Zoo Tampa is growing, and what better way to tell the story than through a person who’s been here for 20 years.

What You Need To Know

  • Zoo Tampa is expanding, which currently includes larger rocky habitat for primates

  • Chris Massaro has been with the zoo for 20 years and says environmental health inspired an expansion of the zoo’s Florida habitat

  • The hope is is enough people better understand the Florida wilds, they will be more apt to protect it, he said

“There you go buddy,” says Chris Massaro. He’s known this rhino since birth — and says they are very tactile.

“If you think about it, a rhino can’t scratch behind his ear and if you do that, he’ll love you forever,” Massaro said.

It’s love — and a higher purpose — that hooked Massaro during an internship at the zoo two decades ago.

One of his and Zoo Tampa’s latest projects is introducing a new primate species in an expanded, rocky habitat.

“Nothing better than the Hamadryas baboon for this site,” he said.

A family group of males is only a few days into exploring their new home after a 30-day quarantine.

Massaro and his team are watching them closely to make sure their transition is smooth.

“What we do is we look at everything, we provide for the animal that they don’t have stress, that they are comfortable in their environment, they’re healthy,” he said.

Environmental health inspired an expansion of the zoo’s Florida habitat.

It’s the hope that increased understanding of the “Florida Wilds” will inspire Floridians to conserve.

The Florida black bear and the Florida panther are benefiting from the expansion of the Florida Wilds section of the zoo.

And Massaro is not stopping with Florida animals — his message is global because all of the world’s endangered animals are depending on it.

He says each animal here is an ambassador for their wild counterpart, and that includes his white rhino buddy.

“It’s a great opportunity to really talk about these guys, connect everybody with them, tell them how incredible they are," Massaro said. "And most importantly, hopefully join us in taking action to protect and preserve our wildlife."