By Almeda Girod
Al Mehr served as a volunteer for the Bronx Zoo for 18 years. He lived 25 miles away, in Rockland County, and had often visited the Zoo noticing that it “was a nice place to go and to be around animals” and adding “it seemed that everyone was happy and well informed about the animals. ”
Teddy Roosevelt was instrumental in founding the Bronx Zoo in 1899. Roosevelt is well known as a wildlife hunter but it may be less known that he was interested in maintaining animal life and he evolved into an conservationist. At 250 acres, the Zoo is the largest to exist within a metropolitan area.
Al participated in a year-long training program before becoming a tour guide, where he often conducted VIP tours for dignitaries. Ten years later he was chosen to be a member of the outreach committee, where he had the responsibility of taking small mammals and reptiles to visit patients in children’s hospitals, VA hospitals, and a hospice. He comments that there was often an initial fear but after the 90-minute hour visit most patients became enthralled and even handled the little animals.
Working with the animals was a pleasant change from Al’s job in sales with IBM. He noted the constant evolution of how the animals were exhibited. Later he volunteered with a program at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School becoming a “foal sitter” for thoroughbred horses.
Since his move to Meadowbrook Square in 2016, Al has continued as a volunteer, walking dogs through the Neighbors in Deed program for residents who may have a need because of health concerns or travel.
He comments on his years of working with the Zoo as “an opportunity to educate people of the need to conserve wildlife.