Bruce Shwedick


Bruce Shwedick was born in Munich, Germany in 1959.  His parents lived in Germany for many years while his father Robert served in the US Armed Forces. 

When his father was later stationed at the Pentagon, Bruce was exposed to reptiles during visits to the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park in Washington DC and the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History.

Bruce continued to visit the National Zoo as he grew up and became life-long friends with NZP staff members Michael Davenport, Trooper Walsh, Bela Demeter and Melanie Bond. 

Former NZP Curator of Reptiles, Dr. Dale Marcellini, encouraged Bruce’s interest in crocodilian conservation.  

In 1978, Michael Davenport passed along to Bruce an invitation he had received at the National Zoo to attend the first workshop on crocodile research and farming ever to be held in Africa.  With support from his parents, Bruce attended the workshop held at Victoria Falls, Rhodesia.  During the workshop Bruce became one of the first researchers to photograph Nile crocodile egg-laying and nesting behavior.  Upon his return, Bruce reported on the workshop and presented his photographs and observations with the Herpetology Department and other staff members at the National Zoo and the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee. 

Bruce returned to what became the new nation of Zimbabwe several times in order to continue his training and to learn more about crocodilians.  He has also visited Nile crocodile habitats in Kenya at Mzima Springs in Tsavo National Park and at Lake Turkana in the remote Northern Frontier District.  

In 1987 Bruce traveled to Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire to study West African crocodiles with Dr. Wolfgang Waitkuwait.  While there, Dr. Waitkuwait also recruited Bruce to capture and transport fifty 1.8 meter crocodiles at the National Zoo of Abidjan that needed to be moved from their rearing enclosures to a large breeding enclosure.

Bruce returned to Cote d’Ivoire to work with Dr. Waitkuwait again in 1998.

He has traveled to South America and most recently to Asia in order to continue learning about crocodilians and other reptile species. 

1n 1975 Bruce became a co-founder of the educational service company, Reptile World, Inc. based in Bowie, Maryland, which is still owned and operated by his brother Michael. 

In 1994 Bruce started his own lecture service company, Reptile Discovery Programs, based since then in Plant City, Florida.   

He completed a six year contract providing educational programs and live reptile exhibits for Florida Cypress Gardens between 1996 and 2001.  While based at Cypress Gardens he hatched one female Tomistoma.  This was the third successful breeding of Tomistoma in North America.  Nicknamed Pip, she is currently one of just a handful of Tomistoma that have been captive bred in the United States. 

Bruce also completed four national tours of schools for the Bureau of Lectures and Concert Artists, Inc. based in Lawrence, Kansas.  During those tours between 2002 and 2014, he presented his educational programs at more than 1000 schools in forty-five states and the District of Columbia.   

Bruce lectures annually on venomous snakes and snakebite for US Armed Forces medical personnel training at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.  He has combined a unique ability to communicate to audiences with a skillful and gentle approach to handling and training reptiles.  He has presented more than forty educational programs for the North Carolina Aquarium and has donated his time to speak to volunteers and staff members at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, the Palm Beach Zoo and the National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka. 

An internationally recognized crocodilian specialist, he has become an integral part of the Crocodilian Advisory Group of the American Zoological Association (AZA), participating in the Chinese Alligator and Cuban Crocodile Species Survival Plans.  He has reared twenty-five of the world’s twenty-seven species of crocodilians and has bred eight species in captivity.  Many of the crocodilians that Bruce Shwedick has raised are currently a part of educational exhibits and captive breeding programs in zoological parks and aquariums.  He currently has crocodilians on loan to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo, Zoo Miami and Maryland Zoo.

Bruce has served for almost two decades as an author and instructor for the AZA’s Crocodilian Biology and Professional Management Course, a professional development course for zookeepers and aquarists. 

For the past decade, Bruce served on the Steering Committee of the IUCN/SSC Crocodile Specialist Group.  As Chairman for the CSG’s Tomistoma Task Force, he promoted public awareness of the endangered Tomistoma, aka False Gharial, raising funds for conservation initiatives and at the same time providing a training and consulting service to zoological parks and aquariums.  In 2014, he participated in a month long review mission of crocodile ranching, farming and conservation in Indonesia, along with other members of the IUCN Crocodile Specialist Group including the Chairman, Professor Grahame Webb.  The mission’s participants also included representatives of the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry, its Department of National Parks, the Institute of Sciences and the Indonesian Association of Crocodile Farmers.

In 2017 & 2019, Bruce assisted the veterinary department of the Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh to assemble a team of international crocodilians experts for the purpose of organising and presenting professional development courses and workshops on crocodile management and crocodile veterinary medicine.

The first course and workshop was held in Medan, Indonesia, in 2017, and the second was held in 2019 in Balikpapan, Indonesia. Instructors came from Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Australia, and Florida, USA. Forty Indonesian forestry rangers, wildlife veterinarians and wildlife rescue workers were able participate in these two courses.