If you were any closer to the animals, you’d be inside them.”
  • Contests to name leopard cubs or an octopus are always welcome. Holding contests to name staffers’ babies was a horrible, horrible idea.
  • I would never have suggested using outside food trucks to feed the animals had I realized the goats would try to eat them.
  • While there was a savings on the cost of touch-up paint, using real animals on the animal carousel was not one of my better ideas.
  • We should not have tried to jump on the “Sharknado” bandwagon and film our own animals-falling-out-of-the-sky disaster movie in the zoo’s newest exhibit area. I apologize to all those who got caught in the debacle that was “A Grizzly Wintry Mix.”
  • Before making new acquisitions, I would have been better off enlisting experts to examine them, to make sure they were not stuffed-animal prizes from traveling carnivals.
  • I should have put my foot down when the animals, after seeing all the fun being had during “Boo at the Zoo,” wanted to try trick-or-treating themselves. But in my defense for what happened that evening, more than 97 percent of the animals returned to their exhibits on time, and I can’t believe the police are having that much difficulty tracking down one red-ruffed lemur in a Spider-Man outfit.

In conclusion, from my experiences I have gained an ever greater respect for Pat Simmons, whose vision and stewardship helped make the Akron Zoo such a wonderful asset to our city. I look forward to telling her this in person, as soon as they let me out of this cage.

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