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Hilary Colton



Current position: 

Animal Keeper, Amazonia

Current facility:

Smithsonian's National Zoological Park

Year zoo career began:


Hilary Colton is an Animal Keeper at the National Zoo. She was first hired as a temporary keeper, where she gained professional experience at the Invertebrate exhibit and Asia Trail, before being hired permanently at the Bird House. Currently she works at the Amazonia exhibit, where she cares for a diverse collection of South American species; including freshwater fish, terrestrial invertebrates, New World primates and tropical birds.

The route Colton took to her position has been a little different than many keepers. Her family is filled with naturalists, who encouraged her to explore the biological sciences and get experiences early. A Northern Virginia local, she grew up coming to the National Zoo and participated in Snore and Roar experiences where she learned about behind the scenes keeper work. In high school, she participated for 3 years with sea turtle nesting and hatch seasons; then did field work on invasive bird species in Egypt during her undergraduate years at Christopher Newport University.

Colton participates in multiple committees at the National Zoo and serves as Institutional Representative for a number of species under her care at Amazonia. She is a member of the Professional Development Team for the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK), where she reviews and collaborates on annual conference planning. She is also a member of the AAZK Diversity Taskforce, which seeks to increase diversity, equity and inclusion efforts for current and prospective animal keepers.

Colton feels that one of the best ways that we can save species is to educate people about biodiversity. As an animal keeper, she is frequently the person who gets asked questions by visitors and looks forward to continuing to inspire change. Conservation begins at home, and that means reaching all parts of a community. Diversity within the zoo field helps people from all backgrounds see themselves represented in wildlife sciences and it is important we encourage their involvement.

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