Zoo news letterhead

August 13, 2013

International Herpetological Symposium, Inc.
President Ken Foose, 702-631-7387 ExoticPetsLV@aol.com
Saint Louis Zoo 314/781-0900 Susan Gallagher, ext. 4633
Christy Childs, ext. 4639; Joanna Bender, ext. 4703


Saint Louis Zoo Herpetarium Keeper Chawna Schuette, who has played a major role in the captive breeding and reproductive success of the Ozark hellbender, was awarded the Joseph Laszlo Memorial Award on August 3 at final ceremonies of the International Herpetological Symposium held in New Orleans.

Since 1991, this award has been presented to the speaker at the IHS meeting who has demonstrated that his or her work represents new and exciting views and advances in herpetology. The award recognizes the lifelong achievements and contributions to the field of herpetology by the late Joseph Laszlo, long-term Superintendent of the Department of Reptiles at the San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio, Texas.

“The symposium was pleased to recognize Chawna not only because of the importance of the research but also because she represents the next generation of scientists who are important to the future of species like the hellbender,” says Ken Foose, President of the International Herpetological Symposium, Inc. “Bringing young people into conservation science that helps us protect salamanders and other herpetological species is critical to the health of our ecosystem and to early detection of problems in the environment that could affect human health.”

Ms. Schuette’s presentation, “Captive Propagation and Egg Incubation of the Ozark Hellbender at the Saint Louis Zoo,” covered the science and practices behind the success of the Zoo’s WildCare Institute Ron Goellner Center for Hellbender Conservation in reproducing the endangered Ozark hellbender. In 2011, the Center and Zoo announced the first-ever captive breeding of this salamander.

Chawna Schuette began her career as an intern at the Saint Louis Zoo in 1998. She became a part-time keeper in the Emerson Children’s Zoo in 1999 and a full-time keeper there in 2000. In 2005, she joined the staff at the Zoo’s Herpetarium, where for six years she has been primary hellbender keeper.

Chawna Schuette not only helps care for 3,000 hellbenders, but she also supports other activities at the Herpetarium, where she gives tours and keeper chats and is the departmental representative on the Zoo’s enrichment committee. Ms. Schuette helps direct interns and externs and works to achieve Hellbender Center research and data-gathering goals by networking with other project partners, such as Missouri Department of Conservation and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services.

“Chawna is self-starter who is very motivated to do the best job possible. She is completely dedicated to the conservation of this species and has spent considerable time learning as much as possible about hellbender reproductive biology and the role that water quality plays in this process,” said Jeff Ettling, Ph.D., Saint Louis Zoo Curator of Herpetology and Aquatics and Director of the Wildlife Institute Ron Goellner Center for Hellbender Conservation. “Chawna is truly an outstanding keeper and a very dedicated member of the Saint Louis Zoo staff.”

Chawna Schuette grew up in St. Louis County and earned her high school diploma in St. Charles, Mo. Her parents Cheryll Rosencrans and Russell Rosencrans are residents of Charlack, Mo., and Branson, Mo., respectively.

Named America’s #1 Zoo by Zagat Survey and Parenting Magazine, the Saint Louis Zoo is widely recognized for its innovative approaches to animal management, wildlife conservation, research and education. One of the few free zoos in the nation, it attracts about 3,000,000 visitors a year.