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Meet our team

Suzi Rapp

OUR TEAM

Kuzo Black Heart

The KUZO Group collectively has more than 75 years of experience working with animals and their caregivers, which affords us the ability to customize our services to fit many needs.

Experts for Animals
Wouter Stellaard
Kelly George

Suzi Rapp

Experts for Animals
Suzi Rapp

Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, Suzi Rapp knew at an early age where she wanted to work: in zoos. She attended Ohio University, earning a degree in Health and Human Sciences and Education before embarking on a 40+ year career at the Columbus Zoo. Suzi began her career working in the Education Department and later played a key role in developing the Promotions Department, in time becoming the Vice President of Animal Programs. 

 

In the Education Department, Suzi developed and implemented education programming. As the Educational Coordinator, she managed staff and oversaw all on-grounds shows. Over time, she created summer experiences, camp-in programs, special Saturday programs, outreach programs, and preschool programs. Suzi created a high school zoo program through a local technical school and created and taught a high school “Zoo School.”

 

As the Director of Animal Programs, Outreach, and Animal Encounters, Suzi managed more than 20 full-time staff and many seasonal employees, and she oversaw a collection of over 135 animals. She assisted in hand rearing baby animals for a variety of zoological institutions, as needed, becoming an expert in raising neonates not only for Columbus, but for many ZAA and AZA facilities as well. In time, the AZA called upon her expertise to create best practices protocols for hand rearing cheetahs, clouded leopards, and penguins, among others.

 

Suzi developed the Ambassador Animals program in Columbus and utilized her ambassadors to educate and inspire. She designed and implemented programs for local events such as fairs, company picnics, Kiwanis and Lions clubs, and more. In further outreach, she created an ambassador program for schools—including trips to rural schools where a large percentage of the student body had never been to a zoo. Suzi’s team did over 3,000 programs a year, always discussing not only animals, but conservation as well.

 

For 35 years, Suzi appeared weekly on a major television networks’ local show, educating people about animals, conservation, and the important work that zoos do. She’s also shared information across media channels (tv, radio, podcasts, online and print articles, and books) and has been prominently featured on National Geographic’s “Secrets of the Zoo.” A versatile and engaging speaker, Suzi has spoken to visitors on zoo grounds, at conferences, at fundraising events, and has worked numerous times with members of Congress as an advocate for zoos, animal welfare, and conservation. 

 

In 2009, Suzi helped design a ground-breaking exhibit (Animal Encounters Village) that allows visitors up-close and personal animal encounters. She oversaw and launched the memorable and impactful animal encounters that happen there. She went on to assist in the design and implementation of the watering hole concept at the Columbus Zoo’s “Heart of Africa” region. Suzi also managed the cheetah population, hyenas, aardvarks, warthogs and hornbills, as well as the Animal Programs team in the Heart of Africa region. She also oversaw the Animals Program Department at The Wilds in Eastern Ohio (a second zoological park that the Columbus Zoo owns). 

 

In 2016, Suzi worked toward the opening of a 32-million-dollar exhibit, Adventure Cove, which opened in 2020. Suzi provided input on the design of the exhibit. She assisted the zoo in acquiring seven sea lions from Shanghai, China, and oversaw their care and travel from there to Florida, and to their new home in Ohio. She also assisted in acquiring four harbor seals, and an additional three sea lions from here in the US and oversaw the transfer of them all to Columbus.

Suzi was the driving force behind the first successful In Vitro Fertilization Transfer of cheetahs, which happened in 2020. The ways in which the cheetahs participated voluntarily in the process, and the birth of two healthy cubs is, to Suzi, a special highlight of her career.

 

In her 40+ years, Suzi has done a great deal of fundraising, creating events in Columbus for the Cheetah Conservation Fund. She also assisted with fundraising for Tanganyika Wildlife Park, Akron Zoo, Brookfield Zoo, Chattanooga Zoo, Louisville Zoo, Toledo Zoo, Lowry Park Zoo, Alexandria Zoo, Dallas Zoo, Fort Worth Zoo, Blank Park Zoo, all the Busch Gardens, and all the Sea World Parks, just to name a few. 

