Q&A with Wildlife Madagascar’s 100th Member: Kym Janke

Kym Janke with her dogs
Kym Janke at a river
Kym Janke hiking
Tell us a bit about yourself. How would someone you know describe you?

I hope that people around me would say that I am adventurous, hard-working, passionate, and caring. I love the outdoors and being in nature, so my support of conservation is innate and guides almost every aspect of my life. At work, I am the Wildlife Care Supervisor of the ambassador team in Wildlife Explorer’s Basecamp at the San Diego Zoo. There, I strive to help guests form connections with wildlife so that they too might care and understand more about the world around us.

What do you love most about your career?

Working in the zoological field for over 20 years, I have been so lucky to have worked not only with some amazing wildlife but also with so many wonderful and inspiring people. I feel as though I am at a place in my career where I have the ability to help mold a culture of support and integrity that directly benefits the wellbeing of wildlife and conservation efforts. 

What was a particularly memorable experience during your career?

I have been so lucky to have had many amazing experiences: assisting in breeding programs for many species, sharing my love of wildlife with guests from around the world, and bringing wildlife to both adults and children, some of whom would not be able to travel, even to their local zoo, to have this experience. Inspired by my love of conservation, I do have three very memorable travel experiences. I had the opportunity to volunteer for five weeks at Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia; I joined Pallas cat researchers in Mongolia for five days and had one sighting; and I made my husband spend four days in the bush in Tanzania tracking wild chimpanzees—we only saw two individuals very briefly.

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired every day by my coworkers at the San Diego Zoo. They continually strive to improve the wellbeing of the wildlife in our care and expand the field of zoological care, as well as bridging the gap between zoo guests and the conservationists working all over the globe.

What are your favorite animals?

Cheetahs are near and dear to my heart, and tigers were my first love! I am truly a crazy cat lady, but my husband limits me to only two at home (Hot Toddy and Wild Turkey), and balances that with our two dogs (Sierra and Tanner). I also found I have a huge soft spot for porcupines and lemurs. 

Why did you become a member of Wildlife Madagascar? What about this organization is meaningful to you?

The sheer number of endemic species of plants and animals found in Madagascar is amazing and reinforces the need to study, support, and conserve this unique island. I appreciate that Wildlife Madagascar is partnering with other conservation groups and Malagasy communities in the region, in order to have the largest impact on wildlife while being cognizant of the human side of conservation efforts. While I have not (yet) had the opportunity to travel to Madagascar myself, I do hope to soon—and without organizations like Wildlife Madagascar, this might not be possible!