John’s Story


I got started working with animals in my mid-twenties, even though my passion was there the opportunities were not.

I started by working in a pet store named Southgate Fish and Pets in Tacoma Washington, while working there I learned to understand the basics of animal care, and how important it was to keep the animals tanks, cages, etc. cleaned and how important it was on the animals over all health. I also learned how to deal with people on a one on one basis and how important it was to educate customers on the health and well being of their own animals.

While working there an employee, Mike, of Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium frequently came in to purchase food for his own animals. I started asking questions about how to become a volunteer at the zoo. I did not want to be a docent, but what I wanted was to work with the animals. Mike informed me that a new volunteer program designed for people who wanted to work with the animals was beginning soon and to call the zoo for further details.

I called and got an interview with John Hauk, the head of the Animal Care Department. John Hauk took me to his office, which was upstairs in the World of Adaptations building dedicated to various animals from insects, bats, primates, birds, reptiles, amphibians and aardvarks.

While there John Hauk explained that other areas of the zoo had already been filled and that only three areas were left, Tundra, Family Farm, and the World of Adaptations.

I just looked at him and said, “I want to be right here, there is a more diverse species here to learn about than anywhere else in the zoo”!  Three weeks later, my dream of working in a zoo had come true.

I worked at Point Defiance Zoo as a Keeper’s Aide for seven years. Not only did I work at World of Adaptations but also the Family Farm, with goats, sheep, llamas, pigs, chickens, etc., and I when an opportunity to work in Tundra came along I took it and had the pleasure of working with Polar Bears, Musk Ox, Artic Fox, and tundra waterfowl.

In 1994 I met my future wife Maria, and after sitting down and discussing our dreams, both of which wanted to own a zoo. On April 10, 1995 and with only a handful of animals Zoo Safari had become a reality.

In the fall of 1997 Maria and I, with our son August, moved to Pryor Oklahoma, and for a year and a half we looked for a house with property. In 1999 we found our dream home with acreage outside of Locust Grove Oklahoma and started to make Zoo Safari larger.

Since April 1995 Zoo Safari has grown to include Sulcata Tortoises, Fennec Fox, Capybara, White Eared Tufted Marmosets, Emus, and more, up to 50 + individuals.

Zoo Safari is my passion and my love, and educating kids of all ages about the world we share with nature is, and always will be my passion.

John Jinks




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