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Tony Barthel

Curator of Elephant Trails and Cheetah Conservation Station

As the curator of Elephant Trails and Cheetah Conservation Station, Tony Barthel oversees all aspects of the daily care and management of the animal collection in these exhibit areas. He supervises a staff of two assistant curators and 12 animal keepers. 

With the help of his staff, Barthel is responsible for determining and coordinating any changes to the animal collection along with the associated breeding programs, animal acquisitions or dispositions. Within Elephant Trails and the Cheetah Conservation Station, he is responsible for the husbandry of the animals, enrichment and training programs, upkeep of the facilities, and coordinating research and outreach programs. He works closely with the departments of nutrition and wildlife health sciences to ensure that the welfare of the animals in his unit is prioritized and consistently addressed. 

Since joining the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in 2002, Barthel has overseen the construction and opening of the Asia Trail exhibit area; facility and collection enhancements throughout the Cheetah Conservation Station exhibit; the design and construction of the Elephant Trails exhibit; and significant growth in the Zoo’s Asian elephant program.

Barthel received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Valparaiso University in 1992. After receiving his degree, he worked at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. He joined the opening team of Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1997, and later was a manager in the animal care team for the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Throughout his career he has maintained a passion for animal welfare and animal behavior. Barthel believes that Zoos offer unique opportunities to connect people with incredible animal stories, which is a profound tool for the conservation of species.