Zoo Legend Celebrates 100 Years: Hear Our Conversation


Dr. Lester Fisher in a Ray Rayner TV segment at the Zoo

Dr. Lester Fisher, director of the Lincoln Park Zoo 1962 to 1992, celebrates his 100th birthday HERE on my Steve Dale’s Other World Show WGN Radio. 

with Dr. Fisher

We begin with a clip from the great Ray Rayner, who regularly featured Dr. Fisher, often in a segment called “Ark in the Park.” I grew up watching these segments, which helped to inspire my interest in animals. And I said so in a book I authored a long time ago, called American Zoos. And years later, contributed a cover line to Dr. Fisher’s book, Dr. Fisher’s Life on the Ark: Green Alligators, Bushman, and Other Hare-Raising Tales from America’s Most Popular Zoo and Around the World.

So, how do you get to be 100 years old? He reveals that secret.

So, how did this random suburban veterinarian come to become the zoo doctor and ultimately the zoo director to follow the legendary Marlin Perkins, of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom?

Dr. Fisher is Betty White’s elder – not too many of those, and he can call her “kid.” He recalls a sweet Betty White story about a Raggedy Ann doll.

He reminisces about the gorillas that got away, from Bushman, to Sinbad to Otto. Of course, today gorillas and great apes are treated – appropriately – so differently.  Still, Fisher must have done something right, as over 50 gorillas were born under his tenure. The Great Ape House at the Zoo is today called the Dr. Lester Fisher Great Ape House.


One listener even recalled Dr. Fisher as his family dog’s veterinarian back in the 1950’s.

More with Dr. Fisher on this WGN Radio podcast, including a story about how a bear made its way out of the zoo and into a neighborhood bar. Could that really happen?

Fun fact: Dr. Fisher served in World War II in Europe as a veterinarian for Gen. George S. Patton’s bull terrier, Willie.