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Zookeeping for 41 years, Henry Doorly Zoo celebrates their own all week long

Posted at 5:17 PM, Jul 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-18 18:17:41-04

At the Henry Doorly Zoo, it takes hundreds of people to make sure that things are running smoothly. So, the zoo is taking time to honor some of its own, during National Zookeepers Week. One man has been part of the zoo for decades.

Lions, tigers, and bears are Alan Holst’s specialty. They are what initially drew him to the zoo and what keeps him coming back after 40 years. For Alan Holst, his day starts earlier than most. “My day usually starts around 7'o'clock,” said Alan Holst, senior supervisor of cats and bears. His job is a messy one. “You pick up some nasty stuff sometimes,” said Holst.

At the end of this month, he will be 63; and he's spent almost 41 of those years as a zookeeper at the Henry Doorly Zoo. “There was an opening at the zoo so I came down and applied, they hired me and after the first day I came home and said this is what I wanna do for the rest of my life,” said Holst.

Holst has had many jobs over the years and has even added upgrades to the zoo, like getting the dome up and running. However, he says he's happy to be back with the lions and leopards these days. “Favorites right now I’d say would be the lions,” said Holst.

Since he started in 1977 he says a lot has changed. “The zoos are evolved to make your experience coming to the zoo more naturalistic, the displays are looking better, they look more real,” said Holst. There are two reasons he gave for coming back daily. One -- his love for the animals; and two the people. “We’re a family here,” said Holst.