 

Suzi has been an active member of ZAA for ten years and currently serves on the Welfare Committee. At AZA, she served as a member of their Animal Welfare Committee, was a Program Animal Liaison for their Felid Taxon Advisory Group, and a Public Relations Liaison for the Cheetah Species Survival Plan. Suzi is a board member of the Cheetah Conservation Fund and a board member of Ocean Connections. She serves on Wendy’s International’s Animal Welfare Council. 

Suzi is a founding member of The KUZO Group, a consulting firm specializing in individually designed programs that include animal training and behavior; animal welfare; guidance and assistance with neonate care and hand rearing; guest experience; environmental design; and more.

Kelly George PhD.

Experts for Animals
Kelly George PhD.

Dr. Kelly George received her PhD from The Ohio State University and taught in higher education on the topics of animal welfare and the human-animal relationship from 2008-2023. Her research there focused on better understanding decisions regarding societal and personal concern (empathy) for animals, best practices for assessing how an animal in human care copes with its environment, including during interactions and transport, and the effect of human-animal interactions. Dr. George advised multiple graduate students conducting research in these areas. She has presented at national and international conferences and has many peer-reviewed publications. Dr. George was the creator of an animal welfare training program called Alphabetic Welfare, and is a founding partner in The KUZO Group LLC, providing consulting services for organizations as they develop animal welfare programs, interactions protocols, and animal environments.

 

Kelly currently serves as a member of Wendy’s International's (Headquarters Dublin, OH, USA) animal welfare council, is a conservation auditor for American Humane, and is part of the WorthWild Africa (not for profit) management team. Additionally, Dr. George served for four years on the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium's (Columbus, OH, USA) animal welfare committee and five years as Co-director of the Center for Human-Animal Interactions Research & Education (CHAIRE).

Wouter Stellaard

Experts for Animals
Wouter Stellaard

Wouter Stellaard's passion for animals led him to begin working with them in a wildlife rehabilitation center when he was a young teen in the Netherlands. There, he created his own animal ambulance while finishing his animal care studies. In search of further education, in 1998 he took a leap of faith and came to the U.S. (knowing very little English) to pursue training, later graduating from the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark College. After an internship, he was hired at Natural Encounters, Inc. As a senior trainer, he helped create, set up, train, and present bird shows at zoos and aquariums across the country. After becoming the Director of Behavioral Programs, he consulted both nationally and internationally to create zoo-wide animal training programs with keepers to grow their training and presentation skills. He also consulted as part of the team at natural encounters to design elements for the Dallas Zoo's award-winning Giants of the Savanna exhibit.

 

At the Columbus Zoo, Wouter served as the Animal Programs Training Director. He was responsible for the training of staff and animals in a variety of areas with a variety of taxa. He and his team produced natural behavior mixed species shows and ran an immersive animal encounters guest area, as well as an African exhibit experience. He also consulted on the design elements of the Columbus Zoo's multimillion dollar Africa and Adventure Cove habitats.

 

Currently, Wouter is a founding member of The KUZO Group and owner of Behavior 360, where he focuses on training the trainers while setting up department or zoo- or aquarium-wide training programs and guest experiences. 

 

Wouter’s passion is teaching people how to train animals using the science of behavior change to further the industry standards. 

Linda Stanek

Experts for Animals
Linda Stanek

Lead Writer and Content Creator Linda Stanek brings twenty-plus years of professional writing and publishing experience to The KUZO Group, including web copy; business writing; grade-leveled, STEM-correlated lesson plans and books; magazine articles; social media posts and graphics; both fiction and nonfiction books for children and adults; and television scripts. Linda’s books include animal life science and conservation messaging and have garnered national and regional awards, including the International Reading Association's 3rd-4th Grade Book of the Year for Once Upon an Elephant (Arbordale Publishing), a book that brings the concept of keystone species to young people. In addition to animals and conservation, Linda’s other passion is taking ideas and concepts and translating them into crystal clear, accurate, engaging, and age-appropriate media. Linda received a Bachelor's degree in Early and Middle Childhood Education from The Ohio State University, and is Cornell University Environmental-STEM Education certified. She's a member of  ZAA, The North American Association for Environmental Education, Writer's Guild, and The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Whether your immediate needs are large or small, we're experts for animals, and we're here to help! 

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