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Dr. Davis - ABHM.jpg


Ethnicity: Black

Positions held: Veterinarian, Researcher, Director, President & CEO

Facilities: Smithsonian's National Zoo, Zoo Atlanta, Lincoln Park Zoo,  Zoological Society of Milwaukee, National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium

Years of active zoo career: 1991-2017


Dr. Robert (Bert) Davis had a distinguished and storied zoo career. His entrée into the zoo and aquarium profession was as a Smithsonian Faculty Fellow.  He served as a veterinary medical officer at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington DC, where he was the first African American to ever hold this position. At Zoo Atlanta, Dr. Davis held the position of Director of Education and External Affairs. He was the Vice President of Education for Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. Dr. Davis is also the former President and CEO of the Zoological Society of Milwaukee. During his tenure there, Dr. Davis secured a $6.7 million donation, the largest family foundation gift the Society and the Milwaukee County Zoo had received to date. And he was the President and CEO of the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Iowa.


Throughout his zoo career, Dr. Davis focused on supporting, educating and mentoring black and brown students and colleagues, helping them realize their full potential. He is most proud of having mentored several college students who now work in the zoo and aquarium fields and his being a “big brother” to many of his colleagues who are now Presidents, CEO’s and Vice Presidents throughout the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).


Dr. Davis served AZA in several capacities. He helped create the professional development course and taught several classes in the course: Advances in Animal Keeping in Zoos and Aquariums. Additionally, he has served on three task forces covering education, conservation and diversity: he was the Vice Chair of the Conservation Education Committee (CEC); the Chair of the Diversity Committee; and was elected to the AZA Ethics Board.


Dr. Davis has been featured in numerous journals, books and press articles including; Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce, Telegraph Herald, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee Business Journal, Atlanta Journal Constitution, M Magazine, Florida Wildlife Magazine, JET Magazine, I Want to be a Veterinarian, World Wildlife Fund’s Wildlife for Sale Educators Guide, Zoolife, and the Smithsonian Torch Newsletter. He has appeared on Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Chicago, Milwaukee, Atlanta and Washington, DC television stations (CNN, PBS, FOX, ABC, WGN, and NBC) in addition to National Public Radio and Radio Disney.

Dr. Davis is currently the President and CEO of the America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee Wisconsin. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in animal and poultry sciences and completed two years of graduate study in cytogenetics at Tuskegee University. He then entered Tuskegee University’s School of Veterinary Medicine from which he received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Dr. Davis is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Head back to Noteworthy Figures to learn about other historical minorities in exotic animal care and conservation.

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