Tish Gailmard, director of Wildlife at Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center (RRANC) in Chattanooga, has been with the organization for 17 years and has directed all aspects of wildlife management and conservation as well as wildlife educational programs and outreach efforts of the RRANC (formerly known at the Chattanooga Nature Center).
At Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center, Ms. Gailmard cares for a broad collection of nearly 40 animals. All are native to east Tennessee.
The Wildlife Center at RRANC attracts thousands of visitors every year who have the opportunity to see and learn about the animals. Ms. Gailmard manages the entire operation, including the animals’ health and nutrition, their environments, and creating interpretative displays. She holds a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Foxes and Class 2 wildlife rehabilitator permit.
These native animals are also ambassadors for Reflection Riding and for conservation. Ms. Gailmard has frequent educational activities at Reflection Riding, takes the animals to outreach events, and is a frequent guest on local and regional media outlets. Although people clearly react positively to the animals, it is Tish’s professionalism, knowledge, and passion for wildlife conservation and stewardship that comes across so well.
Every tear, Reflection Riding hosts school-age children who visit the property. Last year, around 15,000 came on school-sponsored field trips, the majority of the children coming from Title I public schools. Ms. Gailmard’s wildlife conservation presentations with the animals are clearly the highlight of the day for most.
In addition, she serves as a trainer and mentor for RRANC staff and volunteers. In that capacity, she has trained and mentored scores who have learned and grown. One volunteer, Paul Erik Bakland, a graduate student studying biology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, stated “What I learned from Tish has changed my life. Learning the practicalities of supporting a wildlife center has been a perfect complement to my university studies.”
Ms. Gailmard has earned a reputation as a leader in the effort to save the American Red Wolf from extinction as a species. Nearly 40 years ago, Red Wolves were declared extinct in the wild. The 14 known wild Red Wolves were captured and re-located to a breeding program in Tacoma, WA. Today, about 216 live in captive breeding facilities across the country, including the Red Wolf Project at Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center in Chattanooga. Many consider the Red Wolf Recovery Program to be one of the most successful conservation initiatives ever undertaken. In addition to growing the total number nearly ten-fold, Red Wolves have been reintroduced to the wild. Some of those introduced adults have successfully brought wild Red Wolf pups into the world.
At Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center, Tish Gailmard has led the effort for the long-term survival of a self-sustaining red wolf population. RRANC is among only 44 approved zoos and wildlife centers throughout the U.S. that are sanctioned to manage the red wolf population as a genetic reservoir. William T. Waddell, a biologist at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (Tacoma WA) and architect of the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan, has worked with Ms. Gailmard for nearly 20 years. He writes:
The Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center has been an active partner in red wolf conservation efforts through their participation in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP).
Officials said, "Ms. Gailmard serves as a steering committee member on the RWSSP and while she is a strong red wolf advocate, Tish demonstrates conservation principles that extend well beyond a single species focus. She has steadfast attention to quality animal care that is unmistakable to those who know and interact with her. As the RWSSP institutional representative at RRANC, Tish and her animal care staff, have participated in a variety of red wolf research projects, accomplished many breeding and transfer recommendations, and conduct impressive education programs that support red wolf conservation and awareness. Tish is a dedicated wildlife professional and her solutions-oriented approach to the challenges that all wildlife face encourages action and engagement that will inspire future conservation professionals."
Finally, Larry Zehnder, president and CEO at Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center, described Ms. Gailmard as, “The heart and soul of our wildlife and conservation effort. A consummate professional with deep knowledge of every aspect of wildlife operations and management, Tish is above all a passionate advocate for conservation.”