The Saint Louis Zoo has announced that South St. Louis City resident Eric Jeltes has received one of four 2013 Hermann Foundation Outstanding Employee Awards. A zookeeper in the Bird House, Jeltes joined the zoo staff in 1994.
His parents are Bruce and Marilyn Jeltes of Winchester.
Jeltes began his career at the Saint Louis Zoo as a part-time keeper in the Emerson Children's Zoo. After graduating from Southwest Missouri State, he studied echidnas in Australia and in 2000 went to the Baltimore Zoo to serve as a reptile and bird keeper. He rejoined the Saint Louis Zoo as a bird keeper in 2003 with the opening of Penguin & Puffin Coast.
He participates in several Association of Zoos & Aquarium management programs, including serving as an AZA Studbook Keeper for sarus cranes. Jeltes has initiated many sustainable practices at the zoo, and he contributes to conservation programs, including work with the zoo's own WildCare Institute's Center for Conservation in Punta San Juan, Peru, where he has been active in helping to save the endangered Humboldt penguin.
Established in 1999, the Hermann Foundation Outstanding Employee Awards go to employees who have "demonstrated exemplary performance, behavior and/or service during the past year in their working relations, attention to safety, productivity/cost saving suggestions, ability to meet deadlines, initiative/originality, accomplishments that advance the Zoo's mission, vision and core values, professional peer recognition, activities that bring recognition to the zoo and customer service.
Named America's No. 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 million visitors a year.