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Katie, unlike most people, knew from a very young age that she wanted to work with and care for wild animals as a zookeeper. Fortunately the zoo in Denver, Colorado had lots of educational programs to get her started. At thirteen she joined zoo crew to begin pursuing her passion with the amazing animals they have there. The next year she entered the zoo explorers program and began working with other zookeepers in their fields of interest. She excelled when she was working with animals and she became more interested as time went along.

During Katie's last semester of high school, she qualified to be a primate intern with the zoo. It was there that she helped to care for young gibbons Lily and Leo, and she also won the love of a red-capped mangabey named Hank. From the horses she rode in Westernaires, to the hoof stock she cared for in large mammals, and on to the primates that adored her at the zoo, Katie was entrenching herself with the beasts and those that care for them. It was a second family built on common beliefs and shared loves.

In 2007, Katie was accepted into Colorado State University's wildlife program. This brought her another step closer to her realizing her dream of becoming a zookeeper. In October of her first semester we got devastating news that Katie had cancer. The diagnosis was a troubling Ewing sarcoma, which is a deadly bone cancer found in children.

Her wonderful team of doctors developed a nine month treatment plan that included a combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and two surgeries. After finishing a successful treatment, she eagerly awaited a return to CSU for the spring 2009 semester. Katie was ready to move on and get her degree so she could start working in the animal field.

During her ordeal, Katie continued visiting the zoo to keep up with what was happening with the animals and zookeepers that she had become very close with, and she made it a point to know about changes happening at the zoo as well. She worked very hard and the next three years brought her to within 12 credits of graduation when the unthinkable happened. In the fall of 2011, the cancer returned. For the next three years Katie fought a long, and at times, painful battle to overcome the cancer. On June 12, 2014 she lost her battle.

She will always be remembered for her courage, her sense of humor, and above all her love of all living things. Her spirit will live on. That is why her friends and family have established this fund. In her absence, it will continue conservation initiatives in honor of Katie and all of her animal dreams.



Dave Johnson is a Conservationist and retired Pachyderm Zookeeper in Denver, Colorado.  He has a degree in Wildlife Biology and in 2014 co-founded the Katie Adamson Conservation Fund, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, to help endangered animal species throughout the world through education and community engagement.

Dave’s passion for animals is a perfect fit for like-minded individuals and organizations.  Throughout his long 25-year animal career, he has managed to unite people and create something unique and very special in the world of conservation, all of which culminated in the formation of the KACF.

He has authored three conservation picture books that are used throughout the USA and world to introduce and educate kids of all ages about endangered species.  His hallmark book, Zoodiac Kids, replaces the zodiac signs with ZOOdiac signs – one endangered animal representing each month of the year.  His next book is currently underway and scheduled for release by the end of 2023 in four languages – English, Spanish, Nepali and Swahili.

As of 2023, he has traveled twelve times to Nepal with zookeepers and members of the community from throughout the USA to spread education and passion.  Tanzania, South Africa and  Costa Rica are receiving the same treatment.

While growth and new directions are inevitable, Dave’s involvement on the KACF Board of Directors helps to ensure that the fund remains aligned to his original vision.

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