Senior Wildlife Care Specialist
San Diego Zoo
Year zoo career began:
Hi all, My name is Alex Duran, and I am a Senior Wildlife Care Specialist. So, a little bit about me and my background. Personally, I come from a family of 5 and was raised by a single mother. I’ve been through some hard experiences coming up, but I think that’s what made me who I am now. I like to think that I am kind, compassionate, understanding, and just have a big heart, because I know what it’s like to not be on the receiving end of that. Its part of that upbringing, you know? Anyway, I grew up in Escondido, so the Safari Park was in my back yard. Growing up it was a treat to come here, sort of like my Disneyland. I came up when we could afford it, but those were few and far between. But, if I am being honest, it was many things to me. First, I enjoyed coming here when I could to see the animals, I’ve always had a heart for all animals. They are honest in their communication. Secondly, for me, growing up in certain areas of Escondido, I couldn’t cross certain streets or go to certain parks because of the affiliation it had with different gangs…so coming to the Safari Park was neutral territory and I didn’t feel like I had to blend in or act a certain way, you know? I didn’t have to act hard. When I was here, I could just be me. I’m chill, laid back, quirky at times, I laugh a lot, and I’m just a gentle giant, so when I am at the Safari Park, I don’t have to front or be something I always have to be when I was growing up, which is stay hard and try not to get in the wrong cliques. Anyway, as I got older, I got a job working to support the family. Put food on the table, pay rent, gas, you name it. Being a Wildlife Care Specialist was the furthest thing from my mind. On my mind was how I get to provide for my family, so that we can live. DJ Quik said, "If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense"…and, so, doing volunteering or unpaid internships just wasn’t a luxury I could do. Fast forward to college, I got a degree in History with a Minor in philosophy, I thought I was going to be a Professor, but life took a turn, I was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer, so I put my schooling on hold, and recovered. I went looking for a job, and I found a job here, as a caravan driver, and from then on I dove in. Like, I said, its neutral territory…no colors. This place invested in me, and I returned the favor. I got into the mammal department and learned on the job, and I continue to do so, as I hope all of us continue to do. I did some more schooling to get more familiar with my field. To say the least, I did NOT take the traditional path of being a Wildlife Care Specialist, but I think that’s what makes me unique. Homegrown through job loans and opportunities. People here gave me a piece of their mind as well as a piece of their heart, because in this path you definitely need both to keep going, and I appreciated it so much. Now, I’m taking care of our primate carnivore collection, and I am invested and want to share with you all the same thing that was shared with me, which is my heart and mind. Know it’s a safe space, because once we know it’s a safe space, then we can be more us and grow with each other. If you guys have any questions, please come find me, and let’s just talk and go from there. I got you.