Trunkline Magazine (Louisville Zoo) March 2019 - Page 8

The Stories that Move Us... Silvia Zirkelbach If you’ve been to the Zoo in the last 35 years, you’ve probably crossed paths with Zookeeper Silvia Zirkelbach. You can usually find her near the giraffe area with her auburn hair tied back, wearing a silver necklace featuring a woolly monkey shaped pendant. It’s easy to tell how much Silvia loves her animals; when she talks about them, her whole face lights up. Silvia is a bit of a rarity to the Louisville Zoo: she’s one of the few keepers who has worked in one area of the Zoo during her entire career with us. First a Zoo volunteer in the Africa/giraffe area, she then moved to become a Zoo keeper in the same area — and stayed there! “I was happy where I was,” Silvia said. “I had a degree in zoology; I had worked on a farm with horses. It just made sense that I would move into taking care of zebras and giraffes — they’re just a little wilder than the animals I already worked with and loved.” Back when Silvia started, the giraffe area was a bit different than it is now. The Louisville Zoo didn’t have an Islands exhibit or a HerpAquarium yet. So, there were a variety of animals under Silvia’s watchful eye — hoofed animals, some carnivores like big cats, birds, reptiles and even some primates like orangutans. Silvia spent a lot of time caring for smaller primates and her talent for their care was evi- dent. It was so apparent that after the woolly monkey main keeper retired, the "woollies" were moved (top, left to right) Silvia, Dr. Bill Foster and Dr. Roy Burns examine a newly born giraffe. (right) Silvia feeds a young woolly monkey. under Silvia’s care. Of the approxi- mately 25 animals born at the Zoo that Silvia personally hand-raised, 7 of those were woolly monkeys. “I believe I’ve raised more woollies than any other human in the United States,” Silvia said, laughing. Silvia’s passion for animals has certainly given her an exciting career. She traveled to Columbia near the border of Brazil for three weeks with researchers and experts in forest ecosystems to study the wildlife. Staying in wood and tin roof cabins at the conservation center there, she observed the wildlife and primates, learning about the struggles they face in the vanishing wild. “It helped me to understand more about their behavior and also made me feel even more passionate about 8 • Louisville Zoo Trunkline • Spring 2019 protecting them,” she said. Her passion has made a sig- nificant impact on the care of primates in managed systems. Woolly monkeys, like people, can develop hypertension. Silvia, along with Louisville Zoo veterinarians, were determined to find a way to monitor the health more closely to potentially treat these precious primates. With Silvia’s urging, a training method was developed to train them to let keepers take their