By Greg Carannante
City & Shore Magazine
When you think “zoo,” you don’t normally think “personality,” but that may not be the case in South Florida. As its zealous Goodwill Ambassador and communications director, Ron Magill is essentially the human face of Zoo Miami, where he’s worked since its 1980 opening. The spotlight first found him a few years later as handler for Miami Vice’s pet alligator, Elvis; and in his nationally televised appeals for the zoo’s displaced inhabitants following the devastation of Hurricane Andrew, 25 years ago this August.
An expert wildlife photographer, Magill, 57, is now an official wildlife expert for Good Morning America, CNN, Telemundo and Univision. Having been a regular on Sabado Gigante for 27 years, he now appears weekly on ESPN Radio’s Dan Le Batard Show. However, the 45-year Florida resident and UF grad considers his most important achievement to be the over $1 million he’s raised for the zoo’s Ron Magill Conservation Endowment.
Aside from the weather, what do you enjoy most about living in South Florida?
The wonderful cultural diversity combined with the natural beauty from the Everglades to the Keys.
Aside from the weather, what do you dislike most about living in South Florida?
Increasing traffic and impatient drivers.
Are you a beach person or a pool person?
Definitely a beach person.
When in your life are you or have you
been the happiest?
My wedding day [to Rita] and the births of my two children.
What do you do when you’re stuck in a traffic jam on I-95?
Turn up my satellite radio and let the music relax me.
What music are you listening to now?
I know it sounds ‘sappy,’ but ‘Velvet’ and ‘Love Songs’ on satellite radio, which feature Adele, Josh Groban and the like. I also love oldies like Bread and Chicago.
Are you a fan, and if so, of what?
I’m a big fan of college football and basketball – especially my beloved Gators!
Do you do social media?
Facebook [Ron Magill] and Twitter
[@RonMagill], though I rarely tweet.
Who is your real-life hero or heroine?
My father and mother. They did amazing things with very little to provide my sister and me with tremendous opportunities.
If you had to choose: Rocky or Raging Bull?
What car are you driving now?
Cadillac Escalade. I’ve had everything from a koala to a cheetah in that truck!
What do you like most about yourself?
I like to think of myself as a very compassionate and sentimental person, the type of guy not ashamed to say I easily
cry at movies or even a good
What places do you recommend to guests visiting from out-of-town?
Zoo Miami, of course! In addition, the Florida Keys and Everglades National Park.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish I could have a better ‘filter.’ I often say things out of passion and frustration without counting to 10 first.
What do you consider your
In the grand scope of things, it’s certainly my children. In my professional life, it’s the Ron Magill Conservation Endowment, which contributes tens of thousands of dollars annually to conservation in the wild places where the animals we exhibit naturally occur. It will continue to provide this support in perpetuity – a legacy I am extremely proud of!