Dr. Jo-Elle Mogerman becomes first woman president and CEO of America’s first zoo

Francis Akhalbey August 18, 2023
The Philadelphia Zoo has appointed Dr. Jo-Elle Mogerman as its president and CEO -- Photo Credit: Philadelphia Zoo

The Philadelphia Zoo, America’s first zoo, announced it has appointed Dr. Jo-Elle Mogerman as its next president and CEO. According to The Philadelphia Tribune, Mogerman’s appointment makes her the zoo’s first female and African-American head in its 164-year history.

Mogerman has been serving as the St. Louis Zoo WildCare Park’s director since 2019. She, will, however, replace Vikram Dewan as the president and CEO of Philadelphia Zoo in October. Mogerman was reportedly selected after a thorough 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.”

The Philadelphia Zoo’s board of directors chair, Joanna McNeil Lewis, said they initiated the search for a new president and CEO at the start of the year, adding that Mogerman’s qualities made her the right fit.

“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.

Prior to landing the director position at the St. Louis Zoo WildCare Park, Mogerman served as vice president of learning and community at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. She also worked at Brookfield Zoo where she held leadership roles for almost 14 years.

Mogerman holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Macalester College and a master’s degree in conservation biology from the University of Minnesota. She also holds a doctorate in biology from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Touching on her management style, Mogerman said she focuses on inspiring the team, outlining visions, and making good use of its strengths, per The Philadelphia Tribune.

“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, which is America’s first zoo, started operations on July 1, 1874. The zoo is the first to have orangutan and chimpanzee births in the U.S. as well as the first zoo in the world to build an on-site animal care center, its website states. The zoo is also the first to develop specially-formulated foods for zoo animals and the first to open a Children’s Zoo in the U.S. The zoo also has over 1,700 rare and endangered animals under its care.

“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.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: August 18, 2023


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