Anne Innis Dagg

The Giraffe Whisperer

From a young age, Dagg was inspired to study wildlife, and became the first Western zoologist—male or female—to study giraffe behavior in the wild. She has authored several groundbreaking works and is recognized as a world-renowned expert on giraffes.

Ann Innis was born on January 25th, 1933, in Toronto. Her interest in wildlife grew after visiting the zoo with her mother. She later enrolled at the University of Toronto, achieving a bachelor’s in 1955 and a master’s in 1956, both in biology. When applying to work in Africa after graduation, she applied under the name “A. Innis” so she wouldn’t be rejected because of her gender. When the owner of the ranch where she was scheduled to work learned she was a woman, he refused to admit her. Dagg wrote letters on a weekly basis asking for permission to stay at the ranch, and the owner eventually relented.

She became the first woman and one of the first Western researchers to study wild animals in Africa in 1956, focusing on animal behaviour. She spent hundreds of hours observing giraffes, publishing her first book in 1976 called “Giraffe: Biology, Behaviour and Conservation” which is now a staple for zoologists.

Dagg became a part-time teacher at Wilfrid Laurier University in 1962. She was hired full-time as a lecturer in 1968 in the zoology department at the University of Guelph. She worked for the University of Waterloo from 1978 to 2013, working in their Independent Studies program as a professor, advisor, and director. She inspired many famous zoologists during her career, including Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, and later fought for gender equity in academia.

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