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The Zoo Team

Meet Our Mammals

Meet the wild humans who help make it all happen - from animal welfare, conservation, education and of course world class wild experiences.

Lee Parker

Ottawa Nature Centre Director

His career began with his private collection of reptiles back home in South Africa with everything from iguanas, to cobras, to adders. It turned into a career not long after and to this day he is following his passion. Overall, he has a total of 23 years of zoo experience of which 13 years were at Accredited Facilities.

Lee's experience is extensive. He has worked for the Swadini (Khamai) Reptile Centre (South Africa), the Big Five Game Trails (South Africa), as well as Reptilia Zoo & Education Centre in Ontario. He has also done a lot of snake wrangling for natural history documentaries (National Geographic, Discovery & BBC).

As zoo director at Little Ray's Nature Centre, he continues to manage facility operations and staff training. One of his biggest passions to this day is teaching adults and kids alike about animals of which so many people have phobias and helps them overcome their fears and misconceptions.

Natalie Parker

Ottawa Nature Centre Curator

Natalie started off her career in interior design and while working as a designer fresh out of college she began volunteering at the Toronto Wildlife Centre. It was then that she first realized that the animal field is where her true passion lies. Not long after, she began working at Reptilia Zoo & Education Centre in Vaughan, Ontario, as an Animal Ambassador teaching the public about reptiles and their importance to our environment.

After a few years of curating and continuously growing her skills, she took on the design, build, and managing of Reptilia’s second location with her husband Lee.

As Head Curator at Little Ray’s Nature Centre, she has broadened her knowledge with a variety of mammals and birds of prey as well. Working closely with our Veterinarian during our scheduled bi-weekly visits she has also seen many different cases and learned a tremendous amount. She is in charge of the overall health and well-being of the current collection as well as any new animals coming in. She assists with the training of all staff as well as making sure that our animal and human welfare is always her priority.

Amanda Steen

Hamilton Nature Centre Director/Curator

Amanda is the Curator at the Little Ray's in Hamilton. She attended the University of Guelph for Biological Sciences and Nutrition and Nutraceutical Sciences, with an emphasis on animal science. Unsure of what she wanted to do with her degree, while in university she saw a posting for Little Ray's and knew she had to apply - the rest is history!

Amanda has been with Little Ray's for 5 years now. As the curator, she has a wide range of duties. She helps with the care of the animals and ensures that the care and welfare of the animals are to the highest standard. She is also responsible for training new staff on policies, procedures, animal handling and animal presentations.

Amanda works closely with the Veterinarian and is responsible for keeping the animal records up-to-date. In addition to those duties,  you can find Amanda at the front desk answering emails and the phone but also enthusiastically presenting to visitors of all ages on her favourite thing - the animals!!

Dr. Andre Ngo

Director of Education

Dr. Ngo is our Director of Animal Welfare and Education. As a biologist, Dr. Ngo is involved in academic research and conservation, even publishing here at Little Ray’s. His experience in this field is an asset as we arrange for permits and evaluate best practices in our animal care and museum exhibitions.

He is also an educator with a passion for curriculum development, and has taught full time at the elementary, middle school, high school, and even college level, giving him additional insight into the needs of the educational community as well as those of museum and zoo visitors. This combined with decades of zoo, museum, and animal husbandry experience, has made him a natural fit as our Director of Animal Welfare and Education.

Dr. Ngo is passionate about both conservation and education, and this comes through as he helps develop exhibit content, curriculum compliant educational programs, and our animal care and welfare programs.

Dr. Cheryl Laite


When Cheryl Laite was five years old, she told her mother she wanted to be an "animal doctor," and that has been the focus of her life ever since.

Originally from Newfoundland and now residing in Ottawa, Ontario, Cheryl is ‘99 graduate of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (BSc Agriculture) and a 2004 graduate of the Atlantic Veterinary College (DVM).

Also working as a firefighter with Ottawa Fire since 2016 while still practicing veterinary medicine, rescue work and wildlife conservation plays a major role in her life.

After several weeks at Ol Pejeta Conservancy (Kenya) in 2018 and working with Sudan - the last male Northern white rhino - this first-hand experience allowed her to then speak from a different platform and learn about conservation more intrinsically.

2019 then took her to Malilangwe, Zimbabwe, on the Wildlife Capture Course - a leading training course in chemical and physical restraint of wild animals, emphasizing community involvement and conservation.

2020 led her to Australia, as part of a search and rescue team for injured wildlife, and providing veterinary care as well as a long awaited visit to the Zululand Rhino Orphanage.  

Sam Mcpherson

Hamilton Nature Centre - Animal Care Manager

Sam started at Little Rays as a high school CO-OP student in 2016 and continued to volunteer after her placement was over. She realized that her true passion was caring for animals and educating the public on the wonders of the natural world, and in 2017 she began working as a wildlife educator and animal care attendant. To broaden her knowledge Sam pursued a bachelors degree in Biology with a specialization in Zoology at Laurentian University in Sudbury, she graduated in 2022.Sam is now the animal care manager of our Hamilton location, over seeing the care of our collection. This includes daily enclosure maintenance, enrichment, feedings, administering medications and much more.Sam also continues to do one of her favorite things, sharing her passion for animals with visitors of all ages!

Jennifer Clarke

Syracuse Nature Centre - Director

“Meet Jennifer Clark, our Facility Director in Syracuse NY and owner of Out Of The Cage Wildlife Rescue. Jen has been working with the NY State Department Of Conservation as a licensed rehabilitator and educator since 2009. She owned and operated her own business conducting animal rescue & outreach programs before teaming up with Little Ray’s in 2018. She has been caring for our amazing animal ambassadors across the border since. Powered by her enormous heart, endless compassion and coffee, you can find Jen running the daily operations of our nature center! She also spends countless hours behind the scenes connecting with our animals, leading our animal care team, out on the exhibit floor connecting with our guests, giving exciting animal presentations or nursing wounded and orphaned animals to safely be released back into the wild. Come visit Jen and her team at Little Ray’s Nature Center in Destiny USA Syracuse, New York!“