Ralph Virden was hired at the Zoo as a carpenter in 1930, but he went on to play a significant role in the construction and development of the San Diego Zoo. During the WPA projects at the Zoo in the late 1930s, he supervised some 200 WPA workers assigned to the Zoo by the government. He occasionally acted as an animal keeper, including traveling to New York to pick up gorillas Mbongo and Ngagi and bringing them back in a Railway Express train car. He developed the Zoo garage and auto repair shop. Ralph was also asked by the Honolulu Zoo to travel to Hawaii in to help them plan and lay out their zoo grounds. Ralph worked at the Zoo for 28 years, retiring July 1, 1958 as Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds.