Staff Report

Santa Barbara Zoo ended weeks of online speculation about the identity of a “mystery animal” with an announcement on March 19 that it is a golden retriever named Bradley, who is in training to be the zoo’s first Ambassador Dog.

More than 300 comments were made on Facebook after the zoo posted two photographic clues. The first, posted March 1, showed a close-up of Bradley’s black nose. The second on March 10 was a paw print in muddy ground.

Popular guesses on Facebook were polar bear, red panda, kangaroo, beaver, wolf and coyote.

Bradley’s official job description states that his overall duty “is to connect with zoo guests so they can understand and care about all animals, especially those in the wild.”

“If people care about animals, then they are more likely to want to save them in the wild by preserving habitat, making sustainable choices, and other actions we talk about here at the zoo,” said Dr. Julie Barnes, the zoo’s Vice President of Animal Care & Health.

If his training goes as hoped, young Bradley will eventually participate in keeper talks on subjects like responsible pet choices and animal training using positive reinforcement. He may also be involved in education programs such as Zoo Camp and might provide outreach to local schools, retirement homes, hospitals and elsewhere.

“Though they might catch sight of him with his handlers and wearing his ‘In Training’ vest, Bradley is not ready to meet the public,” Barnes added.

Ambassador dogs are not uncommon in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). While dogs are sometimes used as companion animals for specific species, Bradley does not go into any animal enclosures.

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