Job Listing

Zoo Director

Zoo Miami, Miami

REPORTING TO:         Maria I. Nardi, Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces (PROS) Director               

Miami Dade County and Miami Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces (PROS) Department has a tremendous opportunity for a new Zoo Director at Zoo Miami.
The Zoo Director provides overall leadership of Zoo Miami, the fifth largest zoo in the U.S., and the oldest and largest zoo in Florida; providing both the daily operational management and the visionary, strategic leadership to advance the Zoo’s mission:  “To share the wonder of wildlife and help conserve it for generations to come.” Day-to-day management of a 740-acre campus comprised of 327 developed acres that are home to more than 3,000 animals representing over 500 different species, of which more than 130 are at risk in the wild; many classified as endangered or critically endangered. The Zoo also houses more than 1,000 species of trees, palms and other plants, and over 100 special exhibits showcasing a broad number of species, educational and scientific topics.   In addition to a direct reporting relationship to the Director of the PROS Department, this position is held accountable by a Zoo Oversight Board.   

Highlights of the Zoo Miami’s performance include:

  • Total economic impact of the Zoo - $500M annually
  • Annual attendance FY2018/19: 859,517; five-year peak annual attendance of 972,454 in 2014/15
  • Major capital improvements and enhancements include:
    • New and improved Zoo Lights (2017)
    • Dinosaurs Live temporary exhibit (2019/20)
    • New Entry Plaza (2015-16)
    • PlayWorld Playground (2011-12)
    • Wacky Barn (2010-11)
    • Amazon & Beyond (2008-09)
  • Member Households: 21,005 in 2018
  • Number of Wildlife Conservation projects supported: 18 projects and $135,155 of investment
  • Total volunteer hours in 2017/18: 95,918

The Zoo Director will lead the business management of a $31.3 million operation (in FY18-19), of which approximately half is generated through earned revenues consisting of admissions, concession sales, rentals, rides, tours, special encounters, and events. Supervisory oversight of more than 350 FT and PT employees performing the following functions: business operations, animal science and veterinary services, nutrition management, communications, guest services, security, trades, horticulture, transportation, conservation and research, group sales and special events, ticketing and concession operations, graphic and interpretive exhibit design, and construction management. Ensuring a safe and engaging working environment for more than 500 volunteers and interns, as well as the staffs of operational partners including: Zoo Miami Foundation (30 plus), and food, beverage, retail, concessions contractors (150 plus).

Operation of infrastructure and facilities that include animal hospital, necropsy building, nutrition/food prep center, quarantine holding, 800-seat amphitheater, warehouses, elevated monorail system, trams, transportation service barn, brooder/hatchery center, plant nursery, composter, sewer lift station, and water well field. Ensuring that the Zoo consistently meets rigorous standards for animal care and welfare, education, conservation and research, and guest services to maintain the continued accreditation by the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA); guides the five-year accreditation application submission, inspection and hearing process as set forth by AZA. Growing and maintaining collaborative partnerships with Zoo Miami Foundation, the Zoo’s support organization, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools BioTech magnet high school, middle school and elementary school that have on-site programs; serving as the host location for a conservation zoology field research center - the only one of its kind. 

Serving as the Conservation Hub for Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department, developing and maintaining strong relationships with regulatory County departments and County elected officials, with special emphasis on the district commissioner, other government agencies, state legislators, and business industry partners such as the GMCVB, Florida Attractions Association, and local chambers of commerce. Developing and maintaining strong relationships with conservation, environmental and regulatory partners such as Everglades National Park, FFWCC, USFWS, and USDA; and ensuring that Zoo Miami is an active leader, partner and supporter for both local and global wildlife and environmental conservation initiatives (currently involved in about 30 programs annually across five continents).  

Serves on the boards of the Zoo Miami Foundation and Zoo Oversight Board to ensure collaborative support of the mission of the Zoo. Alignment of development and implementation of the institution’s strategic plan and its master plan for long term capital improvements with MDPROS. Oversight of strategic marketing program in conjunction with the Foundation to grow and maintain diverse audiences that create meaningful connections that support the Zoo’s mission.


