Fourteen years ago, Brian Aucone was a lowly Denver Zoo intern, cleaning up animal poo and setting up exhibits. A biology student at the University of Northern Colorado, Aucone would drive to Denver from Greeley every Saturday to work at the zoo for free (and class credit).
Now, after having worked at the Dallas and Oklahoma City zoos, the Boulder-born Aucone has returned to Denver -- but this time with a salary and a fancy title: general curator.
"I've always had a strong interest in animals, and the care of animals, since I was a young child," says Aucone. "I had hamsters, gerbils, birds, fish. I was outside a lot, digging in the mud, picking up worms."
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As general curator, Aucone will oversee all of the animal care staff, as well as the zoo's commissary. "I deal with big picture things," he says, while curators and keepers are directly responsible for taking care of the animals.
Aucone will also contribute to the ongoing work of building Asian Tropics, the zoo's new ten-acre elephant, tapir and rhino exhibit, which is currently under construction. It's familiar territory for Aucone. While he was assistant zoo director at the Oklahoma City Zoo, he helped design and manage the construction of Expedition Asia, that zoo's upcoming elephant exhibit.
But at heart, Aucone is a reptile man -- though he says he doesn't yet have a favorite at the Denver Zoo. "I do have a strong liking for pit vipers and rattlesnakes," he says. "Those are kind of a personal passion of mine."
Okay, Aucone, but have you met the zoo's new tiger cubs?!? Reptiles, schmeptiles!