From Cedar Hill FFA To A Profession With The Houston Zoo
(CEDAR HILL, TEXAS) Kevin Hodge, a 1993 Cedar Hill Excessive Faculty Graduate, fondly remembers rising up within the Excessive Pointe neighborhood within the mid Eighties.
Hodge and his pals from Bray Elementary determined to climb a tree within the Excessive Pointe woods. He deliberate it out and even introduced some free weights.
The climb didn’t work out fairly the best way he hoped, however he returned to the identical spot in Excessive Pointe about six years in the past and found those self same weights had been nonetheless there.
Hodge’s climb as an govt on the 55-acre Houston Zoo – one of many largest zoos in the US – has been much more profitable.
Hodge began on the Houston Zoo as a Keeper for the small animals within the Youngsters’s Zoo in 2004 and three years in the past, he turned the Zoo’s Common Curator, which implies he oversees your complete Zoo’s animal assortment (6,000 animals of 900 species) and manages six deputy curators who oversee varied departments.
“Each animal on the Zoo has a function,” mentioned Hodge, who’s 45 years outdated and now lives in Galveston County, south of Houston, together with his spouse and two sons.
Hodge mentioned his involvement in Cedar Hill High School’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) Chapter within the early Nineties sparked his curiosity in animals. He raised sheep and rabbits throughout his time at CHHS.
After highschool, Hodge labored at quite a lot of jobs, together with some for main companies. All of them paid nicely, however one thing was lacking.
Sooner or later by likelihood in his early 20s, he visited Moody Gardens, an schooling vacation spot on Galveston Island devoted to conservation and wildlife.
Passionate About Animals
Instantly, the sunshine bulb in his head went off. He instantly gave discover to his high-paying job and accepted a minimal wage place at Moody Gardens as an Interpretive Naturalist.
In that position, he performed excursions of Moody Gardens’ rainforest space for varsity teams and birthday events.
Hodge’s dedication was apparent to the executives at Moody Gardens, and he quickly turned the venue’s Training Supervisor.
“The brand new place concerned numerous scheduling, which was advanced since we had numerous college students, who labored varied hours, on our workers,” Hodge mentioned.
Hodge left Moody Gardens for Houston Zoo in 2004, starting because the keeper for animals within the Youngsters’s Space. He rose from that place to Carnivore Keeper, Carnivore Supervisor, Curator of the Youngsters’s Zoo and Carnivores, to his present place of Common Curator.
Throughout that point, he earned an Affiliate’s Diploma from School of the Mainland in Galveston County.
“My profession was growing sooner than my academic development,” Hodge mentioned.
Hodge mentioned the benefit of his profession development on the Zoo is his skill to make an influence on a bigger stage. The draw back is that with every promotion, he strikes farther away from animal interplay and care.
Staying Shut To What He Loves About His Work
Hodge mentioned he makes it, a number of instances per week, to go to the animals, to make sure that he’s by no means too far faraway from what introduced him to the zoo.
When he labored straight with animals, Hodge was accountable for coordinating their diets and making certain their well-being.
He mentioned that caring for carnivores, equivalent to lions and tigers, was a bit of bit scary at first, however he adjusted to it.
“Lions and tigers may be actually loud,” Hodge mentioned. “Now we have protected contact although – there’s at all times a barrier between you and the lion or tiger. You’ll be able to by no means change into complacent. They’re very harmful animals, and you must be very intentional whenever you’re round them.”
As a Supervisor, Hodge needed to oversee the entire keepers and keep their schedules.
“Now we have a two keeper rule, which implies that anybody working with a harmful animal should have one other colleague with them, earlier than coming into the animal’s enclosure,” Hodge mentioned.
As a Curator, Hodge appears to be like at every division and plans which animals the zoo can have for the upcoming yr, and the subsequent 5 years. His job consists of obligations like exhibit design and speaking with different zoos, on transporting animals.
He deliberate the brand new South American part of the Zoo, which was a 2.5 yr means of planning, growing and designing.
“I get to see animals so much and don’t get to work with animals as a lot anymore,” Hodge mentioned. “After I miss it, I’ll go see a cheetah up shut or feed a jaguar.”