Cecil Jackson, Jr. – Born to be an Elephant Man

Cecil working with Mai Thai

At the age of 14, Cecil began working at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden under his father Cecil Jackson Sr., who worked at the Zoo for 50 years. In his 35 years as a Zoo employee, Cecil Jr. has worked with gorillas, chimps, orangutans, cats, okapis, tapirs, hippos, horses and various types of birds. He is currently the Elephant Manager and is also responsible for the animals in Giraffe Ridge.

Cecil helps Reds player Chris Heisey give an elephant bath

Cecil’s typical work day includes checking on the animals, picking up after them, cleaning, providing enrichment for the animals, and giving tours as needed. “Working here is great,” says Cecil. “Working with the animals is the best time I’ve ever had. Animals are honest; they let you know up front how everything is.”

One of his fondest memories is when the Zoo brought Sabu, the bull elephant, home. Working with Sabu as a calf and developing him into his teens was an enriching experience. After Sabu took a 10-year leave for breeding, he came back to Cincinnati in 2008. “When he came home, his demeanor and spirits had changed from the way he acted at the other facility. It was like ‘I’m home and I am glad’,” says Cecil.

At home, Cecil takes care of his own personal “zoo.” Cecil has 10 dogs, six horses, six cats, four exotic birds, three snakes, two donkeys, a few domestic turtles, and an African spur thigh tortoise that weighs 50 pounds! A fun fact about the African spur thigh tortoise is that it’s the third largest turtle in the world and can weigh up to 300 pounds.

Cecil playing with his band

Cecil is also a professional performer. He enjoys playing bluegrass music and has done so all his life.