When Your Job Makes You A Monkey’s Mom

By Maria Tabraue, ZWF Miami Vice President & Director

Every year around this time as Mother’s Day approaches, I can’t help but feel the sensation of maternal gratification welling up inside me. Sure, I know I can count on calls and cards from my homo-sapiens offspring—and that’s always wonderful. But equally rewarding is the love I get to share year round with my intra-species children. 

See, as the co-founder and director of the Zoological Wildlife Foundation in Miami, I have over the years enjoyed the privilege of playing surrogate mommy to literally hundreds of wonderful critter-kids.

I remember my first adopted fur-baby. He was a white-faced Capuchin monkey named Puchito. Ever since I was a child I’ve held a special place in my heart for primates and apes. They are so remarkably similar to us, capable of the same breadth and depth of familial feeling, and if you’ve ever spent time with one of these beautiful creatures you know how closely their emotions and mannerisms resemble our own.

Later in my career, a pair of Brazilian Tufted capuchins named Ritchie and Delilah came under my care, and we became inseparable. Caring for them made me feel like a new mom with newborns babies all over again. When those babies, who looked to me for everything during their formative years, grew to have kids of their own, I was doubly proud, my heart filled to the brim with love.

I can confidently say the love is mutual. I feel the palpable affection, the appreciation that they communicate to me every day. It’s more than simply “here comes the lady who feeds us.” It is profound. It is real.

It isn’t all roses, either. Like any parental relationship, there can be discord. Let’s not fool ourselves—these are wild animals living in a zoological setting. They are not domesticated. (Although I recall several specific times when the same could be said about my human children, lest we judge harshly.) Just as in raising a human child (I have two of my own), self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy are ever present. I always feel as though I’m not around enough, that I’m missing important moments in their lives. I worry that I’m making mistakes in how I raise them to be productive members of the animal kingdom. I thought the whole work/life balance part of motherhood would dissipate when my kids became adults—instead I obtained a new set of them!

It’s important to measure these creeping doubts against our mission here at ZWF: Each of these animals has its own purpose in nature, and they each must be loved and cared for in their own way. Like us, they are each unique. They must be treated as such.

So, this Mother’s Day, if you are fortunate enough to have some furry friends in your life who would call you “momma” if only they could talk, make sure they know how you feel.

After all, a mother’s love knows no species.

Employee Of The Month – Caroline – 01/2015


Caroline: Senior Tour Guide

Congratulations Caroline! You received the employee of the month award!

What a fantastic way to start 2015!!

We still remember when you stared with us as volunteer while still in high school! Through out the years, you have excelled so much. You are now a senior tour guide and you deserve it!

We are proud to have you in our team. Thank you for being an outstanding employee!

Maria Tabraue – Professional Women of the Year

Garden City, NY NAPW honors Maria C. Tabraue, Co-Founder, Director, Vice

President and Secretary of Zoological Wildlife Foundation, as a 2014 Professional

Woman of the Year. Ms. Tabraue is recognized with this prestigious distinction for

leadership in business. As the largest, most-recognized networking organization of

professional women in the country, spanning virtually every industry and profession,

the National Association of Professional Women is a powerfully vibrant networking

community with over 600,000 members and nearly 300 Local Chapters.

“Zoological Wildlife Foundation (ZWF) is the fulfillment of my family’s dream,” says

Ms. Tabraue, who is passionate about educating the public about animals, their care

and conservation. More than ten years ago, Ms. Tabraue and her husband purchased

five beautiful acres of land south of Miami. They hired a wonderful, dedicated staff to

help them create a safe environment for endangered, often rare, creatures who have

been acquired for breeding and conservation, as well as rescued wildlife in need of


ZWF is accredited by the Zoological Association of America as a zoo and a

conservation facility that has everything from domestic animals and primates to large

predatory birds and mammals. There are dozens of exotic species at ZWF facility and

it offers more animal encounters than any South Florida zoo. Some of its most popular

exotics include a giant ant eater, sloth, Bengal tiger, white Bengal tiger, white handed

gibbon and an Eurasian eagle owl.

Ms. Tabraue obtained a Legal Assistance degree from Florida International University

and attended Nova University for her Bachelor degree in Professional Management

degree. She oversees and manages the day-to-day business segment of ZWF, including

handling and coordinating the accounting, finance and marketing responsibilities.

NAPW’s mission is to provide an exclusive, highly advanced networking forum to

successful women executives, professionals and entrepreneurs where they can aspire,

connect and achieve. Through innovative resources, unique tools and progressive

benefits, professional women interact, exchange ideas, advance their knowledge and

empower each other.

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