Mike Boos has been named vice president of zoological operations at Busch Gardens, the top zoological position at the Tampa park. Boos, 43, replaces Glenn Young, who retired at the end of June.
As Vice President, Boos manages 200 zoo employees and more than 2,000 animals. Boos reflected on his time with the company: From a SeaWorld trainer to his most recent role, curator of behavioral husbandry and mammals at Busch Gardens. Here he shares how he got to this position and reveals how marine and terrestrial animals aren't so different...and neither are humans.
Q: How does it feel to take over the top zoological position at Busch Gardens?
Mike: Privileged! I'm going into this position at one of the top zoological facilities in the world with the best zoological team -- what could anyone else ask for? Our team brings a "can-do" attitude, excellent animal management skills and behavior expertise that we leverage well. I look forward to expanding these opportunities with any new zoological project in the future.
Q: What drew you to working with animals, and then to making the shift to managing people?
Mike: I started in our operations department in Orlando in 1983 working in the animal stadium areas. Here is where I really gained an affinity for marine mammals. I was just amazed at the interaction between the trainers and animals. I just couldn't wait to get through school to get into the field.
It may sound strange, but managing animals is very similar to managing people. I come from a strong applied behavior background. In fact, all of our animal behavior techniques are based on human behavioral studies. That involves bringing attention to behavior you want to reoccur and ignoring behavior you don't want to reoccur.
Q: Having worked at both SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, what are the similarities and differences in caring for marine and terrestrial animals?
Mike: Obviously each species of animals has its individual management needs and we cater each animal team and area to those needs. But what most people don't realize is they are actually very similar when it comes down to the basic husbandry needs of the two.
Q: Do you have any specific visions or plans for the direction you want to take the park's zoological operations?
Mike: I sure do. I want to continue to leverage our expertise in animal care, behavior, animal display and conservation and make the zoological field as a whole better through our company's commitment in all these fields. I feel it is important that we continue to serve our constituents (guests, animals, Busch Gardens team, the company and conservation partners) by sharing our knowledge and expertise in these four areas.
Q: Looking back on your years with the company, what have been your biggest successes/triumphs over the years?
Mike: I love watching teams develop and work at high performance levels. One of the biggest successes is the zoological team at Busch Gardens. I believe we have the most professional, proactive and highest performing team in the industry!
Q: Is there an animal or species or area of the park that resonates most with you, or that has a special place in your heart, and why?
Mike: I have many favorites. But I would get in trouble with any animal team that I didn't say their animal was my favorite!
Q: What advice would you give to anyone interested in a career with animals?
Mike: Back when I was hired in the animal department, I was lucky that I was given a big break to get into the field. So, I'd say, take advantage of each opportunity you are given. It may not present itself again!