Dallas Zookeepers Reveal Animal Tattoos & Stories Behind Them

For National Zookeeper Week, zookeepers at the Dallas Zoo revealed their tattoos of animals that made an impact on their lives -- from elephants to chimpanzees to Texas horned lizards. Check out their intricate ink and the stories behind them.

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William B.: "Chimp Kona was a little brother to me, our relationship was so special and losing him was absolutely devastating. I knew I wanted him with me, but I could never find a tattoo design that felt right. A year after he passed away, I came across a 1931 copy of 'The Mentality of Apes,' the book that Dr. Jane Goodall took into the field with her in 1960. One of the first pages had a simple sketch of a chimp and I immediately knew that was the right design. I had a wonderful artist who was able to bring Kona into a piece of history that was carried by my hero to one of the most pivotal study sites in the history of conservation. Now I get to carry my memories of him with me every day, and my inspiration for the protection of this species."
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Bradley L.: "I’ve been a zookeeper for 20 years now. As a reptile and amphibian keeper, I don’t bond with every animal I’ve worked with, although there are definitely a few that stand out. Mambas, Texas horned lizards, and crocodile monitors all have a special place in my heart. Everyone gets tattoos for different reasons, and I tend to use tattoos as therapy. These animals and their images have helped me through many of life’s challenges."
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Katrina B.: "Our former matriarch named Mama was a special elephant who taught me so much as a keeper, and she was such an important part of our herd. She was strong, independent, and really made you work to gain her trust – but I knew when I had it, and that connection meant so much to me. It was the little things with her; the look in her eye, the quiet rumbles, the subtleties in behavior. Saying goodbye was hard but it's an inevitable part of working with animals. Now she’s always by my side and serves as a reminder to always do the best I can for the animals in my care."
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Amber F.: "I've always been fascinated with dinosaurs. I grew up watching documentaries and reading everything I could get my hands on about them; for a while I even wanted to be a paleontologist. But I ultimately decided to work with more than fossils – and reptiles are the next best thing. I'm privileged to care for some of the rarest animals on earth. I protect endangered species so they don't become the dinosaurs of today (through sustainable breeding, of course, not stopping asteroids). My tattoo is a constant reminder of where my passion stems from, and a rad way to feature my favorite dinosaur, the Parasaurolophus. I'd need about five more posts to tell you about the rest of my tattoos..."
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Nathan C.: "My wife Kim and I met at the Dallas Zoo. She works with the giraffes and other Savanna animals, and I work with birds. We both share a strong love for wildlife, which inspired our tattoos. I got my start in this field working at a raptor rehabilitation center; I've cared for birds from all over the world, including native raptors. The great horned owl has always had a special place in my heart. And it was just a bonus that when I met Kim she also had an owl tattoo. Game over."
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