Daryl Hoffman — Houston Zoo —
Curator Large Mammals
Daryl joined the Elephant Managers Association in 1992 and served as a board member from 2000-2005 until he became Executive Director in 2005.
Daryl began his career at the Buffalo Zoo as a relief keeper and worked in every area but elephants because at the time he wasn’t that interested. Then one day his curator wanted him to learn to work with the elephants and “it did not take long for me to realize how magnificent elephants are and become completely enthralled in everything elephant.”
With over 26 years of experience working with elephants he says that the births of babies are his favorite and make for fondest memories because “everyone is different and just as amazing.”
Board of Directors
Jessica Scallan — Tulsa Zoo —
Jessica joined the Elephant Managers Association in 2001, the same year she began her career caring for elephants. At a young age Jessica became an ambassador for elephants after meeting Jean and Panya, elephants at the Audubon Zoo. “That experience started it all. Touching their skin, feeling their breath… it made such an impact on me, for the rest of my life.”
Jessica has written several articles for EMA publications, presented numerous conference papers and lead many professional workshops. She is past Chair of the Education Committee (2004-15) and current Chair of the Awards Committee. She served as EMA Board Secretary from 2006-2010 and 2013-2015, and was elected EMA President in late 2015.
Jessica has worked in the Elephant Program at the Tulsa Zoo for 16 years, during which she also cared for rhinos, sea lions and other taxa in the department, at one time or another. With Jessica’s organizational skills, enthusiasm, experience with other organizational boards and leadership ability she will help EMA accomplish great things.
“My favorite part of the job is when I am training a new behavior. Using operant conditioning to help an animal make that connection to accomplish the training goal is truly rewarding.”
Eric Peterson — Utah’s Hogle Zoo —
Elephant Manager/Animal Care Supervisor
Eric began working in the animal nursery at Utah’s Hogle Zoo in 1994 and soon after moved into an elephant keeper position and has now been working with the elephants for 21 years.
Eric has been an active member of the Elephant Managers Association since 1997 traveling to and presenting at conferences.
“I have so many great memories over the last 23 years. Probably one of my favorites was the day Zuri our baby elephant was born. It was such a highlight and lot of work. Recently I am so proud of our collaboration with Huntsman Cancer Institute and why elephants don’t get cancer. It has been an amazing ride.”
Nancy Scott — Dallas Zoo —
Coordinator of Elephant Behavior Science
Nancy began working with Asian elephants in 1994 during graduate school under the guidance of Bruce Schulte and Bets Rasmussen at the Oregon Zoo. Her early research was on chemical communication among male Asian elephants and the chemistry and physiology of musth.
She attended her first EMA conference with Bets in Jacksonville in 1997 and has been an active member ever since.
Currently a researcher at the Dallas Zoo, Nancy is involved with several longitudinal behavior studies with African elephants in a mixed species exhibit and has developed a prototype RFID system for remotely monitoring and displaying elephant movement and habitat use in real time. A lifetime learner, she knows the EMA community has much to teach not only her, but also the next generation of elephant advocates.
Mike McClure — The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore
General Curator/Elephant Manager
This year Mike marks his 20th year working with elephants and the 28th year of his professional zoo career. Having started his career working around the zoo in all the other animals areas he always found the elephants more interesting than any other species because of their intelligence and the opportunity to learn more about behavioral modification and conditioning. After spending a lot of time watching the elephant team in action he was given the chance to join the team.
Mike joined the EMA in 2004 and was elected to the Board in 2008 where he immediately got involved in the legislative, nominations and public relations/social media committees to which he still is involved with today. In 2013 he was elected EMA President and served until the term ended in 2015. Mike also has served on the ethics committee since 2014 and has been on the training committee since it’s inception.
For Mike “the favorite part of my job is getting to see people and elephants work together to learn and grow. Seeing an elephant or someone that I have trained being successful in their environment is the most rewarding thing I have ever experienced.”
Bryan Amaral — Disney’s Animal Kingdom —
Bryan has been working in zoos for over 21 years, 17 of which have been with elephants. He started his career as an intern at The Roger Williams Park Zoo and after spending some time in the elephant department there knew that elephants were what he wanted to continue working with.
Bryan joined the Elephant Managers Association in 2000 and served as Vice President in 2014. He also is serving on multiple committees including the membership committee since 2004, as well as both the publications and conservation committees since 2012.
Laura Keefe — Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation —
Laura began her professional career working in the Children’s Zoo at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1995. She was able to volunteer at the Elephant House and also helped with the elephant shows. “The first day I started and had my first elephant encounter with Mai Thai, I decided that I wanted to work with elephants. She inspired my passion for elephants.” She now has 18 years of experience having worked with elephants at several facilities including the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo for four years and then as a keeper at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for five years.
She joined the EMA in 1996 and has held her current board position since 2014 and also serves as chair of several committees.
Laura has been working at the RBBB Center for Elephant Conservation for 10 years and says that it’s hard to narrow down one aspect of her job because but her favorites include “the babies, the old ladies, the males, and everything in between! Also, seeing the faces of people light up after interacting with the elephants.”
Vernon Presley — Fresno Chaffee Zoo —
Curator of Elephants and Ungulates
Vernon began his elephant career at the Toronto Zoo in 1996 with 7 female African elephants. He started his full time zoo keeping job in a different area of the zoo, but was transferred to the elephant team 4 months later. There was no looking back, “I consider it an honor to be able to work with these amazing animals and I am just as eager to learn about them as I did over 20 years ago.”
Vernon joined the EMA in 1998 and has been the chair of the training committee since 2004. “I value the relationships that I have made through the EMA and this organization has helped me learn so much about the care of elephants.” His favorite part of the job is working with elephants on new behaviors. “That moment where when both the trainer and elephant connect and both understand what each other is communicating is very special”.
Ben Whitebread — Toledo Zoo —
Ben began his career as a volunteer at the Niabi Zoo in the spring of 2000, towards the end of his senior year in college. After graduating from Augustana College he was then hired on as a full time keeper at the Niabi Zoo. During that time he was able to work with the entire animal collection at the zoo which included birds, primates, hoofstock, cats and reptiles as well as the show/education animals. It was also at the Niabi Zoo that he first started working with the 3 Asian elephants who lived there.
In 2004 he accepted a large mammal keeper position at the Toledo Zoo in Ohio, where he continued to work with a variety of hoofstock, otters, seals, cats and bears. He also became one of the primary elephant keepers working with a total of 4 African elephants since my arrival. In 2012 Ben assumed the position of elephant manager.
Ben first experienced with the EMA at the 2001 conference hosted by Disney’s Animal Kingdom and I officially became an EMA member in 2006. He is currently the chair for the website and social media committees.
Of the 4 African elephants Ben currently works with he says “they are all my favorite for different reasons” and have been part of many first experiences for his career. Renee is the first African elephant that he has worked with and her first calf, Louie, happened to be the first bull that he worked with. Renee’s second calf, Lucas, is the first elephant that Ben has been with since birth, and then there is the other female elephant Twiggy, who is the first elephant to routinely rumble or roar when he interacts and talks to her.