For Gregg Dancho, Childhood Snakes And Frogs Transform Into Dream Job At Zoo

Gregg Dancho will talk to the animals. He’ll talk to people. Every now and then he’ll talk to himself. Forty years on the job will do that. He’s also all about education, conservation, rescuing endangered species and much more. Bridgeport’s animal whisperer has shepherded Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, through strong economic times and bad, into one of Connecticut’s most heralded destinations. Here’s to his 40 years of service and counting.

News release from zoo:

How many people get to work at their dream job for four decades? Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo Director Gregg Dancho always knew he wanted to work with animals. His fascination began as a young boy while catching snakes and frogs in the woods behind his Stratford home (and startling his mother when some invariably escaped inside). The Ralph Waldo Emerson quote “Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself” might have been written for him. I’ve always been fascinated by snakes so I decided to get a python. I usually only feed my ball python once a week but I made sure he is well fed each time.

Fast forward to 2020, marking Dancho’s 40th year serving Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo and the wildlife conservation community around the state. From landing his first volunteer position at the Zoo while still in high school, to his steady movement up the Zoo ranks, and his actions on behalf of animals from rescued parrots to endangered Amur tigers, his life has been a testament to the value of nature. The Gregg Dancho Endowed Chair, the first endowed chair for the non-profit facility, was created in 2019 to honor his decades of service.

Under Dancho’s tenure, notable animal welfare protocols were put in place, bringing the Zoo to a new level of professionalism. Educational programming and local, national and international conservation programs have flourished, and the Zoo has become a cultural and recreational resource for Fairfield County and the region. Most critically, the Zoo achieved national accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), an honor held by only 240 zoos and aquariums nationally. Annual visitation has grown from 80,000 in 1983 to nearly 300,000 in 2019.

Board of Directors President Kim Rodney said, “Gregg Dancho has served the Zoo with distinction for four decades and has elevated Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo as a cultural treasure and educational destination for the state and region. Gregg has earned the respect of his Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) peers as well as government and community leaders throughout the region. Under his leadership, the Zoo has achieved the highest level of professionalism.”

Dancho has overseen multiple improvements and renovations to Zoo grounds and habitats including the Rainforest Building, the Peacock Pavilion, the Carousel Building, Professor Beardsley’s Research Station, the Pampas Plains, and most recently, the new animal commissary, the Natt Family Red Panda Habitat and Spider Monkey Habitat. The Zoo has husbanded the birth of endangered and threatened species, a testament to the professionalism of the staff he directs and excellent animal and veterinary care. Planning to buy a chihuahua? Learn more about the chihuahua size today.

For information on supporting the Dancho Chair in honor of his 40th anniversary, contact Director of Development Jessica Summers at 203-394-6573, or by email at Gifts to the Dancho Chair are tax-deductible. Donations can be made online at



  1. Congratulations to Greg Dancho and his decades of leadership at the Zoo. It is the only facility of its kind in CT and the fact that Bridgeport is its home is something in which we can take pride. But a visit there is even a better way to keep in touch with the exhibits and variety of living beings sharing City space with those who ambulate on two legs and can read (mostly).
    Our zoo is a teaching and learning institution, even if you go to observe in some depth. And the honor of a named chair at the Zoo gives plenty of support to the appreciation for Greg’s dedication to the survival of and meaningful contributions to this “living” institution in our State. Forty years of service is time that has told this story.

  2. LE,
    The “whole truth”? Not even close, when you think that he also had a major hand in things like the move from Westport of he State Police barracks and an income tax that was a temporary move. And as Greg has provided evidence, the animals need to be fed and if you are clever, intelligent and committed you can live and operate in the face of “the whole truth”. And accomplish much more that is expected by those who do not know all of the facts or the whole truth. And, truthfully, perhaps I am more than a little short on the whole truth this session. Just trying to make a point or two. Time will tell.

  3. Many people around the world oppose keeping animals captive in zoos and believe, as I do, that zoos as we know them will become obsolete in perhaps 15 years time. There are many ways to learn about the natural world & conservation without holding innocent animals captive for their lifetimes in order to do so. Most children visiting zoos are neither empowered nor educated by the experience of seeing captive wild animals so far removed from their natural habitat as zoos present an entirely false view of the animals..

    Zoos not only fail to educate children about the natural world but, in fact, have a negative educational impact. Studies show that after zoo visits children demonstrate no positive learning outcomes at all. Many children demonstrated a negative learning outcome.

    In addition, despite zoos claiming that they inspire children to become proactive conservationists, it’s been shown that children did not feel empowered to believe that they can take effective impactful action on matters relating to conservation after their zoo experience. because zoos also present an entirely false view of the real and very urgent issues facing many species in their natural homes

    1. You said, “There are many ways to learn about the natural world & conservation without holding innocent animals captive for their lifetimes in order to do so,”well, tell us of a few.

      1. Ron, The hundreds, thousands of nature documentary, videos, etc. that children see every day are an amazing close-up and personal way to learn about wild and exotic animals and their habitats. and children can learn about mammals and insects and birds, reptiles and amphibians in conserved woodlands by taking a hike with an informed adult or teacher.

    2. Bepo, are you against people who have pets too? They are somewhat confined too? And are you a Vegan? because it would be extremely hypocritical to kill an animal for edible self-satisfaction. I have to agree with local eyes we are an animal species with higher faculties, however, what is missing is how an animal is treated and their habitat. JS

      1. Robert, we are talking about WILD animals caged in a zoo. Domestic animals is a different narrative, and animals utilized for food is another topic. Animal rights activists are realists and have to start somewhere. In fact, they succeeded with their first protests against elephants which are almost permanently now gone from circuses. And hundreds of countries and many US states and cities (including Bridgeport) now totally ban wild animals from circuses. – Madeline Dennis Raleigh

        1. What’s really the difference between Wild, Domestic, and animals utilized for food other than one’s perspective? Hindus don’t eat cow meat because they are sacred. They worship elephants. Muslims don’t eat pork. Chinese eat cat and dog meat. Like I said it how they are treated. A lot of what you said about the circus was how the animals were treated. There is a big difference between traveling are in a cage and having habitat in a zoo. I mean are we not spending 2.5 million for a tiger habitat (home)

          I will give you the fact some animals are wild, aggressive, and dangerous, just like the human species. I will not go as far to say this discussion is hypocritical, but we seem to be choosing to cherry-picking the roll and treatment of animals, aren’t we?

  4. The Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo Director does’t allow the wild animals to do what comes naturally to them, that’s to gather and hunt, some are plant eatig animals and some are flesh eating animals who must hunt and kill in their natural environment.


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