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Chillicothe News - Chillicothe, MO
  • Scott's Wild Kingdom

  • For the past two decades, Dwight Scott has been working his way up the ranks in the field of zoology. Scott, a 1989 graduate of Chillicothe High School, said his love for animals and nature was instilled at a young age.
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  • For the past two decades, Dwight Scott has been working his way up the ranks in the field of zoology. Scott, a 1989 graduate of Chillicothe High School, said his love for animals and nature was instilled at a young age.
    “I loved animals, and I love being outside in nature,” Scott said. “Of course, I had a lot of pets growing up. I went to a lot of the state parks in Missouri. That was our family vacations. We’d take long weekends and go there as a family. That really exposed me to nature, and developed an appreciation for wildlife.”
    Despite the love for wildlife at a young age, Scott said he never thought of any animal disciplines as a career until he began working as a volunteer for the Kansas City Zoo.
    “I started doing some research with the chimps at the Kansas City Zoo,” Scott explained. “The next semester, I did some research with the orangutans. When I graduated from (the University of Missouri — Kansas City), I accepted a keeper position at the Kansas City Zoo.”
    While Scott’s early work focused mainly on apes, Scott said he has gotten the opportunity to work with a wide variety of animal species during his 20 years in zoology.
    “I’ve worked with a lot of different other species of animals,” Scott said. “Everything from snakes to goats and camels, a lot of domesticated animals, donkeys, rhinos. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for apes.”
    Scott’s love for apes, and his level of expertise for them, has led him on journeys across the world to study the animals in their natural habitat.
    “I’ve been very fortunate,” Scott said. “I’ve been to Africa three times and led trips there a couple different times. I’ve been a couple of other places as well, including Costa Rica and Belize.”
    In 1997, Scott moved to Florida and began working with the first crew of animal keepers at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. It was there, Scott said, he began to take on more of a management role.
    “While I was at Disney, I was promoted to a supervisory position,” Scott explained. “That really peaked my interest in developing additional leadership skills. I started becoming more involved with more supervisory abilities as opposed to direct animal care. I got into the profession because I loved animals. Now I’ve realized there’s not a lot we can do for the animals unless we work well with people.”
    After stints at zoos in Tulsa, Okla., and Oklahoma City, Okla., Scott accepted the position of director at the San Diego Zoo just a couple of weeks ago. Scott leads a team of around 600 employees at one of the country’s largest zoos. Scott said his favorite part of the new job is the wide variety of rare animal exhibits.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We have so many animals here that no other zoo in the country has,” Scott said. “It’s a very special place. The Tasmanian devils, for example, we just opened that exhibit a couple months ago. They’re a beautiful animal.
    Scott attributed much of his success to his many coworkers. He said teamwork has helped propel him to the position he enjoys today.
    “I’ve been very fortunate,” Scott said. “I’ve worked with some of the best people in the zoological industry, and I’ve learned a lot from every one of them. I’m certainly proud to be sitting in the zoo director’s chair at the San Diego Zoo, but it’s because of the support and the advice from many friends in my career. I’ve always been successful because of the people I’ve worked with and the people who have worked for me. I really believe in teamwork and synergy. The success I’ve had is because of the hard work of many other people.”
    For more information on the San Diego Zoo, visit www.SanDiegoZoo.com.

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