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Dr. Jo-Elle Mogerman Becomes First Woman President and CEO of America’s First Zoo

Dr. Jo-Elle Mogerman has been named president and CEO of the Philadelphia Zoo, America’s first zoo. Mogerman’s hiring makes her the zoo’s first female and African-American director in its 164-year history, according to The Philadelphia Tribune.

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Mogerman has been the director of the St. Louis Zoo WildCare Park since 2019. She will, however, take over as president and CEO of the Philadelphia Zoo in October, succeeding Vikram Dewan. Mogerman was supposedly chosen after a nationwide search.

“I am honored to be selected as the next president and CEO of the Philadelphia Zoo,” Mogerman said. “I look forward to leading Philadelphia’s exceptional team to advance the zoo’s mission and further its impact on the region while also contributing to conservation in ways that are meaningful locally, regionally and nationally.”

She added: “There’s a lot of amazing work underway at Philadelphia Zoo and together with the community and the Zoo team, I am certain we will catapult the nation’s first zoo into a model for zoos of the future.”

Joanna McNeil Lewis, chair of the Philadelphia Zoo’s board of directors, said the search for a new president and CEO began at the beginning of the year, and that Mogerman’s skills made her the appropriate choice.

“Dr. Mogerman’s impressive career and accomplishments speak for themselves, but it was her clear commitment to community, animal welfare, staff development, and operational excellence that made her the right fit for our renowned zoo,” McNeil Lewis said.

Mogerman was vice president of learning and community at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium before becoming director of the St. Louis Zoo WildCare Park. She also worked at Brookfield Zoo for about 14 years, where she held leadership positions.

Mogerman graduated from Macalester College with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in conservation biology from the University of Minnesota. Her degree in biology is also from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In terms of her managerial approach, Mogerman told The Philadelphia Tribune that she concentrates on encouraging the team, outlining visions, and maximizing its capabilities.

“It’s been part of my leadership and management practice to have a tool kit and really trying to understand who I am talking to, what’s of interest to them and what are the points of intersection in terms of things that are mutually beneficial,” she said.

The Philadelphia Zoo, America’s first zoo, opened its doors on July 1, 1874. According to its website, the zoo is the first in the United States to have orangutan and chimp births, as well as the first in the world to create an on-site animal care center. The zoo was also the first to manufacture specially-formulated diets for zoo animals and the first in the United States to open a Children’s Zoo. The zoo also cares for nearly 1,700 unique and endangered animals.

“Philadelphia Zoo is an important and relevant organization in wildlife conservation around the world. I am excited to support Jo-Elle as she takes the helm — she will undoubtedly foster a bright future for our zoo,” Dewan, the Philadelphia Zoo’s outgoing president and CEO, said.

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