J. D. (Doug) Porter is a zoologist, an educator, and a writer who takes the unorthodox and controversial view that zoos can be good for animals – if they are done right.
He has suggested in some of his writing that we need to talk about living together in a global community of zoos, game parks, marine parks and, yes, even circuses. We need to assimilate animals into our lives and into our societies. Give them rights, grant them protection under the law, and perhaps most radically, let them work for a living, like the rest of us. Zoos need to transform themselves – not just for their own well-being, but for the very survival of the creatures they strive to protect.
Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida, he has spent more than forty years in the zoo business. He has a bachelor’s degree in Zoology and a master’s in Adult Education, and worked his way through the ranks from zookeeper to zoo director. His career included the management of parks, zoos, aquariums, and museums and it has taken him to work in Toronto, Louisville, Tampa, Sioux Falls, and Toledo. He has viewed wildlife in the Amazon rainforest, the Galapagos Islands, the African savanna, and the Arctic tundra.
Doug moved to Albany, Georgia in 2004 to work for the Chehaw Park Authority and to manage the 750 acre park and zoo that is known as Chehaw. Named for a local native tribe and founded in 1937 as one of the original State Parks of Georgia, Chehaw is now locally owned and home to one of Georgia’s two accredited zoos. The property includes moss-covered subtropical cypress swamps, climax hardwood forests, and burn-controlled pine / wiregrass habitat, and it is home to countless wildlife, including white-tailed deer, red fox, bobcat, and more.
He blogs on a range of subjects related to animals. He is a regular guest columnist for the Albany Herald and his novel, The Menagerie, A Zoo Story, came out in 2012. His wide-ranging civic activities have included a term as president of the Dougherty County Rotary Club, chairing accreditation inspection teams for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, serving on the statewide board for the Georgia Rotary Laws of Life Contest, and volunteering as an actor in two Theatre Albany productions.
Doug’s wife, Karen, is an artist and a professional librarian who works as a library media specialist for an elementary school.