21 September 2015
The family of Hamilton Zoo Curator Samantha Kudeweh have gathered at her Waikato home following her death on Sunday, 20 September, at the zoo she loved.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Samantha's colleague Catherine Nichols – also a Hamilton Zoo staff member – says the extended Kudeweh family wanted to thank the public and the global zoo and conservation community for their messages of support over the past 24 hours after news of Sam's death became public.
Samantha, 43, was recognised and respected globally as a talented, passionate and highly knowledgeable conservation and zoo professional whose expertise and understanding of animals was highly sought after by other zoos and captive animal breeding programmes.
Catherine says Samantha was an experienced zoo industry professional who had an exceptional reputation following more than 20 years in the conservation and zoo sector.
Her role as Curator at Hamilton Zoo made her second-in-charge to the Zoo Director, and she was responsible for the management of the animals and acquisitions of new animal exhibits.
"Samantha was a passionate conservationist, and today her family have recalled how, as an intermediate school student, she told her parents she wanted to work in the zoo sector," says Catherine. "She was a volunteer at Auckland Zoo for a number of years before joining the staff."
She grew up in Papakura, and studied at Lincoln University and Auckland University toward a Bachelor of Science.
She worked at Auckland Zoo for several years, before a shift to Zoos Victoria in 2002. During her stay in Melbourne she met Richard Kudeweh, another zoo professional who she would go on to marry.
In 2005, Samantha and Richard moved to Hamilton Zoo, where she started as the mammals team leader. In 2011 she was promoted to zoo curator, achieving one of her professional dreams. It gave her the opportunity to become involved in a number of species management programmes, an area of conservation which she had a passion for.
She was responsible for managing breeding programmes for a number of species, including the southern white rhino, and was able to influence the zoo sector across Australasia.
She was NZFaunaTAG co-convenor (birds), a nationwide programme to help rebuild populations of native species.
Samantha has two beautiful children with Richard – Billy, 9, and Sage, 3. The zoo was a crucial part of Samantha's life, second only to her family. She appreciated what Richard called "intelligent humour", and loved the people around her and those she worked alongside.
Family and friends of Samantha have asked for privacy at this time while they grieve and make arrangements for an appropriate farewell for Samantha.
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