PERSPECTIVES IN CONSERVATION:
An Interview with Rick Hudson
Rick Hudson is a Conservation Biologist with the Fort Worth Zoo (Fort Worth, Texas, USA), serves as President and CEO of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), and is Executive Director of the International Iguana Foundation (IIF). He was interviewed by Conservation
Section Editor Jennifer Stabile during October 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.
I am fortunate to have carved out a rather unique niche for
myself here at the Fort Worth Zoo. I’ve been here 36 years. The
first 20 were in the Department of Herpetology, and the past 16
years have been in the Department of Conservation and Science.
My job description here at Fort Worth Zoo states that I provide
leadership to both the TSA and IIF, so it’s a very unique
position that reflects the Fort Worth Zoo’s long-standing commitment
to conservation. They support my salary to spearhead
two nonprofit foundations, an arrangement the benefits both the
Zoo and the reptile conservation community.
What encouraged your interest in herpetology, specifically
the species you are working to protect?
My earliest memory when I was four years old was at the National
Zoo. I was raised in a small town in rural southern Virginia,
in the Blue Ridge Mountains, so I grew up in the woods catching
salamanders, frogs, turtles, snakes, and lizards. Everybody
in town knew me as the reptile kid. I had a little backyard zoo
behind my home where all this stuff was on display, and we’d
charge a nickel for kids to come and see it.
When I was twelve years old, the local newspaper interviewed
me about my backyard zoo and asked me what I wanted to do
when I grew up, and I said I wanted to become a naturalist and
work in a real zoo. I know very few people that ended up doing
exactly what they said they wanted to do when they were twelve,
so I kind of grew up knowing that I was headed for the zoo world.
I got a little side-tracked in college and pursued the preveterinary
angle. My grades were less than stellar, so once I got
my degree in biology, I pursued a zoo career. I wasn’t getting
my foot in the door so I went back to get an associate degree in
veterinary technology, and the head of the program at the time,
Dr. Stuart Porter, had been a zoo vet at the Gladys Porter Zoo in
Texas and at the Memphis Zoo. Stuart still had connections to the
zoo world and convinced me he could open doors for me.
I went through the program and did an internship at the
Baltimore Zoo with the veterinarian there, and when I graduated
I began applying for jobs both in reptiles and veterinary
departments in zoos. The day that changed my life was in August
1980 when I got the call from the Fort Worth Zoo that I had
been hired as the Asst. Curator of Reptiles. I had interviewed at
Fort Worth in June 1980, then they hired Dave Blody as Curator
in August. He hired me sight unseen just based on a phone
interview, and that was my first full-time zoo job. I started in
September of 1980, and the rest is history……………………
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