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Ditmars, Raymond Lee (22 June 1876–12 May 1942), zoo curator and popular writer on reptiles, was born in Newark, New Jersey, son of John Van Harlingen Ditmars, a furniture dealer and Confederate veteran, and Mary Knaus. When Raymond was six the family moved to New York City. His interest in nature began with visits to Central Park, which had a small menagerie and natural areas teeming with snakes and other creatures, and to the salt marshes on the outskirts of Brooklyn, where his family spent the summer. These experiences captivated his interest, and, although his family intended for him to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, his mind was on snakes....

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Perkins, Marlin (28 March 1905–14 June 1986), zoo director and television personality, was born Richard Marlin Perkins in Carthage, Missouri, the son of Joseph Dudley Perkins, a lawyer and judge, and Mynta Mae Miller. Perkins developed his fascination with animals as a child, progressing from a pet dog to the various creatures found on the family farm. “Not just snakes, I also kept possums, raccoons, turtles, frogs, baby coyotes, anything I could find,” he recalled ( ...