Atlanta, GA

Zoo Atlanta keeper reveals how tough it is to pick his favorite animals— here’s why

Sophie-Ann McCulloch

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ATLANTA — Being a zookeeper is such a fantastic job for those passionate about animals. After all, they are surrounded by a wide range of fascinating critters every day, making it hard for them to choose a favorite.

Associate Curator of Herpetology at Zoo Atlanta Robert L. Hill found it difficult to answer which animal in the zoo he deemed most favorable.

“‘What is your favorite animal to work with?’ As someone working in the zoological field, I get asked this question a lot. A lot. To be honest, for me, it is really almost as difficult as a parent saying who their favorite child is,” he admitted.

He added that plethodontid salamanders — also known as the lungless salamanders — are his favorite when it comes to animals in general. However, he doesn’t work with them very often in the zoo.

While his favorite amphibian is rarely found in his daily line of work, Hill and his team work with over 100 species every day, and with that many to choose from— not to mention how they act individually, it’s a given that he couldn’t come up with an answer.

He mentioned that some of them have particular characteristics that draw him to them, like the Lake Titicaca water frogs (Telmatobius culeus). They are known for their “duck-like” faces and flaps of skin along their sides to help with oxygen absorption. Hill elaborated that each species requires specific treatment to keep it healthy.

Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis), along with other monitor lizards (Varanidae), were also among the animals he highlighted. They have specific learning abilities that allow the Herpetology Team to train them to keep them engaged and active.

He concluded that the response to the question would be highly subjective, and his answer can change over time. Nonetheless, Hill and his team always enjoy working with all types of animals.

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