In celebration of Black History Month, Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society in West Palm Beach, Fla., hosted local high school students on 9 February for a Florida panther conservation presentation. The talk, titled Photography Changed Everything, was presented by African American award-winning National Geographic Society® supported photographer and documentarian, George McKenzie.
McKenzie uses visual storytelling to explore the intersection of wildlife, natural history, cultures, and conservation. He is also a lead wildlife trail camera technician in the Northern Everglades for the Path of the Panther project, supported by Palm Beach Zoo. Fellow National Geographic Explorer® and photographer Carlton Ward Jr leads the program. The wildlife trail cameras McKenzie monitor and document the movement of endangered Florida panthers. The story they tell has led to land preservation for all native wildlife through the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act.
“When I am not working, I focus my energy on mentoring rising young people of color around the world. I hope to spark their interest in conservation and pursuing a career making a difference for wildlife,” said McKenzie.
After the presentation, students were invited to a special Malayan tiger training session with Carnivore Zoologist Amarylis Celestina. Celestina has been in the professional wildlife field for 12 years.
“I became aware of animal care as a career when I was working on my biology degree in college,” said Celestina. “I would love to see more fellow women of color in my profession. I hope by sharing my love of animals with the next generation, they will be conservation advocates sooner and maybe even future wildlife professionals!”
Celestina had a unique opportunity to return to her home country of Curacao for an externship as a sea lion trainer at Curacao Sea Aquarium. Her career journey led her to Palm Beach Zoo, where she is a member of the carnivore team, working with the Zoo’s resident Florida panthers, other big cats, bears, river otters, and koalas.
Photos Credit: © Palm Beach and Conservation Society
Edited by Sarah Gilsoul, a writer and communications program assistant at AZA
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