Associate Curator of Birds
Gladys Porter Zoo
Year zoo career began:
Toni Torres is the Associate Curator of Birds at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. In her role, she works with a variety of bird species including Southern cassowaries and has been fortunate enough to successfully raise cassowary chicks.
When Toni was younger, she knew that she wanted to work with animals but didn’t know how or where that could happen. During the 80’s and 90’s she only saw the faces of male keepers at her local zoo, the Gladys Porter Zoo, so she never thought it was a possibility. She got her “foot in the door” in an unconventional way- her first job at the zoo was working in a temporary summer robotic dinosaur exhibit. Toni would cover for her coworkers and found herself at the zoo all summer. Her supervisor told the zoo’s Education Curator about Toni and she was offered a position as an Education Assistant when the summer ended.
After a few years of working in an office, Toni found out about the zoo’s involvement with a sea turtle conservation camp in Tamaulipas, Mexico. She visited one of the camps during the off season and the experience of seeing the barracks and hearing the stories about the nesting turtles and scurrying hatchlings sparked an interest in Toni in sea turtles and their conservation. In 2001, Toni went to work in Mexico for six months, and even though it was her first time being away from home for so long, the people made her feel welcomed and she enjoyed every minute of work. In between working with sea turtles, Toni would get called back to the zoo to fill a vacancy or two while waiting for nesting season. Toni has worked in the Aquatics/ Herp department, Australia, Small World (animal nursery/ petting zoo) and the Bird Department. In 2011, Toni hung up her sea turtle conservation boots and has been with the Bird Department ever since.