Fans of public radio’s “The 90-Second Naturalist” are among the many cheering the appointment of Thane Maynard as the executive director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
Maynard, who has been the writer and voice of the “Naturalist” for more than 15 years, was serving as the zoo’s interim co-director after Gregg Hudson left to manage the Dallas Zoo. Maynard is being counted on to responsibly manage a zoo that is recognized as one of the best in the nation — and extend the zoo’s conservation and research of endangered wildlife, according to Otto Budig, chair of the zoo board.
Talk about credentials. From his boyhood days exploring swamps to his work with the World Wildlife Fund and other conservation groups, Maynard is a walking, talking repository of zoology. Now he’s an executive, and they have to get used to being put on the spot. So, Cincy Business asked him to name his 10 favorite animals.
1) American alligator. “I grew up in Central Florida catching baby alligators. They were endangered then, but are coming back, thanks to wildlife legislation.”
2) Lowland gorilla. “The great apes are one of three groups of highly intelligent animals. Thankfully, we are in that family of animals.”
3) Bald eagle. “Bald eagles are the great American success story. Once endangered, they are staging a comeback thanks to the Endangered Species Act.”
4) Leaf-cutter ant. “Insects rule the world, and no group is bigger or more vital than ants. The leaf-cutter ants garden fungus in the new world tropics.”
5) African elephant. “The plains of East Africa are my favorite place in the world. And the herds of elephants there are symbols of hope for the future.”
6) Cheetah. “Cheetahs are endangered in Africa, but the Cincinnati Zoo is working to protect them in their native habitat. You can see our cheetahs run twice a day (five days a week during the summer) at our new Cheetah Encounter exhibit.”
7) Cotton-top tamarin. “This little squirrel-sized monkey lives in the forests of northern Colombia. Tamarins and marmosets are the smallest monkeys on earth.”
8) Florida manatee. “When I was a kid in Florida, manatees were known as Sea Cows, but now they are rock stars. The two males at the Cincinnati Zoo in our Manatee Springs exhibit will go back to Florida to be set free later this year. We will fly two more here that need to be rehabbed until they can be released back into the wild as well.”
9) Peregrine falcon. “The fastest creature in history is coming back from near extinction. The peregrine falcon at the Cincinnati Zoo goes out to local schools through our Frisch’s Outreach Program.”
10) Giraffe. “The tallest animal on Earth is returning to the Cincinnati Zoo in May of 2008. You will even be able to feed our Massai giraffe.”