  • Supervises more than 350 FT/PT staff in the daily operational management of Zoo, providing oversight of business and budget performance.
  • Collaborates with supporting partner Zoo Miami Foundation in strategic direction and fundraising support; serves as a board member in board and committee meetings; supports volunteer program, attending meetings and addressing ideas and issues. 
  • Reports to MDPROS Director and participates as a senior leader in the PROS Department in all aspects of business planning and performance excellence initiatives; attends weekly AD meetings, monthly senior staff meetings, and quarterly all staff meetings.
  • Participates as a zoo director in the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to maintain accreditation by learning and adopting new standards and best practices in the industry. 
  • Serves as a member of the Zoo Oversight Board, coordinating with the Chairman to develop monthly meeting agendas; prepares and presents reports monthly.
  • Participates as a senior leader in the attractions industry, engaging with the Florida Attractions Association (FAA), IAAPA, GMCVB, etc.

Regular Dealings With

Subject Matter


  • District 9 Commissioner Moss, as Chair of the Zoo Oversight Board
  • Zoo Oversight Board matters
  • Monthly
  • PROS Department Director
  • Departmental and Zoo Operations Updates and Review
  • Weekly
  • PROS Dept. Assistant Directors and Division Chiefs
  • Personnel, Procurement, Contract Management, Budget, Finance, operations needs
  • Daily/Weekly
  • County OMB
  • Performance review, budget development, travel review
  • Monthly
  • Zoo Miami Foundation staff and board members
  • Marketing oversight, operational management, development planning, fundraising
  • Daily
  • Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) staff and/or other institutional members
  • Accreditation, committee participation, industry best practices
  • Weekly


The following knowledge, abilities, skills, and traits are necessary for this position:

  • A collaborative, progressive thinker and leader who will bring creative ideas and approaches to the role
  • Business and financial experience managing an organization with a large budget; Zoo Miami’s budget is >$30M/year
  • Demonstrated experience with broad based marketing campaigns to drive attendance and revenue
  • Experience leading the development of organizational long-range strategic plans
  • Broad-based leadership and management experience heading a large and diverse workforce
  • An understanding of and experience with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and other accrediting bodies
  • Expertise of the workings of the tourist industry and the opportunities the travel and tourism market may represent for the Zoo
  • A proven leader of people, with the ability to strengthen and support a collaborative and passionate mission-driven organizational culture;
  • Experience in the leadership and management of an accredited zoological park or aquarium, animal welfare, conservation, nature-based or similar visitor-related business or institution;
  • Prior success in working with community leaders, government and professional associations;
  • History of growing revenue, particularly from guest services and earned income streams;
  • Proven experience in creating, managing, and monitoring operational and capital budgets as well as strategic and master plans;
  • An understanding of and preferable experience with state, county, or municipal government structures, standards, and operations;
  • Ability to travel and represent the Zoo at industry conferences and programs and to identify industry best practices;
  • Demonstrated experience and knowledge of animal care standards and understanding of zoo design;
  • Ability to be flexible and adapt to changing environments;
  • Excellent interpersonal and organizational skills and the capability of working effectively with numerous stakeholders;
  • Ability to analyze complex business, human resources and operating situations and identify solutions;
  • Thoughtful, diplomatic, trusting, and approachable; team-oriented with good listening skills;
  • Demonstrated integrity, positive ethics and high values; and
  • A proven commitment to conservation with a vision of how to advance and connect the mission of the Zoo and the Parks.

Professional Traits

  • Progressive
  • Understanding of Tourist Industry
  • Budget experience
    • Zoo budget is approximately 30 million a year
  • Agnostic to work with the greater good of the AZA and the conservation of species
  • Marketing
  • Strategic Planning
  • Personnel Experience
  • AZA experience
  • Business experience with large organizations
  • Conservation vs Acquiring


  • Bachelor’s Degree

Certification and Licensing:

  • N/A


  • A minimum of six to ten years of experience in the administration and management of a large zoo facility to include supervisory experience is required.

Personal TRAITS:

  • A passionate leader who can create a vision of the future and rally a team to achieve that vision;
  • Ability to be persistent, patient, flexible and adapt to structured and systems driven environments;
  • Personal commitment to and history of achievement and support in the Zoo’s mission of animal welfare, conservation and education;
  • Excellent interpersonal and organizational skills and the capability of working effectively with numerous stakeholders;
  • Personal initiative with the ability to lead, direct and motivate;
  • Strong verbal and writing skills and the ability to communicate effectively;
  • Ability to analyze complex business, human resources and operating situations and identify solutions;
  • Tactful, diplomatic, trusting, and approachable; team-oriented with good listening skills;
  • Demonstrated integrity, positive ethics and high values; and
  • A strong personal interest and passion for the mission elements of zoos.

To be considered for this excellent opportunity, please forward your cover letter and a detailed resume in PDF format to:

David Walsh
Zoo Advisors, LLC

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