Gary Mui: Teaching the next generation of exotic animal trainers

Gary+Mui%2C+EATM%27s+instructional+lab+technician%2C+poses+for+a+photo+on+Wednesday%2C+May+21%2C+2021+at+Americas+Teaching+Zoo+in+Moorpark%2C+CA.+Photo+credit%3A+Ryan+Bough

Ryan Bough

Gary Mui, EATM’s instructional lab technician, poses for a photo on Wednesday, May 21, 2021 at Americas Teaching Zoo in Moorpark, CA. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

By Valeri Roussak

Gary Mui is the Exotic Animal Training Management (EATM) department’s instructional lab technician at Moorpark College. Mui coaches and supervises students from America’s Teaching Zoo to help them improve their training skills with the animals.

A Moorpark College graduate of 1995, Mui discovered his passion for working with animals at a young age.

After graduating, he worked as a professional animal trainer for a company called “Birds and Animals Unlimited.” He gained experience in the entertainment industry all around the world and trained animals for movies, television, advertisements and more.

Gary Mui watches a training exercises at Americas Teaching Zoo
Gary Mui watches a training exercise at Americas Teaching Zoo on Wednesday, May 21, 2021 in Moorpark, CA. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

After 24 years as a trainer with the company, Mui felt like he needed to take a turn in his career and try something new.

He was always enjoyed working with animals and decided to join the EATM program.

“I was getting a little burned out,” Mui shared. “Your life changes, the industry doesn’t change much. Everything that was really cool with that career was kind of dragging me down.”

Mui shared that there was an unfortunate reason for his change in direction. When he was in Japan, he adopted three Australian Shepherd-Saint Bernard mixes. He took them around the world to train them. After they passed away, he needed to do something different.

Beaker, an Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, catches a treat as Gary Mui poses behind him
Beaker, an Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, catches a treat as Gary Mui poses behind him on Wednesday, May 21, 2021 at Americas Teaching Zoo in Moorpark, CA Photo credit: Ryan Bough

Mui wanted a change from the constant traveling and chaos and opted for some stability as a coach for Moorpark College.

“I needed a break from being directly connected to the animals,” Mui stated. “I coach the students and they work with the animals, but I needed that separation for myself.”

Mui is grateful to be working at Moorpark College since February 2019, and EATM staff and students can say the same about him.

Second-year EATM student, Holly Schmidt explained how Mui works with his students to better them for their careers.

“Gary isn’t afraid to give honest feedback. He doesn’t sugar coat things because he wants to help you,” Schmidt elaborated. “It doesn’t mean he’s not kind, he just wants us to get better.”

Gary Mui, EATM's instructional lab technician, speaks to students preparing food on Wednesday, May 21, 2021 at Americas Teaching Zoo in Moorpark, CA.
Gary Mui, EATM’s instructional lab technician, speaks to students preparing food on Wednesday, May 21, 2021 at Americas Teaching Zoo in Moorpark, CA. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

Zoo Development Coordinator, Mara Rodriguez, shared her satisfaction with having Mui on her team.

“I am thrilled to have Gary Mui on the staff at America’s Teaching Zoo,” Rodriguez expressed. “As a graduate, he understands the animal field and has insight on what it is like to be a student. He is very loyal to the college and the program and is putting that loyalty into action every day.”