The next president and CEO of the St. Louis Zoo will be an accomplished leader dedicated to the care of wildlife, zoo officials announced Tuesday.
Dwight Scott, managing director of San Diego Zoo, will take over in St. Louis when longtime guide Jeffrey Bonner departs in January.
Scott took the helm in San Diego in 2013. The Missouri native previously served as Executive Director and CEO of the Oklahoma City Zoo, and as deputy director of the Tulsa Zoo. He also worked at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida.
The search committee was impressed with Scott’s 30 years of experience in the field, said Cynthia J. Brinkley, chair of the St. Louis Zoological Park Subdistrict Commission, which oversees the zoo.
“He has a tremendous passion for conservation and certainly believes that diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion programs are really critical to the organization and community,” said Brinkley.
Bonner has been running the St. Louis Zoo since 2002. One of his achievements is the creation of the zoo WildCare Institutewhich is committed to saving endangered animals at 17 locations around the world.
During Bonner’s tenure, the private fundraising group St. Louis Zoo Foundation did spent $ 7.2 million on 425 acres in the Spanish lake. The zoo is planning to build a wildlife park and a breeding facility there, which could be opened as early as 2026. In 2018, St. Louis County voters approved a sales tax increase to raise additional annual funds for the zoo.
“It is really a challenge to sum up your success in 19 years in a few sentences,” said Brinkley of Bonner. “He made a lasting impression on the St. Louis Zoo, and we hope to take on his legacy and not just build on it, but grow it and add more. He has had a very successful career and we were very fortunate to have him as our leader. “
Scott is from Chillicothe in Livingston County. He received his bachelor’s degree in humanities with a major in anthropology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He began his career in the zoo area as a zoo keeper the Kansas City Zoo.
“Growing up in Missouri, I was inspired by visits to the Saint Louis Zoo,” Scott said in a statement. “I look forward to taking the Saint Louis Zoo to new heights, as Dr. Bonner, Charlie Hoessle, Marlin Perkins, George Vierheller and all previous leaders of this world-class organization over the years have done. “
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