A Montgomery County zoo is mourning the loss of its animal curator, a man who has cared for animals for more than four decades.
The Elmwood Park Zoo announced the zoo's animal curator David Wood died March 22 from complications from dermatomyositis. Wood was 61.
"I can’t overstate how important Dave Wood’s work was, certainly to our zoo, as well as the community worldwide," Elmwood Park Zoo’s executive director and CEO Al Zone said. "He had an incredible amount of knowledge, and I learned so much from him. He was also a great advocate for wildlife and the environment."
Wood began his career as keeper at the Philadelphia Zoo in 1973, eventually caring for the Philly zoo’s large mammals. After stints at the Palm Beach Zoo in Florida and Mill Mountain Zoo in Virginia, Wood came to the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown as animal curator in 2005, the zoo said.
He oversaw the expansion of the Montco zoo’s animal collection including bringing giraffes to the zoo in 2013, the zoo said while crediting Wood with the zoo attendance surge. He also served as the zoo’s Philadelphia Eagles ambassador -- bringing Noah the Eagle to Eagles home games for the past three years -- and he was instrumental int he zoo's upcoming Trail of the Jaguar exhibit set to open this spring.
"Dave’s passing is a tremendous loss and we will miss him terribly," Zone said. "But I know he was very excited for the zoo and the direction it was going in. In truth, Dave Wood’s passion and commitment to the zoo has ensured we will continue to grow and remain strong for many years to come."
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Wood is survived by his wife Laurie Smith Wood and many other family members and zoo colleagues. The family asked that memorial donations by made to the Elmwood Park Zoo’s Development Department at 1661 Harding Boulevard, Norristown, PA 19401.