Lead Wildlife Specialist- Elephant Odyssey
San Diego Zoo
Year zoo career began:
Thomas Reid is the Lead Wildlife Specialist in the San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey Section. Prior to his role at the San Diego Zoo, Thomas worked for 14 years as a Lead Elephant Zoologist at the Dallas Zoo. There, he took care of eight African elephants, two males and six females ranging in age from five years old to 44 years of age. Thomas loves knowing that it is his responsibility to take quality care of the elephants and help them live long lives in captivity.
Thomas has a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Anthropology from Winthrop University. In his undergraduate studies, Thomas focused on science courses that were mainly animal related, including zoology, animal behavior, and vertebrate natural history. Thomas completed internships with the Audubon Zoo in the Asian Domain section and the Riverbanks Zoo in the bird department. Thomas has worked with elephants in paid positions at a variety of facilities, including Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the Memphis Zoo, and the Ringling Bros and Barnum Bailey Circus.
Thomas’ favorite part of his job is that no day is the same and that the animals he works with each day are ambassadors to help save their wild counterparts. It takes Thomas a long time to develop relationships with elephants to allow him to work closely and safely with them, but he still finds it surreal to even stand near the elephants, let alone say that he is an elephant zookeeper. Thomas loves that elephants are so extremely intelligent and powerful and loves to continue to learn about their behavior. He recommends that aspiring elephant keepers get involved with any aspect of animal care that they can. There are so many opportunities and you may not end up with your “dream” animal choice at first, but if you land a job you may end up falling in love with a surprising animal species.