Meet the Animal Curator: Liz Hile at the Living Desert in Palm Springs

Liz Hile is the Animal Curator at the Living Desert in Palm Springs, Calif. Copyright Living Desert.

Describe your job: As Curator of Animals, I manage Animal Department personnel and the animal collection, but not on the front lines like the Keepers do. I am responsible for the overall health and welfare of the animal collection.  I sometimes draw a blank when someone asks me to describe what I do. The responsibilities are somewhat wide ranging, but include, exhibit/collection planning, risk management, and personnel management, and sometimes exhibit cleaning and maintenance.

How long have you been in this position? I joined The Living Desert in the fall of 2005.

How did you become interested in this profession? I’ve been in the zoo field approximately 30 years. I’ve always known I would work with animals in some capacity. Originally, I expected to get out of school and work for the state conservation department, but got side-tracked when the local zoo offered me a job. It’s addictive and I’ve been in zoos ever since.

What in your background helped you get the job? Probably the most important is the experience gained from working at several other facilities and with almost every major group of animals. A BS in Wildlife Management was followed up with an MSc and an MPS in Animal Nutrition after 20 years of hands on experience.

What’s your favorite thing about your job? It’s never dull; there’s always something new to learn and it’s just the right balance between mentally and physically challenging. You get to work outdoors most of the time and view the world through a very different lens, that of the animals you work with. They perceive a very different world than we do sometimes. For instance, bees can see reflected ultraviolet light, which makes plants a completely different color/pattern, and giraffe can hear and vocalize using infrasound, frequencies too low for us to hear. 

Do you have a favorite animal? Why is it your favorite? Not an easy question to answer… they are all interesting and I’m not sure I have a favorite.

Tim Lewthwaite

This entry was posted in Animal Health, Animal Management, Exhibits, Living Desert, People, Profiles, Zoo and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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