Animal Experts

Mary Lynn & Tom Cinealis

Mary Lynn and Tom Cinealis staff a Remains to Be Seen Cart.

Mary Lynn and Tom Cinealis, longtime members of Zoo Pride, the Zoological Society’s volunteer auxiliary, are a wealth of information on everything from animal physiology to Zoo exhibits. That’s because they are Zoo Pride docents, people who have advanced training and expertise about animals. Potential docents must be in Zoo Pride for a year, take special classes and pass a test.

Although classes and tests may seem daunting, Mary Lynn and Tom saw them as a great opportunity to learn more about the Zoo. “We wanted in-depth knowledge about animals,” says Mary Lynn. Docent training consists of 10 weekly classes, which cover everything from Zoo animals to animal taxonomy. And the test? “It was very, very comprehensive,” says Mary Lynn. “There were a lot of subjects to learn.”

Docents are eligible to lead VIP tours and serve on the VIP committee. VIP tours are open to zoogoers ages 15 and up and must be booked through the Zoo Pride office at least four weeks in advance. VIP guides receive further training, including behind-the-scenes tours of the Zoo and regular updates from Bruce Beehler, Deputy Zoo Director. Mary Lynn and Tom became tour guides in 2008.

They have also served on committees such as special events, Remains to Be Seen carts (where they show animal artifacts to the public), and animal watch (where they observe new or ill animals). Says Tom: “We really like interacting with the public. Visitors enjoy that someone took the time to talk with them.” 

Meet other volunteers here.