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
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.
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”.
Shawn Finnell- Oregon Zoo
Senior Elephant Keeper
The best thing about working with elephants is that you are always learning. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been part of the birth and training of two calves. Working with totally green elephants is one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences a trainer can have. No matter how much you think you know, elephants teach you that you always have more to learn.
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.”
Nick Newby – Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Assistant Curator/Elephant Manager
I was inspired to work with elephants from an early age. I still remember going to the San Diego and Los Angeles Zoo as a child and marveling at all the animals, but the elephants in particular. It was at that time that I had my “aha” moment and knew I wanted to work with animals.
My favorite part of my job is the relationships that I build every day. Whether it be with the elephants, the team or with our guests, the impact we make on others is why I think we in the zoo profession matter. The role of zoos in conservation is vital, and I think that animal care professionals help lead the charge. Giving people that “aha” moment that I had as a child as well as a take home message is what is going to inspire people to join the fight to save elephants and other animals all over the world.
The best memory I have as an animal care professional has to be baby elephants! Every time I see an elephant birth my life changes. The process of training the calves is the most fun I have ever had in my career. Seeing the learning that happens between both the elephant and the trainers is extremely rewarding. Herd dynamics evolve with calves as well. No time for rest when you have a calf playing, swimming, and antagonizing at any opportunity possible.
Katie Alayan – Wildlife Safari
Tripp Gorman- Fort Worth Zoo
I joined the Elephant Managers Association in 2001, the same year as my first EMA conference, and the same year I started volunteering around elephants at the Greenville Zoo. From there I went to an internship at the Knoxville Zoo, then onto another internship at the Riverbanks Zoo.
I started my paid animal care profession at Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, Red unit in December of 2006. I was hired on as a horse and zebra groom, but quickly moved on to what I came there for. After a year of being an elephant groom, I became an elephant handler, and stayed with the company for six years. After traveling across the country multiple times, I decided it was time to leave the road, and start to settle down. My second elephant job started at the Nashville Zoo in September of 2012, where I started working with African elephants. After two years of being a keeper, I was promoted to elephant manager, and while it was a short stint, I enjoyed it, and learned a lot. Once the elephants left the Nashville Zoo, I was once again on the search for a job, and that is how I landed at the Fort Worth Zoo!
During my elephant career I’ve had the great opportunity to not only meet many wonderful elephants, but also a lot of great people. I’ve been given the chance to help in many different aspects of elephant care. I’d have to say my favorite part is working with calves, and also interacting with the public, whom I love to engage and inspire.