Visitors to the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens know that our institution is full of interesting animals, from tiny scorpions to towering giraffes. But we are lucky enough to have some pretty interesting humans on staff, too!
Today, we wanted to introduce you to one of those very special Zoo staff members to give you a behind-the-scenes look at just how much goes into caring for the collection of animals at our Orlando Zoo and how to become a zoo keeper.
We sat down with Christopher Torge, our Director of Animal Operations, to learn more. See what he had to say below!
Question: How long have you been at the Zoo?
Answer: I started February 2021, so a little over two years.
Q: What was your experience before coming here?
A: I have been in the zoological field since 1998. I have worked at the Central Park Zoo, Rosamond Gifford Zoo, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Lodge. I have been an intern, animal keeper, senior keeper, zoological manager, and now Director of Animal Operations.
Q: What are some things people might not know about you and your work with animals?
I’ve ridden more elephants than horses. Vultures are one of my favorite animals to work with. And I have spent over 6,768 hours working with giraffes!
Q: As Director of Animal Operations, what are your main job duties?
A: I am responsible for our entire animal collection and the team of 30 people that take care of them. I focus on providing my team with all the tools they need to be successful at their job and to enjoy their job. I partner with all the other teams at the Zoo to provide the best possible care for our animal collection.
Q: What kind of education and experience does someone need to get to your position?
A: First, I have a degree in Zoology. For someone in my role, it’s also important to have experience with project management, zoological park attractions and operations, and a solid leadership style.
Q: What drew you to this work to begin with?
A: I’ve always been fascinated with animal behavior. That naturally led to me wanting to work with them.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about working at the Zoo?
A: I really enjoy providing for the people on my team and watching them grow professionally. I enjoy providing new experiences for them, like exhibit design and animal training. These allow them to build on their strengths and are things that make our profession unique.
Q: What’s something a visitor might not know that you want them to know?
A: That a large percentage of time is spent evaluating and improving the wellbeing of our animal collection. Our staff spends hours on assessments, evaluations and behavioral husbandry to truly provide the highest level of care for our animals.
Q: What’s the hardest part about your job?
A: Because the staff spend so much time with the animals, they develop deep bonds with them. Watching my team have to say goodbye to an animal is always the hardest, even when it is the best and necessary decision.
Q: What’s one thing people can do to help animals or further the Zoo’s mission?
A: Our guests can do their part for conservation through some simple actions! Recycle, plant a butterfly garden, donate to a conservation organization, volunteer, and spread the word to others to do the same. They all make a difference!
We hope Chris has taught you something new about the Zoo or inspired you to help. After all, our mission is to create connections that inspire people to take action on behalf of wildlife!
Be sure to say hi to Chris or the other Zoo staff members on your next visit. Learn more here.