Fossil Rim has changed a lot since its opening in 1984. Things were just getting started in those days. There were less animals, less staff and an uncertainty about the future of the organization. However, the staff at the time poured everything they had into caring for the species that were on property. This was true for Arnulfo Muro, who in November of 1984 had only been working in Texas for three months. His days, and sometimes nights, were spent completing whatever needed to be done, and tending to animals like the rhinos.
One particular evening, Muro and his friend and coworker Santos Herrera had spent hours working in the black rhino barn, and were now waiting on Kelley Snodgrass, Fossil Rim’s current Executive Director, to pick them up. As time passed, however, they realized Snodgrass had forgotten about them. That meant it was time to walk. So, Muro and Herrera began their trek across the wide pastures, wary of any animals getting too close.
“When we entered the main pasture, the animals saw us. We would have to climb onto trees to find safety,” says Muro. “The animals would leave, and we would continue our journey, then [they] would see us again, and we would have to climb another tree until the animals would leave.”
Eventually, Snodgrass remembered his mistake, and found his two coworkers. After many apologies, he drove them home in preparation for the next day.
This experience, of course, falls into the category of “things that have changed” here since 1984. Staff no longer wander through the pastures during their commute. However, this memory is one of many that cemented Fossil Rim as a home away from home for Arnulfo Muro. He was dedicated to this unusual line of work, despite being only three months in, and would be for nearly four more decades. Now, Muro is finally retiring, but the mark he has left on Fossil Rim will last for years to come.
The Magic Touch
Muro says that the organization has gifted him with many blessings over the years, like lifelong friends. Many of these friends are employees and organization veterans themselves, like Adam Eyres. The current Director of Animal Care was just starting out as a team member when he met Muro.
“Arnulfo was here when I got here, and he had a lot of respect from all of the staff,” says Eyres. “He was always hard working, ready to help with anything, and he had a certain skill set that he had built over the years (and continued until retirement) that was uniquely his.”
Muro could be found doing any number of things, from building and repairing ever expanding fence lines to caring for animals across the park, says Eyres. Most of all, he loved spending time with his favorite species, the white rhino. Muro knows and remembers each of Fossil Rim’s rhinos fondly. From his first interaction with one of the center’s earliest rhino residents, Tondo, to current ones like M’bili.
Other team members agree that Muro has always had a special connection with the animals he cares for. He himself has referred to this connection as “dedication mixed with a lot of love.” This dedication and love has served him and the animals well. Muro has played a critical role over the years in the identification of illness and injury of Fossil Rim’s species, as well as their protection and care. His understanding of the land and the animals who call it home runs deep, and his work ethic has not faltered in 37 years.
“If there is no conservation, there is no life,” says Muro. “[In] my time here at Fossil Rim, I learned a lot about the animals, their mannerisms and [how to] work with them. I have a fond friendship with animals and their existence.”
The Road Ahead for Muro
Although he originally imagined he’d move back to his home country of Mexico after a few years, Muro and his family fell in love with Glen Rose. This gave him the rare opportunity to commit to a job that didn’t feel like work.
Over the years, Muro has earned recognition and awards for his work, but many of his coworkers agree that no award can truly encapsulate his many storied accomplishments. Kelley Snodgrass, who has remained a dear friend to Arnulfo, knows this better than anyone.
“There is so much that could be said of Arnulfo’s decades of service to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. Quietly incredible, dedicated, nurturing, passionate and knowledgeable,” says Snodgrass. “So many moments [and] memories, so much attention to the things that must be done everyday and done with his caring integrity… our lives and those of our families have been intertwined throughout.”
A Heartfelt Thanks
Muro represents the true heart of conservation— a commitment to hard work and results you may not get to see. Conservation is an ongoing, lifelong mission for those in the field, and patience is key. However, Muro has had the incredible chance to see Fossil Rim grow into the organization it is today, thanks in no small part to him. As he moves on to take a well-deserved break, we will continue to honor his legacy in our work. As Snodgrass put it,
“Thank you Arnulfo for being a key part of making Fossil Rim what it is today, and even more for your friendship.”