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Columbus Zoo Announces New President and CEO

Media Alert: Thursday, February 14, 2013


February 14, 2013
Patty Peters
Vice President Community Relations
Powell, Ohio – The Board of Directors of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is pleased to announce the unanimous selection of Tom Stalf to the position of President and CEO of the Zoo and its other entities: Zoombezi Bay, Safari Golf Club and the Wilds conservation center.
Stalf joined the Columbus Zoo in May 2010 as the Senior Vice President of Operations and one year later was promoted to Chief Operations Officer. The Board of Directors appointed him interim CEO when Dale Schmidt resigned in August 2012.
“The Board commissioned an assessment of the organization--where it is now and where we want to be in the future.  It became very clear from the report, and comments from many leaders in our community, that Tom Stalf is the right person to lead the Zoo and its other properties,” said Board Chair Phil Pikelny. “During his time as interim CEO, Tom demonstrated strong leadership and advanced the organizational goals and mission. He is directing the progress of Safari Africa, the largest project in the Zoo’s history which opens in 2014, and is coordinating this summer’s arrival of 25 animatronic dinosaurs to engage people of all ages in the prehistoric past and lessons for our planet’s future. In 2012 the Wilds experienced record breaking attendance and Zoombezi Bay produced record revenue. Safari Golf Club was voted the number one public course in central Ohio. Tom has the experience and credentials as a successful zoo director, he embodies passion and vision, and he has our full support and endorsement.”
Tom brings to his leadership role more than 20 years experience gained by first working as zookeeper and then advancing quickly through every aspect of zoo management – from animal care to exhibit design to financial management to strategic visioning.  He became the youngest zoo director in the country when tapped to manage Niabi Zoo in Illinois in 1995 and guided that zoo to gain national accreditation for the first time.
Annually more than 2.4 million people visit the Columbus Zoo and its other entities, making it one of the most successful zoological institutions in the country and a significant economic engine in central Ohio.
“My life has been dedicated to inspiring people to care about wildlife and wild places but I know I can’t do it by myself,” Stalf said. “I walk through the Zoo and talk with our animal care experts, educators, conservationists, guest services representatives and others who I encounter. As often as possible I travel to the Wilds near Zanesville and immerse myself in the important science we conduct there. Whether I’m talking with team members from the Zoo, the Wilds, Zoombezi Bay or the golf pro at Safari Golf Club, our entire team is united by our shared goal of furthering our mission of connecting people with nature.”
A tireless champion for wildlife, Stalf uses his gift of storytelling and love of education to help inspire people to join the Zoo’s mission to protect animals globally and locally. He has traveled with Jack Hanna for education programs, zoo promotions and national television appearances for more than 15 years, and he does regular speaking engagements and television appearances. He also speaks on behalf of state and federal legislation that affects wildlife.
Stalf places a high priority on animal welfare and conservation, and he has traveled to several countries where the Zoo supports programs that help people help protect wildlife, including a program that helps to save mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Africa. Globally, The Columbus Zoo has more than 70 conservation projects in 30 countries that are supported by $1 million raised through public donations and fundraisers each year.
“Since coming to the Columbus Zoo, and while I served as interim CEO, I utilized the time to engage staff members and members of the community and I heard how passionate they are about our Zoo,” Stalf said. “I share that passion and am enthused to have this tremendous responsibility and feel privileged to do what I love each and every day.” 
Stalf is a professional member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), has served as an AZA accreditation mentor and is currently a member of the Government Affairs committee.  He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Western Illinois University.
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The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 575 species from around the globe. The Zoo complex is a recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Club. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also operates the Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in southeastern Ohio. The Zoo is a regional attraction with global impact; contributing more than $1 million annually to support over 70 conservation projects worldwide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating.