August 31, 2021
The Utica Zoo is excited to announce Jay Pratte as the organization’s new director of animal care, conservation, and education.
Pratte is internationally known for his training, enrichment, and welfare work with species across the globe. He has been an animal caregiver for over three decades, focusing on behavioral management and welfare standards. Positive reinforcement training of carnivores has been his historic specialty, teaching complex medical and research behaviors. Pratte has trained animals for the film industry and has provided expert care for animals in game farms, sanctuaries, and AZA-accredited zoos, with species ranging from ant colonies to giant pandas.
Pratte is also a founding board member and President of the Bear Care Group, bearcaregroup.org. The past several years have seen Pratte involved with caregivers around the world in improving behavioral husbandry programs and assessing welfare. He has a Master’s Degree in Zoo and Aquarium Leadership and has authored numerous publications related to the field. Pratte is an adjunct professor, previously at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, teaching Animal Behavior classes and labs, and his own special topics “Animal Welfare and Human Influence” course. His conservation efforts include work in India with Wildlife SOS and Kenya with the Lewa and Il Ngwesi Conservancies.
Recently Pratte’s consulting work has found him striving to improve the conditions for animals in traveling circuses and shows, as well as in “roadside” facilities providing substandard care. Pratte has drafted numerous expert reports and declarations, assisting organizations dedicated to aiding animals that endure inexpert management. He is recognized as an expert federal witness in animal behavior, husbandry and welfare, working with authorities and legal teams to consistently earn favorable judgements in federal and state courts. He is dedicated to collaborating with other individuals and organizations on improving the lives of animals, providing consulting and leadership experience to local and international communities. On a more personal note, Pratte volunteers with dog rescues, with his heart going out to Rottweilers and French bulldogs.
“The introduction of Jay to the Utica Zoo team is the next step in the Zoo’s quest to meet our potential,” states the Zoo’s Executive Director, Andria Heath. “His leadership and experience will enable us to meet the goal of premiere animal welfare, continued habitat and grounds improvement, maintaining AZA accreditation, professional development for our great staff and volunteer team, exciting additions to our collection plan and more!”
“I am moved by the trust that the team at the Utica Zoo has placed in me,” Pratte adds. “I look forward to aiding development of the Zoo as a “destination,” leading in the field of animal care and welfare while offering memorable educational and visitor engagement opportunities. It is heartening to see the support that the people and businesses in Utica have for the Zoo, and I hope to continue to build and strengthen our role in the community.”