Ron Magill: Wildlife Envoy
At Miami Metrozoo, alumnus Ron Magill has found the job the rest of us only daydream about.
Just talking to Ron Magill (AA ’80) is exciting.
Speaking by phone from his office at the Miami Metrozoo, you can almost hear him bouncing in his seat as he describes walking with elephants on the Serengeti Plains in Africa, diving with sea lions off the Galapagos Islands near South America, or studying eagles with his children in the rainforests of Panama.
“These are things I’m embarrassed to collect a paycheck for,” says Magill, now in his 33rd year at the zoo. “My job is my dream come true.”
Magill has been lucky enough to find both fame and fun in his career. As the communications director for the Miami Metrozoo, Magill has made regular appearances on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” in Discovery Channel documentaries and other programs. He even handled all the animals used on the 1980s TV drama “Miami Vice.”
In finding his niche, Magill had the perfect example to follow — Jim Fowler, the in-the-field adventurer from “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.”
In the 1970s Magill followed his dreams to UF, where he says animal sciences professor Walter Auffenberg (MS ’53, PhD ’56) further inspired him.
“The guy was like a kid in a candy store,” Magill says. “He didn’t give a lecture, he gave a show. He set the tone for me — he was just a really, truly inspiring man.”
Although he enjoyed being at UF, Magill left with his senior year to take a zoologist job at the Miami Metrozoo. He’s loved it there ever since.
“Every day I’m so glad to go to work,” Magill says. “Sure, there are times you deal with political stuff and bureaucracy, [but] it’s a wonderfully rewarding job.”
— Cinnamon Bair*
Adapted from UF Today magazine, fall 2003.