Southeast Alumna is Wife, Mother, Primate Keeper
College of Science and Mathematics
Peggy Hoppe works with some real monkeys. Literally. This 1999 graduate of Southeast is a primate keeper at the St. Louis Zoo.
“It’s the best job I have ever had,” says Peggy. “I work with the small monkeys and lemurs, ranging in size from the smallest monkey, the pygmy marmoset, to the lion-tailed macaque.
After graduating from Southeast with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, emphasis in wildlife biology, Peggy went to work for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources as an environmental specialist. She went to graduate school at Eastern Kentucky University, where she primarily studied salamanders. After working for a short while with the reptiles at the Birmingham Zoo, Peggy transferred to primates. She and her husband Brad later moved back to the St. Louis area, where Peggy got a job in the small primate house at the St. Louis Zoo.
“It can be very challenging at times, but it is also very rewarding,” Peggy says. “I spend much of my day cleaning the exhibits and shift areas for the animals, but I also spend time training, medicating, feeding and enriching the animals. Enrichment is something we give the primates every day to help occupy their time and offer them new experiences. We give them new foods, present their food in different ways, offer them different scents, mirrors, etc. We also rearrange the items in their exhibits so things are always changing for them, similar to their experiences in the wild. The training we do can be for various reasons; it mostly revolves around training for animal management or medical purposes. I have trained animals to present body parts, get on scales, shift into off-exhibit areas and train for ultrasound readings for pregnant females.”
Peggy is also actively involved with the St. Louis chapter of the American Association of Zookeepers (AAZK). AAZK is a nonprofit organization of professional zookeepers and other interested persons dedicated to professional animal care and conservation.
“We host fundraisers to help support different conservation organizations such as Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Project Penguin Puffin,” says Peggy. “I’m in charge of organizing our biggest fundraiser, Bowling for Rhinos. We host it every year to raise money for rhinos and rhino conservation.”
Peggy says she doesn’t have any special ‘secret to success;’ she simply always gives her best effort and keeps high expectations for herself.
“That way I always know that I did everything I could to get the job done,” she explains.
Peggy credits some of the professors at Southeast for providing the foundation for her professional success today.
“Dr. Eddleman taught me all the basics of wildlife biology, and I have actually used much of that knowledge first working with herps (amphibians) and now working with primates. Dr. Scheibe gave me a passion for herps that I will never let go of, even though I work with primates now. He also gave me my first experience working with live animals in a research setting. If not for Dr. Eddleman and Dr. Scheibe, I don’t think I would be where I am today,” says Peggy.
Peggy also had some advice for future Southeast students.
“You should always follow your heart in what you want to do, no matter how scary. I was afraid that I could not get into the zookeeping field as it is a very difficult field to get into. In the end, zookeeping was what I really wanted to do, and I was able to make my dreams come true through persistence,” she says.
Peggy’s fondest memory of Southeast was meeting her husband, Brad.
“Brad actually went to school in Rolla, but he came to visit a mutual friend at Southeast. We met my freshman year and started dating second semester. We got engaged my junior year and then married shortly after graduation. The rest is history,” Peggy says.
When Peggy isn’t working, she and Brad stay busy with their daughters, Anna and Penelope. Peggy is also involved in the St. Louis Mothers of Twins club.
“We come together as mothers with a common interest: multiples. We help each other get through the tough times and share when things are going great. We also help raise money to assist mothers of multiples that are less fortunate. Multiples can be overwhelming, and it helps to have the support of other mothers who are going through the same thing,” Peggy explains.
Peggy and her family reside in St. Louis, Mo.