Pride In Our People: Mo


Our digital series, Pride In Our People, features the incredible staff at the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium through written first-person narratives and/or podcast interviews.
Today, we are featuring mo, one of our mammal Keepers
This is his story…

Because my career started in 1971, I had a different start than most. I had no degree. I started part-time in Visitor Services while a junior in high school. This also became a combination with the Children’s Zoo animals.

I became full-time and salaried in 1973 and I was afforded the opportunity to work in the AquaZoo in 1974. In the AquaZoo, I worked with a variety of animals and people. I stayed there until 1999. My journey started there and continued to the Mammal Department. I have had the opportunity to work with anything and everything. You can now find me working with the animals in Jungle Odyssey.


Over my time at the Zoo, my favorite animals have been Chuckles (the Amazon River dolphin), Rocky (the Kodiak bear), Toma (an Amur tiger), Zola (a cheetah), a large green sea turtle, octopus, sharks, rays, giraffes, and now Jahari (our pygmy hippo) and giant anteaters.

Toma and I developed a close bond in 1999 that made her one of my favorites. She was the grandmother of our current youngest tigers.

A memory I had with Rocky was when I gave him a lemon, he knew it was sour. He took it to his pool and his face wrinkled with each bite. It took 10 minutes to finish.

My green sea turtle memories include when I would rub him on the back, I could feel him pushing his body up from the underside of his shell. If I was leaning on him, he would let me fall in the pool if he didn’t like it.

Sox, the giraffe, tried to follow me through the man door one day after feeding her bananas. She wanted the peels. I rubbed her while she took them. Another time, they were laying down sleeping. I walked in and fed them while they stayed on the floor. They trusted me.


A part of my job is talking to groups. I first got my start doing this in 1988 with Zoo Camp. I get to help make visitor’s experience even better with the help of my animals. I love being able to see the enjoyment on a visitor’s face when they possibly get to meet or feed some of the animals. On multiple occasions, some of the campers from the 90s come back and visit with me.

The purpose of up-close encounters was to bring out the personalities and ease the fears of some, especially the Andean bears. Rocky and Jahari have been my favorite for providing visitors with great experiences. We had daily feedings with Rocky and some visitors said he is their child’s favorite animal. Now a favorite is Jahari, kids and families are obsessed with him!

Look for how the animals interact with you on your next visit. Some visitors still mention things from 20+ years ago. I love being able to see visitors who come year after year and share their memories with me.

For the current animals I take care of, doing some tests, weights, blood draws, ultrasounds, etc. while standing saves on stress.


On a personal note, I am extremely shy without my animals. In my free time, I love watching soccer. Liverpool and MLS star, David Villa, are my favorites.

Thank you for all you do, Mo!

Pride In Our People

 Our new series, Pride In Our People, features the incredible staff here at the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium.