When Matthew Lenyo was a kid, his dad would take him to the Denver Zoo every Saturday.
Now he works there.
The Denver native developed a passion for conservation and sustainability, and after being awarded a prestigious Monfort Scholarship, he decided he wanted to attend Colorado State University for veterinary school.
But at CSU he took a slightly different route, realizing that his passion was animal behavior, not medical treatment. Lenyo ended up earning a degree in biological science, zoology and — wait for it — performing arts.
“I felt very empowered by those CSU departments to pursue a degree that wasn’t conventional,” he recalls. “I felt supported in pursuing my path.”
After completing CSU internships at the Denver Zoo and the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington, Lenyo graduated in 2008 and worked for the Dumb Friends League in Denver before taking a seasonal position at the Denver Zoo. He’s worked his way up the ladder there, and now serves as assistant curator of predators.
Lenyo says the public speaking and improvisation skills he gained from his performing arts education have helped him in his positions at the zoo, which often require him to make public demonstrations, do media interviews and engage via social media such as Facebook Live.
He’s headed to Vietnam this fall to visit a gibbon rescue/rehabilitation center that works to return the apes back to the wild.
“The Denver Zoo is really a conservation organization,” Lenyo says. “We want to help people understand the world. I love the connection between animals and people, and finding better ways to co-exist.”
He acknowledges missing CSU and Fort Collins.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be. If there was a zoo in Fort Collins, I’d probably be working there,” Lenyo jokes.