Box 13, Folder 12, Document 136

Text Item Type Metadata




Office of General Manager

Ailanta, Georgia 30303

March 2, 1967


Mr. Donald R. Dietlein
National Zoological Park
Washington, D. C. 20009

Dear Mr. Dietlein:

Along with a number of other people, I have received a Xerox
copy of your report of February 8, 1967, dealing with the Zoo
at Grant Park.

I appreciate your opinions and conclusions and feel certain
that when I select e Zoo Director that your report will serve
as valuable background information on some corrective action
which may be needed.

The undersigned is relatively new in his job, having become
General Manager in March of 1964; at a time when all of the
major zoo buildings were completed or substantially underway.
I immediately began to request a Zoo Director and, as you may
Know, I have only recently met with success when the position
was created by the City effective January 1, 1967. We were
disappointed at the pay range; however, we will make every effort
to select the most qualified individual for this most vital
position. I have written Dr. Reed, along with thirty or forty
other Zoo Directors, asking and advising him to pass along to
eny of his interested staff the application for Zoo Director.
it may be that one of you gentlemen may be interested in this
position and I trust that I might hear further from you.

I am reluctant to make any change in the Zoo until I have an
individual in charge since I am an administrator of eleven divi-
sions of City government and certainly do not profess to be a
specialist in horticulture, zoology, forestry, recreation, etc. A
Zoo Director will be able to organize and operate the Zoo to

serve recreation, preservation, conservation and education.

.fter considerable thought, and trusting that you will accept

my remarks in the same context which I accepted your report, I
would like to comment on your conclusions reached on Page 3,
paragraph 3 in reference to the Reptile House. First of all, we
are not remodeling the Reptile House. It would take several

Mr. Donald R. Dietlein
Page Two

pages to describe to you the difficulties involved in the cages
of this building but basically the facts are these. The same
Architect designed the Reptile House as did the Primate and
Feline Buildings. About the time the Reptile House was nearing
completion, we noticed a strong irritant in the air which caused
one's eyes to water and a burning of the throat. It smelled like
formaldehyde to me but we engaged a toxicologist at the
Communicable Disease Center in Atlanta to verify this. The next
problem was of course what was causing the formaldehyde. We
employed a wood technician, a Dr. James Rice at the University

of Georgia. Dr. Rice has spent most of his academic career work-
ing with particle and chip board. The cages were made of particle
board and it was a natural thing for Dr. Rice to investigate the
problems encountered with this material. About this time, the
cages began to swell and bloat and materials which were one inch
thick expanded to 14 inches. The dimensional intergrity of the
cages simply collapsed. We refused to open the building to the
general public in that, in the opinion of our legal counsel, to do
so would be evidence of acceptance of the building. The
Architect blamed the builder, the builder blamed the Architect,
and the subcontractor blamed the supplier. We have had several
dozen meetings over this problem and have called in experts in
several fields. The end result is that we are replacing the cages
with ones built of fiber glass to be enclosed in an exterior
grade plastic impregnated plywood. I can assure you that so much
money is involved and the legal entanglement is so complicated,
that as Director of this department I would not be so foolish as
to allow a “lay curator" "carte blanche" privileges to reorganize
and remodel a $380,000 building. I don't have that type of
authority - thank goodness - and don't desire it. Cage replace-
ment is being supervised by the City's Building Inspector, Law
Department, and this department.

Now as to the statement that the Curator is a lay curator or
amateur. This reflects on the Civil Service department of the
City of Atlanta in that Mr. Dobbs scored the highest among the
approximately 16 applicants for the job. The test was conducted
by a doctor of veterinary medicine, a PhD with his doctorates in
Zoology (Reptiles), and a clinical psychologist trained in test-
ing. Of the 16 applicants, several had Masters Degrees but no
practical experience. Mr. Dobbs is young and has only a high
school diploma. However, he seems to hold his own with people
in similar positions and has made quite an impressive record for
the short time he has been in Atlanta. He is completely
dedicated to his work, was reared in a zoological environment
since his parents are in the business, and has in every way attempt-—
ed to be professional as far as I am personally concerned. He
plans to enter evening college in the near future. Of course, te
too received a copy of your report and, to say the least, your re-
marks that he was a "lay Cumnator" were cruel, excessive, un-
necessary, and completely inaccurate. The damage is done, the
word is out and I can only say that it is a surprise to me that
three gentlemen representing the National Zoological Park would
make such a capricious remark without thoroughly investigating
Mr. Donald R. Dietlein
Page Three

the background of the circumstances of the building and the
qualifications of the Curator. You have, in all fairness, been
given some erroneous information.

As to Page 4, paragraph 7, I am at a complete loss as to how you
determined that there is a need to improve the cooperation be-
tween the Zoo and educational system that controls the ‘science
room in the Primate House. I believe you made your inspection

on a Saturday and therefore would nat have had an opportunity to
meet the Teacher assigned to the science room. I have contacted
the instructor and she is at a complete loss to know exactly

what you are talking about. She also wonders as to where there
is a lack of cooperation between the Zoo and the educational
system. She suggested that possibly that it may be at a higher
echelon since it certainly does not exist at her level. I have
contacted the Superintendent of Schools and he too is at a loss.
Needless to say, vast improvements can be made in the utilization
of the Zoo as an educatxonal tool and as soon as we have a
qualified Director one of his duties will be to develop a complete
educational program. I think it is worth noting that at the
convention held at Houston, Texas'two years ago, the AAZPA
recommended our educational system as a guide and we were flooded
with questionnaires from interested zoos who wanted to include a
science room in their zoological complex. Again, in all fairness
to you, I believe you have been given some erroneous information.

The individual who is distributing your report transmits it with
a cover letter stating that the three of you are very brilliant
men. I am sure this is the case or you wouldn't be associated
with our.national zoo if you were not top notch. I hope you are
also men enough to apologize to our Curator of Reptiles, and
retract your statement concerning the blank check approach to
"‘cemodeling" the Reptile Building.

Very truly yours,

Jack C. Delius
General Manager of
Parks and Recreation

cc: Mr. W. J. Armstrong
Mr. W. A. Xanten
Mrs. Margaret A. Dankworth, Executive Sec. AAZPA
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