Mark took over the zoo in 1996 from the previous owners who were ready to retire; they were good friends with Marks mother, Mary Jean Kilby. Mark has learned almost all of his animal husbandry skills, training of animals, the proper handling of animals, from his Mother Mary Jean Kilby. Mark is also a Master Falconer; he has been a licensed falconer and has practiced falconry since 1968 when he was just 13 years old. Marks Father, Robert James Kilby owned his own general contracting business. Mark worked for his father for many years, where he acquired the skills of carpentry, plumbing, and electricity. When Mark took over the facility in 1996 it was in need of a lot of repair, and he quickly put those skills to work.
Since 1962 Mark has worked with exotic and domestic animals. His Mother has kept many animals as pets, everything from dogs, snakes, parrots, bears, and anything and everything that needed a home. His Mother did for a short time own her own Pet Store in the Mid 70’s. Mary Jean Kilby actually donated the first Nile crocodile in 1971 to the National Zoo for an endangered species breeding program. Some National Zoo keepers would come to the Kilby home to see Mary’s vast snake collection; Mary could breed some of the most endangered species of snakes.
Marks mother would show him how to properly handle certain animals, teach him there proper dietary needs, she always promoted responsible pet keeping. Mark learned over the years watching his mother, as well as helping with the daily chores. Mark eventually gravitated towards the reptiles, and birds of prey. Marks main reason he enjoyed the reptiles, and birds of prey, is because there was never any nonsense with them. Every time he watched his mom work with any of the reptiles, whether it was a snake, alligator, or turtle she was always happy. She was singing, and dancing a bit while doing the daily cleaning and care of the animals. It was very different when Mark watched his mother work with any of the mammals and parrots, be it a dog, monkey, bear. She would be constantly yelling at the dogs for barking, and pooping on the floor. Watching the parrots so rudely dump their seed on the floor and water bowl just for the fun of it. The monkeys grabbing the food off the table and running with it, only to have it drop on the floor for the dogs to make an even bigger mess of. The worst memory of all was coming home ready for his afternoon snack to find a Sun Bear sitting on the kitchen counter eating his Twinkies and snacks. He was very happy that the bear was a temporary family member as it had no consideration of other people’s food.