Brandywine Zoo director says goodbye to the animals after 36 years

By Amy Cherry 8:33am, April 29, 2013
WDEL's Amy Cherry spends one of Nancy Falasco's last days on the job with her.
The longtime director of the Brandywine Zoo is retiring after nearly four decades on the job.

WDEL's Amy Cherry spent one of her last days at the zoo with her.

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"Pretty boy, you're a pretty boy," coos Nancy Falasco, who talks to all of the animals like they're newborn babies.

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She's spoken in that friendly voice to her furry friends for the past 36 years. She walks me through the zoo and points at the bobcat, but I don't see him.

"There she is right up there, straight up in the hay pile, looking like a little rock. Squeaky! Pretty girl, pretty girl," she says.

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She says most people don't spend enough time at the exhibit, and she urges each zookeeper to point out the animals to visitors.

Others like the tiger are hard to miss. Falasco says they work hard to make the animals not feel like their lives are stuck in a cage.

"She has to hunt for all this food, which is fun, and she likes food," says Falasco, who explains the exhibit is reminiscent of her wildlife, "she is foraging."

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As she walks down the winded path between exhibits on a sunny, brisk day, you can tell she'll miss this place.

"They all recognize me, know who I am and respond to me because I'm the good guy," she laughs," because I never do anything wrong to 'em."

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After 36 years, Falasco has earned that good rep with the animals. She believes they understand her.

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Falasco says she just knew it was time to retire and now she plans to just "goof around."

She wants to spend more time with her family. But what about her family of animals?

"My favorites are the tiger, and the capybara, and serval over here, the clouded leopard, otters, and the monkeys and sloths, now I'm going to list 'em all, so all of 'em really are," she says with a smile.

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She imagines the animals will miss her--just like she'll miss them, but she says being a zoo director is a tough, 24/7 job.

"It's part of my life. It's part of my family's life. So it will be hard, very hard to do, but it's going to be OK," she says.

"You're going to miss that phone ringing," I joked.

"Maybe not that so much," she laughs.

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She's got two black labs and two cats at home--a kind of mini zoo.

"Not as big as it used to be, but then I always had a zoo, so we'll see what happens to me when I get home," she laughs.

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Her last day is April 30th. A new zoo director hasn't yet been named.

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