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Denver curator to help improve local zoo

By Darcel Choy Sunday, November 30 2008

click on pic to zoom in
From left John Wortman, President of the  Zoological Society of Trinidad and Tobago (ZSTT), Gupte Lutchmedial and Tourism Minister Joseph Ross chat at...
From left John Wortman, President of the Zoological Society of Trinidad and Tobago (ZSTT), Gupte Lutchmedial and Tourism Minister Joseph Ross chat at...

The Emperor Valley Zoo is preparing to undergo a major upgrade so that it can meet international standards. To assist in the new plans, the Zoological Society of Trinidad and Tobago (ZSTT) brought in John Wortman, general curator at the Denver Zoo in Colorado to offer his feedback on what he thinks can be done to improve the institution.

Sunday Newsday sat down with him recently at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Wrightson Road, Port- of-Spain and got his thoughts on the zoo.

“I am very impressed with what I have seen so far, although it was a brief visit. The animal collection, the flora, the environment around the zoo. They have a lot supporting the direction they are aiming at,” he said.

Wortman has seen over 400 zoos around the world and he is hoping to bring what he has learnt to the zoo to pull it together to make it a major tourist attraction.

“I am reaching out to the zoo field, in all the zoos I have visited I am very thorough in looking at what they do so that I can help improve others,” he said. Wortman who has a background of work in zoos and parks for the past 40 years has also worked in Brazil where he was stationed at the Belo Horizonte Zoo and the Sao Paulo Zoo and along with travelling all over Brazil, he worked in Brazil’s Emas National Park. Wortman is very interested in helping to increase the association of North American wildlife facilities with those in Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to him, American zoos have always been geared toward strong associations with Europe, Africa and Japan, but not so much with the Caribbean and Central and South America. “It is time we did a better job communicating with institutions in the Western Hemisphere,” he said.

Wortman noted that the ZSTT already had some good ideas.

“I have already seen a lot of outreach in the communities being done. I am very impressed with that. The idea of bringing in people or going out is always good. I think seeing an animal live, is way better than seeing it in a book or on television,” he explained.

He pointed out that with just a preliminary look at the institution he realised the zoo had a very exciting conservation movement, with an educational attitude. “They are making the zoo educational but fun which is a good thing,” he said. Wortman admitted that at his zoo, people see things that he may miss sometimes. He suggested some changes that could be made such as building an exhibit that reflects better on the institution.

“Have more of an open feeling for a number of animals. That might be great but they can definitely continue with what they have. The whole thing is eco-friendly which is a need and a desire for some zoos. Better zoos are where people can see animals and feel like they were five years old,” he explained.

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