A Special Anniversary in the Children’s Zoo

In August of this year, a member of the Children’s Zoo staff celebrated a special anniversary. Wendy Morrison celebrated 35 years with the zoo – all of those years dedicated to the Children’s Zoo!

Wendy started as a volunteer and continued in that position for 2 years. During her volunteer time, she befriended a young llama named Acura (unlike the car, it is pronounced Ah-CURE -ah).  When Acura became ill, she wouldn’t eat for anyone except Wendy hand feeding her.  Because of this close relationship, she was hooked and joined the staff in August of 1982 She was a young zookeeper ready to take on the world!  She has cared for many different animals during her time here.  Some of her favorites have been….Red Pandas, Llamas (including hand raising one special llama named Pib) and Jessie the Longhorn.

She saw several Mayors come and go. Kathy Whitmire, Bob Lanier, Lee Brown, Bill White, Annise Parker and now of course Sylvester Turner.  The Houston Zoo was a part of the City for many years but, privatized in 2002 under Mayor Lee Brown.  Wendy says “A lot changed.  Who would remain with the city and who would stay with the zoo?”  The privatization brought many good things to the zoo.  More funding, improved exhibits and conservation involvement around the world.  She also saw 5 different Children’s Zoo Curators come and go and is now under the 6th Curator of her tenure.  With each new leader, comes new ideas and change.  That can be exciting and challenging all at the same time.

Another big change in her time here? In 2000, the entire Children’s Zoo moved location!  Think about any time you have been involved in new construction and what that means.  Yikes! Then, think about not only moving people and things but the animals too!  It was quite an undertaking.  During the move, one of the animals, Zypher the Zebu, attempted to return to her old enclosure.  She was of course steered (no pun intended) back to her new enclosure and decided she liked it after all.

Over the years, she has seen and experienced so much. She has seen animals and staff come and go and worked through all types of weather. She has seen lots of crazy storms come through.  Some of the more notable ones were: Alicia in August 1983, Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001, Rita in September 2005, Ike in September 2008 and of course Harvey this year.  She says “When hard times hit, you find out what you are made of.  We are resilient here.”

On a personal note – She was born in Wisconsin and lived for a while in Minnesota. She came to Texas as fast as she could, moving here with her family in 1969 when she was 10 years old.   Now a longtime resident, she is a Naturalized Texan.  Wendy and her Partner of 22 years, Debbie Pillow continue to love Texas and animals.

What would Wendy like people to know about Zookeeping? “Zookeeping is always changing.  Always something new to learn.  Sometimes things repeat themselves but you have to be open to learn from your mistakes.”  Sounds like good advice not only in zookeeping but in life, doesn’t it?

Children’s Zoo Supervisor Angie Pyle had this to say: “Wendy embodies the qualities of a life time Zookeeper. She is dedicated to animal care, and has changed with every new chapter of the Houston Zoo.  Wendy is strong, determined, trust worthy and dependable.  Her knowledge of the Zoo’s history and its inhabitants is irreplaceable.”

If you see Wendy around the Children’s Zoo on your next visit, stop and say hi. She has a wealth of memories and knowledge and loves to share her experiences with guests.

Thank you, Wendy, for all your years of dedication and all you do to care for the animals.