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Donna-Mae Butcher



Current position: 

Animal Department Supervisor

Current facility:

WCS- Queens Zoo

Year zoo career began:

Donna-Mae Butcher was born on the beautiful island of Trinidad. Her academic career led her to obtaining a Montessori teaching degree, but she ventured into the very different field of animal care and conservation. Donna-Mae credits this change in direction to her father, Michael Butcher, who throughout her childhood always pointed out wildlife and explained why animals behaved and did the things they do. That instilled a passion for animals which led her to a career in zoo keeping that began at the Emperor Valley Zoo in Trinidad where she was the first ever female zoo keeper in Trinidad and Tobago!

While at the Emperor Valley Zoo, Donna-Mae worked many animals including reptiles, birds, mammals, large cats and ungulates. She was also a part of the team that was the first to ever successfully breed Orinoco River Turtles in captivity. After a decade, Donna-Mae moved from Trinidad to Queens Zoo in New York, USA. Here she was promoted to Senior Zoo Keeper and ascended the ranks to Animal Department Supervisor. Her daily routine includes supervision of staff, the overall care of the animals, maintenance of animal exhibits, shipping and acquiring new animals. One accomplishment of which Donna-Mae is extremely proud is that she spearheaded, in conjunction with Roger Williams Park Zoo, the New England Cottontail Rabbit Captive Breeding Program at Queens Zoo which won them Top Honors at AZA in 2019.

Donna-Mae’s childhood passion for animals that has never died out has fueled an almost 40 year long career in animal care and zoo management that is still going strong! As a proud Trinidadian woman and parent of two amazing teens, this path came with its challenges. From not being taken seriously in a then male dominated field, to feeling like the unequal and sometimes invisible island girl. Donna-Mae’s advice to those that look like her and wish to pursue a career in the zoo field, keep your head up and stay your course. Find your groove in this profession. Everything will eventually come together!

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