Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa

Don't miss the next episode of
Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa

Sunday nights at 9/8c on Nat Geo WILD

The adventure continues, Sunday, February 9th at 9/8c on Nat Geo WILD!

Follow Along on Twitter

Follow us on Twitter @ZooTampaCurator, and tweet at us during each episode for live Q&A! Just tag us and use the hashtag #SecretsOfTheZooTampa!


Ways to watch*

Watch Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa on Nat Geo WILD

Frontier Fios - Channel 132/632 HD
Spectrum - Channel 148
DirecTV - Channel 283
Dish - Channel 190
Also Available on Hulu + Live TV

* Channel numbers are specific to the Tampa Bay area and may be different depending on your location and TV service provider

Meet the Stars of Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa

Dr. Lauren Smith, Veterinarian

Dr. Lauren Smith, Veterinarian

A native of Texas and a child of a military family, Lauren Smith graduated from Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2010. After earning her veterinary degree, Dr. Lauren spent several years in companion animal practice before being selected for a prestigious internship in aquatic animal medicine at the University of Florida. In that capacity, she worked with a wide variety of species across several facilities throughout Florida. Following completion of that program, Dr. Lauren returned briefly to private practice and spent time in Alaska before joining the veterinary team in ZooTampa in 2015. Dr. Lauren has a passion for aquatic animals and is currently the zoo’s lead manatee veterinarian, managing all care of these gentle giants.

Chris Masarro, General Curator

Chris Massaro, Curator

Chris grew up hiking and exploring the forests of New Hampshire prior to moving to Tampa with his family when he was in high school. He attended the University of South Florida where he studied anthropology with a focus on biological anthropology and primatology. He began his career at ZooTampa in 2002 as an intern. During his career, Chris has been a pioneer in many of the zoo’s breeding programs including the zoo’s first breeding program of rhinoceros which has resulted in the successful birth of nine endangered Indian and southern white rhinos. He also managed the zoo’s first naturally conceived elephant birth. Additionally, he is a member of the steering committee for the rhinoceros taxon advisory group. Chris continues to have a fascination with exploring nature, visiting national parks and hiking. He is a proud father of a son and a great dame. On his spare time, he coaches his son’s soccer team and collects whiskey.

Tiffany Burns, Associate Curator

Tiffany Burns, Associate Curator

Tiffany has over 15 years of animal experience, 10 of which have been with marine mammals. She began her career in her hometown of Las Vegas where she worked with dolphins at the Mirage Hotel. She’s participated in countless medical procedures, animal rescues and rehabilitation of marine mammals throughout the US and the world including St. Thomas, St. Kitts and Roatan. She has been involved with training staff in sanctuaries in Africa on best practices and how to behaviorally manage their large group of chimpanzees. As the Associate Curator at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, Tiffany has many roles including leading the Manatee Care team. She is thrilled to fulfill her lifelong dream of working with a wide variety of animals and being part of the team that rescues, rehabilitates and releases sick and injured manatees back to Florida waters. Her most favorite role, however, is being a mother to 2-year-old, Myla. The love for animals runs strong in the Burns family, husband Mike Burns is also an Associate Curator and their daughter Myla attends Zoo School.

Mike Burns, Associate Curator

Mike is a graduate of Roger Williams University in Rhode Island with a degree in biology. He started his career working at Coral World in St. Thomas. He later moved to Texas to work with elephants, rhinos and hoof stocks. In 2010, he joined the team at ZooTampa which has been recognized with numerous awards for their work with elephants including the prestigious Edward H. Bean award through the American Zoological Association and the Behavior Management Innovation Award at ABMA. Mike and his team’s work with elephants has also been published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology. As one of the leaders of animal care, Mike serves on several committees at ZooTampa. Mike is well-known for his sense of humor and proudly states that he is passionate about three things, his family, animals and his jeep.

Melinda Mendolusky, Animal Care Manager for Animal Ambassador Program

Melinda Mendolusky grew up in a small town outside of Boston, MA until her family moved to Florida in 1989. She has always had a passion for the arts and sciences and began her college career at the University of South Florida to study dance with a focus on ballet performance. However, it wasn’t long before she decided to follow a different dream and changed course towards a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and pursue a career working with animals. In 2001, Melinda began a part-time job at ZooTampa and has been there ever since making it her home away from home where she now has a leadership role as an Animal Care Manager for the Animal Ambassador Program. Melinda is a member of the International Association of Avian Trainer’s and Educators (IAATE) and currently serves on their Executive Board. She is also a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). She has won awards for the zoo’s “Bald is Beautiful” vulture conservation program, a cause that is very near and dear to her heart, which also lead her to an opportunity to perform field research with the critically endangered African White Backed Vulture in South Africa in 2012. In addition, she won the 2013 IAATE Show Behavior of the Year for the zoo’s Macaw Fly-over Experience. When she isn’t working with the animals at the zoo, Melinda spends time with her husband and their many pets at home. She gets a daily dose of comedy by watching her Irish Wolfhound “Seamus” lose in wrestling matches with her miniature dachshund “Maximus”.