News release from the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo:
Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo Announces Retirement of Executive Director Jim Anderson at end of 2020 Season
National search for new leader to begin immediately
(March 3, 2020) – The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo has announced that longtime Executive Director Jim Anderson will retire at the end of the 2020 season, bringing to a close a career of 40-plus years overseeing and driving much of the Zoo’s growth into a nationally recognized attraction. Anderson is working closely with the Zoo’s board of directors in its national search for a replacement director.
Anderson has served as the Zoo’s executive director since 1994, when he succeeded its founding executive director, Earl Wells. During his tenure, he’s driven more than $30 million in improvements and new attractions at the Zoo, including the Australian Adventure in 1986, the Indonesian Rain Forest in 1996, and the new African Journey in 2009. Today, the Zoo draws an estimated 600,000 people a year – nearly double what it was in 1994.
Anderson originally joined the Zoo in 1976 as a seasonal zoo keeper and was promoted to curator in 1979 and assistant director under Wells in 1986.
“While walking away from the place I’ve loved for 44 years is never easy, I’m confident there’s no better time for me to do so – and no better team to continue building our success than the one we have in place now,” Anderson said. “It’s been incredibly rewarding for me to work with so many dedicated employees, volunteers, and board members to create the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo experience for 20 million guests during the time I have worked here. We have grown and improved – all while staying true to our founding ideals and remaining small and personal, clean and green, and full of engaging experiences and memories for our guests.”
“On behalf of the board and the entire community, we are incredibly grateful to Jim for his vision, his commitment, and his years of dedication to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo,” said Chuck Surack, board president. “And while we don’t think anyone could ever truly ‘replace’ Jim, we will be thorough and comprehensive in our search to ensure the next executive director builds on this institution’s success and sustained momentum.”
Anderson has led or been a part of a number of highlights and initiatives over the course of his 44 years at the Zoo, including:
- An increase in developed acreage from 7 to 40
- An increase of animals from 100 to more than 1,500
- An increase of in-season employees from 25 to more than 400
- An increase in memberships from 1,200 to nearly 16,000
- Dedicated annual investments in animal-conservation partner organizations of more than $280,000 both locally and around the world
About the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is northeast Indiana’s largest tourist attraction, hosting more than 600,000 guests annually. The Zoo was voted Indiana’s #1 “Gotta-Do Summer Attraction” and is consistently named one of the nation’s Top Ten Zoos for Kids by national media outlets.
The Zoo is a conservation leader, contributing more than $286,000 annually to local, regional, and international efforts to protect wild animals and habitats. The Zoo cares for more than 1400 animals and participates in 63 cooperative species survival plans.
As a self-supporting facility, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo receives no tax dollars for operations. The zoo’s operations are funded entirely by earned revenue and donations.
The Zoo will open for the 56th season April 18, 2020. April Zoo hours are 9 am to 5 pm daily. Summer hours May through August are 9 am to 7 pm daily. September and October Zoo hours are 9 am to 5 pm.