Cristian Samper has spent the past nine years directing the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. He’ll be leaving Washington in August to head the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs several zoos and the New York Aquarium. He took some time to talk to The Post’s Juliet Eilperin and to share with KidsPost readers the secret to his success: He never grew up. Samper, who is 47, explained how he’s been able to turn a love of nature and animals into a lifelong career in science and conservation.
How did growing up in Bogota, Colombia, shape your view of the environment?
While I grew up in Bogota, my family had a farm in Sopo, half an hour north of Bogota. I used to spend all my weekends on the farm. . . . I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was 13 or 14. My father said, sure, but why not do an internship with our family’s vet? I was shampooing little toy poodles and vaccinating dogs. I was thinking about working with elephants! Before long I decided being a vet in Bogota was not what I wanted to do.