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After 38 Years Of Caring For Lions, Tigers And Chimpanzees, Sedgwick Co. Zoo Vet Retires

Carla Eckels
Sedgwick County Zoo's senior vet, Dr. William Bryant, engages with chimpanzee Audra's son. Dr. Bryant says the chimp is growing fast like his dad and is now larger than his mom.

The senior veterinarian at the Sedgwick County Zoo is hanging up his stethoscope Saturday.

Dr. William Bryant, one of a handful of African-American zoo vets in the country, is retiring after 38 years of service.

He's been described as an invaluable zoo vet, responsible for the medical care of nearly 3,000 animals. Bryant says he'll miss the staff and engaging with the animals, including caring for a smitten chimpanzee.

"Audra came over and put her forehead up and I applied medication to her forehead and the keeper said, 'She won't let me do that,' and I said, 'What?' and she said, 'Audra is usually cranky but she really likes you.'

"And sure enough, Audra will come over and greet me, and we can talk."

Bryant, 62, says he's proud of what's been accomplished over the years with teamwork. 

"Several of our animals at the zoo have made it to what we call longevity records," he says, "the oldest of its kind in a zoo setting or even in the world.

"We’ve had several of the oldest animals here at the zoo, and it’s really nice to know that so many animals make it to the natural end of their lifespan or longer with good care from staff."

Bryant is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Accreditation Commission, where he helped zoos across the U.S. meet accreditation goals. A national search for his replacement will take place in the coming months.


Carla Eckels is KMUW's director of cultural diversity and the host of Soulsations. Follow her on Twitter @Eckels.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Carla Eckels is Director of Organizational Culture at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.