Margo McKnight is the President and CEO of the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society. The zoo houses more than 550 animals (190 species), many of them endangered, within 23-acres of lush tropical habitat in West Palm Beach. We sat down with Margo to learn more about her, the zoo and the society.
Frankee Cuzzola: What would you like our readers to know about the Palm Beach Zoo?
Margo McKnight: The Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society is a zoo with a big heart, fascinating creatures, and an important job. Communities across America are getting farther and farther removed from each other and nature. There is a growing body of science illuminating the need to unplug from our electronic man made world. It is clear that people are healthier and happier when we spend time in nature. The other important role we play is to help push back on the loss of wild animals and wild places. Our mission is to inspire our guests to act on behalf of these wild things that need our help. By simply visiting the zoo and getting your dose of the wildlife and having fun you are also helping to save animals in the wild because you are funding the conservation work we do.
When did you get your first break in the business?
When I was a freshman in college, I landed a job working in the zoo at Busch Gardens Tampa teaching children in Zoo Camp. It was there that I fell in love with introducing people to wild nature. Seeing children have transformational moments hooked me forever.
What is your favorite current exhibit at the Palm Beach Zoo?
I love the Panther Prowl where Florida panther Sassy and cougar Micco live. The Florida panther, our state animal, is one of the world’s most endangered animals.
What you love about your job?
Saving the planet is one of the best jobs on the planet. Working with animals and people who love animals is amazingly rewarding. Our job is to get people to have fun and to fall in love. If you are already in love with nature and wildlife, we want you to be even more committed and join us in protecting and restoring it.
What technological changes do you envision for the Palm Beach Zoo?
The zoo and aquarium business is getting more and more fascinating every year. Through technology and design, our guests are experiencing our animals more closely and naturally than ever before. Through research and science, our animal welfare and care allows us to make our animals healthy and happy from performing a root canal on a jaguar to relieve dental pain to preventative medicines for anteaters. I have been working in this field for almost 30 years, and although sadly we have lost many species of animals in the wild we have saved many as well. The most important role we play is to help protect and restore our beautiful planet.
What is the best business book you ever read?
There are so many excellent business books, but my most recent favorite is Leaders Eat Last by Simon Selnik. I am a biologist by training, so it really makes sense to me to think about how our physiology affects our behavior. Once you understand the complexity, you can start relating it to real situations and the workplace.
What is the best piece of business advice you ever received?
You need to learn how to listen, really listen, active listening. It can become a superpower!
What is you favorite smartphone app?
OCEARCH Global Shark Tracker. If you don’t have it get it, it is fascinating to see where these amazing creatures go. It’s especially useful when you are floating in your kayak, just kidding!
What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County?
I see the weaving of a tapestry composed of diverse communities enjoying, nature, art, and technology. This county has spectacular natural areas, a gorgeous marine environment with the northernmost coral reef ecosystems in the U.S., a wonderful zoo, science center and aquarium living right next to amazing cultural superlatives including a robust visual and performing arts scene, historic architecture, and cutting-edge technology. I see an integration through partnerships and networks.
What do you love most about West Palm Beach?
I love the culture. You can find me getting extra “doses of nature” outside with my horses, dog, or floating somewhere in my kayak. When I am not outside, I am in my art studio with a paintbrush in hand!
For more information about the Palm Beach Zoo: Click Here
WestPalmBeach.com: The Complete Guide to West Palm Beach, FL!