Dr. Lara Croft — Veterinarian

Denver, Colorado

In early fall of 2021, the great resignation became apparent in Denver Zoo’s animal health department. A team of four veterinarians and four certified veterinary technicians (CVTs) was suddenly a team of two veterinarians and three CVTs. With a collection of over 3,000 individual animals across all taxa to care for, the stress was heavy and the workload immense. The continued challenges of Covid and the rise of the Omicron variant, led to many days where team members stayed home to protect themselves and others, leaving an ever more reduced staff. Dr. Lara Croft, one of Denver Zoo’s remaining associate veterinarians, was a true hero for her team, Denver Zoo, and the animals in her care during this time.

Faced with daunting circumstances, Dr. Croft quickly recognized the need to support and guide the animal health and animal care teams, providing a calming voice in the chaos and navigating both difficult and rewarding cases with grace, calm, and a focus.  Whether it was a quality-of-life discussion, development of a birth plan, or continuing to make sure we collected life-saving plasma from our elephants, Dr. Croft helped her team tremendously to navigate a path to success. Her ability to support the team’s efforts by helping prioritize cases, adapt to an ever-changing schedule, and work extra hours and days ensured that every animal received the best care possible and that the team was ready for the next case.

Dr. Croft is surrounded by an amazing team at Denver Zoo and could not have done any of this without them. Through her leadership and positive can-do attitude she united the team providing a continued sense of hope that ensured the medical care of the Zoo’s animals did not falter.  It is this dedication to the care of the animals, the care of the team, and the willingness to step up during challenging times that make Dr. Croft a hero worthy of recognition for the work she did and continues to do every day.