Lucy Melo: Senior Elephant Keeper, Taronga Zoo

From her earliest memory, Lucy has loved animals. She always thought she wanted to be a veterinarian and applied to vet school, but then suddenly realised she would rather work with healthy animals – not sick ones. Lucy decided to undertake a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Zoology from the University of Toronto. She then started working at Houston Zoo, Rio Grande Zoo and Disney’s Animal Kingdom before coming to Taronga Zoo eight years ago.

During her career, Lucy has worked with a wide variety of animals including hippos, rhinos, giraffes, Mexican wolves, crocodiles, birds, fish and turtles. Her favourite animal is whatever she is working with at the time, but she is most passionate about elephants. 

When Lucy first started at Taronga, she was part of the team that went to Thailand to bring the first five Asian Elephants to Sydney, and has been part of the successful Conservation Breeding Program ever since. Since the herd arrived in 2006, three calves have been born and Lucy has been part of raising the calves and looking after the extended family of four adult females and one adult male.

One of the elephants Lucy enjoys interacting with the most is adult females Tang Mo. Tang Mo is the next female due to take part in the Zoo’s breeding program. She has been very protective and maternal towards the young calves in the herd, demonstrating that she will be an excellent mother when it is her turn to have a calf of her own.

“Every day I work with animals is amazing, but the highlights are definitely the births of our elephant calves, as well as flying in a jumbo jet with the elephants! I enjoy the one-on-one relationships that I have with the elephants. They are just like people, only better! Having a connection with an animal is extremely satisfying and therapeutic. They truly give you unconditional love.  I also feel proud that the work that we are doing is making a difference, and helping to save Asian Elephants from extinction.”