Former positions: Zookeeper, Assistant Supervisor
Facilities: Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
Years of active zoo career: 1975-1977
Sharron Jackson was the first African American zoo keeper and assistant supervisor at the Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo (now Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium). She believes that she was hired at the zoo because of her experience working with animals through her mom.
Sharron oversaw over 100 animals and a staff of 5 keepers. Some of the species she worked with include hyenas, large and small cats, alligators, monkeys, bats, bunnies, goats and snakes. One of her most notable memories working with animals took place on her first day at work, when Sharron was asked to count all of the animals in the area. She repeatedly counted one fewer snake; when her supervisor inspected the exhibit and saw that the snake was missing, chaos ensued.
Sharron’s greatest mentor and influence in her career was her mom, Mary Wilson, who was a senior animal keeper at the Baltimore Zoo from 1961 to 1999. Mary, would frequently bring home animals, especially snakes, which were Sharron’s favorite animal. Sharron would also visit the animals at the zoo and work as an “unauthorized volunteer” at a young age.
Her advice to young people of minority or ethnic background who are looking to join the zoo field is to stick with it and learn as much as possible about the species you’re assigned to. Make sure that your safety is your primary concern. Sharron always had a great respect for the animals, which she learned from her mom and which she advises others to always have.
Head back to Noteworthy Figures to learn about other historical minorities in exotic animal care and conservation.