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San Diego Zoo announces Erika Kohler as new executive director

The San Diego Zoo has appointed Erika Kohler as its executive director, making her the second woman to hold the post in the institution’s 106-year history.

Kohler has worked for San Diego Zoo since 2015, when she was made director of operations. Prior to that, she worked at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Since November 2021, Kohler has served as the zoo’s interim executive director.

“Erika Kohler has been an invaluable part of the San Diego Zoo’s recent success while she worked as a deputy director of operations, and most recently as interim executive director,” said Paul Baribault, president and CEO of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

“She makes everyone on her team better and is committed to our mission,” he added.

Second woman to serve as the zoo’s director

san diego zoo wildlife explorers basecamp

“Erika has proven to be a strong leader during times of change with her considered and thoughtful approach, and we are perhaps most honored to be selecting our newest executive director for the San Diego Zoo from within our very own organization.”

Kohler is the second woman to lead the 100-acre zoo, following Belle Benchley, who served as its director from 1927 to 1953. In her role as executive director, Kohler will manage the daily operations of all departments.

“Being appointed as executive director of the San Diego Zoo is an opportunity of a lifetime, and I am honored to formally step into the role,” Kohler said.

“I am excited to continue leading one of the most dynamic teams in wildlife conservation during one of its best moments in history, and continue to create allies for wildlife every day.”

Last month, the San Diego Zoo opened the new $88 million Wildlife Explorers Basecamp, a state-of-the-art experience for children that combines immersive technology and animal exhibits.

Images: San Diego Zoo

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