Scroll down to access oral history interviews with prominent members of the San Diego Zoological Society, or click the name of the individual.
- Klauber, Laurence: San Diego Zoo's first Curator of Reptiles, as remembered by his widow Grace Klauber and son Philip M. Klauber.
- Lint, Kenton: San Diego Zoo's Curator of Birds from 1948-1976.
- Wegeforth, Milton: Son of Harry Wegeforth, who was the founder and first President of the San Diego Zoo. Milton served for 40 years on the Board of Directors of the Zoo after his father's death.
- Schroeder, Charles: Interviewed 7/17/83. Schroeder was Director of the San Diego Zoo from 1954-1972. He conceived the idea of the Wild Animal Park and built the Zoo into an internationally respected institution.
- Sullivan, Robert: Interviewed 3/29/84. Sullivan was the past President and Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the San Diego Zoo, and served all offices of the Board.
Image credit: Andy Borthwick and Charles Schroeder at the Wild Animal Park in 1972, Special Collections & University Archives.
Laurence Klauber was the first Curator of Reptiles for the San Diego Zoo, a position he held from 1922 to 1931. He also served as President of the Board of Trustees of the Zoo from 1949-51. Klauber's primary vocation was as a power company executive with SDG&E, where he was Chairman of the Board and CEO until his retirement in 1953. Although herpetology was to him primarily an avocation, he described 53 new species or subspecies of reptiles, and his 2-volume study, Rattlesnakes: Their Habits, Life Histories, and Influence on Mankind (first published by UC Press in 1956) is still considered the definitive scholarly work on the subject.
In this interview totalling approximately 96 minutes, Laurence Klauber's widow Grace and his son Philip reflect on the life and accomplishments of Laurence Klauber.
Topics include: where Laurence was born, his parents and educational background; discussion of his work at SDG&E; how Laurence first got involved with the zoo, and his duties as consulting curator of reptiles; anecdotes about a lost albino snake, force-feeding of the pythons, and the times Laurence got bitten by rattlesnakes; his personal collection of tens of thousands of preserved animal specimens, particularly his large collection of preserved rattlesnakes; his role in supplying rattlesnake venom for antivenins to pharmaceutical labs; Laurence's large library and donations to the Natural History Museum; his greatest contributions to the field of herpetology, particularly the 2-volume Rattlesnakes study, the 2nd edition of which was completed after his death; his observations of Hopi snake dances, which Laurence wrote a book about; other hobbies he pursued; and some of the people he corresponded with internationally as a scholar.
Interviewed by Stephen Colston on audio cassette on 7/21/1983.
Kenton Lint began his career at the San Diego Zoo in 1936 as Assistant Curator of Birds, and was Curator of Birds from 1948-1976, after which he became Curator Emeritus. Under his direction, the zoo's ornithology department established more than 400 bird breeding records of birds in captivity, and assembled the largest collection of parrots and parrotlike birds in history. Lint received the 1965 Bean Award of the American Association of Zoological Parks & Aquariums for the notable first hatching of the Thick-billed Parrot. In 1976, he received the Zoo's Gold Conservation Medal, and later was elected to the Avicultural Hall of Fame.
In this interview totalling approximately 89 minutes, Lint discusses his family background, employment history, and early memories of the Zoo.
Topics include: his parents' and siblings' background; past jobs, including raising and dressing 500 squabs a week for restaurants in Tulsa while in college; his studies in poultry husbandry and animal husbandry; how he met his wife Alice Lint and her work accompanying him on expeditions; his first work with the Zoo on mammals (cats and bears); first impressions and early memories of the Zoo; the donations of Ellen Scripps to the Zoo; some of the early zoo keepers; how they dealt with financial difficulties in the early days; memories of former Zoo directors Belle Benchley and Charles Schroeder; working conditions and long hours at the Zoo in the days before labor unions; Karl Koch, the Curator of Birds before Lint, and his forming the nucleus of the Zoo's bird collection; collecting trips and the specimens brought back, including hummingbirds, Bali Mynahs, and proboscis monkeys; and descriptions of trips abroad to Asia, South America, and Africa.
Interviewed by Edmund Bajet on audio cassette on 3/21/1984.
Milton Wegeforth was the son of Harry Wegeforth, who was the founder and first President of the San Diego Zoo. Harry Wegeforth served as president of the Board of Directors of the Zoological Society of San Diego from its founding until his death in 1941. After that, his son Milton served for 40 years on the Board of Directors of the Zoo after his father's death, per his father's wishes.
In this interview totalling approximately 1 hour and 47 minutes, Wegeforth discusses some of the major issues the Board faced during his 40 years of service, as well as remembrances of his father, Zoo founder Harry Wegeforth.
Topics include: Milton's educational background; memories of issues faced by the Board during his tenure, including raising the admission fee after WWII, building the restaurant and administration building, building speed ramps, planning for the Children's Zoo, and the debate over the Wild Animal Park and whether the Zoo would suffer too much from bleeding funds for it; his father (Harry's) background; when Harry got interested in zoos and animals; some of the individuals supporting Harry's efforts in creating the zoo such as Ellen Scripps and Allan Hancock; public python-feeding events in the 1920s to raise funds (including at Charles Lindbergh's welcome back reception at Balboa Stadium in 1927); Harry's fundraising activities; the Aquarium Committee and their purchase of the ship Star of India; Harry's travels to zoological gardens throughout the world as influences on the San Diego Zoo design; the effects of WWII on zoo collecting; Harry's trading with other zoos; Harry's collecting seeds and plants all over the US to bring to the zoo, and his relationship with Kate Sessions; and stories about escaped animals such as monkeys and seals, and a keeper who was killed by an elephant.
Interviewed by Stephen Colston on audio cassette on 7/26/1983.
Dr. Charles Schroeder was the Director of the San Diego Zoo from 1954-1972, after serving as a veterinarian with the Zoo from 1932-1937 and again from 1939-1941. He conceived the idea of Wild Animal Park, and built the Zoo into an internationally respected institution. Schroeder built up revenue sources (including food and merchandise) and continually upgraded the zoo so it could eventually support itself. He also installed the Children's Zoo, the Skyfari aerial tramway, built enclosures with moats to replace barred cages, remodeled the animal hospital, and expanded the research staff. Schroeder retired in 1972, right after the Wild Animal Park opened, and was named Mr. San Diego that same year. When he first arrived, the Zoo's annual budget was $500K and admission was 75 cents. By the time he retired, admission had doubled and the budget was $12 million.
Charles Schroeder interview, part 1 (7/17/83)
Charles Schroeder interview, part 2 (7/17/83)
In this interview, Dr. Schroeder discusses the following topics: where he was born and growing up in Brooklyn; how he got interested in veterinary medicine; first impressions and early memories of working at the Zoo; descriptions of his duties as a vet and pathologist, research problems; zoo structures built in his earliest years; memorable animals and encounters; the relationship between the Zoo and the city of San Diego in the 1930s; fond recollections of founder Harry Wegeforth; many incidental anecdotes about people who worked at the Zoo; how Schroeder conceived of the Wild Animal Park and how they raised the funds for its construction; Chuck Faust and his role as the architect of the Wild Animal Park; the team effort involved with the Wild Animal Park; the earliest animals to arrive at the park; success in breeding; and Schroeder's future hopes and plans for the Zoo's next 25 years.
Interviewed by Stephen Colston on 7/17/1983. Total running time: 2:03:48.
Robert Sullivan graduated from San Diego State University and served as Vice President of Western Lumber Company and Sullivan Hardwood Lumber Company until his retirement in 1978. He served as the past Treasurer and President of the Board of Trustees of the San Diego Zoo, and chaired many of the committees. Sullivan was one of the founders of the San Diego Civic Light Opera Association, and was on the board of trustees of the Starlight Opera until his death. He was also past President of the San Diego Symphony Association, and served on the Boards of the Old Globe Theatre and All Saints Episcopal Day School.
In this interview, Sullivan discusses the following topics: his family background and how they arrived in San Diego (both sets of grandparents were in the lumber business); when he was married, where he was born, and his educational background; his earliest recollections of the zoo and why he wanted to get involved; issues the Zoo faced while he was on the Board, including the Star of India incident; early fundraising campaigns; the birth of Starlight Opera, and performances in the Zoo Bowl; the relationship between Sullivan's interest in the symphony, zoo, and Starlight Opera; how he helped to build the Old Globe Theatre, serving as the building contractor liaison after the first fire in 1978; the Zoo's education department and whether the Zoo's primary function should be entertainment or education; memories of developing the Wild Animal Park; recollections of founder Dr. Harry Wegeforth, including his fundraising acumen; the effects of the Depression and WWII on the Zoo; the development of Balboa Park and the Naval Hospital; an anecdote about a bear getting loose during a Starlight in the Bowl performance; and the general feelings people at the Zoo had after Harry Wegeforth died.
Interviewed by Corey Braun on 3/29/1984. Total running time: 1:06:04.