Chief Executive Officer- Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo

Posted: 10 May 2024 | Full time | Calgary, Canada 


The Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo (“WICZ”), a renowned institution that aspires to capitalize on its unique position to influence conservation on a global scale, seeks an innovative, visionary, and courageous Chief Executive Officer. Since its founding, the Calgary Zoo has been educating generations of visitors about the need for conservation locally while also pursuing innovative conservation action that goes beyond its gates, the province of Alberta, and Canada. With the launch of the Wilder Institute in 2021, a bold conservation organization was born, specifically dedicated to research-based, collaborative work that engages local people and governments to influence policy and advance global conservation practices. This is an exceptional opportunity to lead a world-class zoo and revolutionary conservation organization in redefining approaches to saving endangered species across the world.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) reports to the Board of Directors and provides strategic leadership to the two arms of this vibrant organization- the Wilder Institute and the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo. The CEO will champion the work across the organization, which is anchored by three critical and interconnected cornerstones: Conservation and Sustainability, Engaging Others, and Inspiring Change, and Care for Endangered and At-Risk Species. The opportunity for the new CEO will be to define the pace of change and strategic plans to continue to evolve the delicate balance between the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo’s conservation ambition and operating a world class Zoo.   Supported by a committed and accomplished board and exceptional leadership team, the CEO will be positioned to make a significant impact in defining what it means to be a modern conservation organization and zoo.

The new CEO must be an experienced and agile leader who is passionate about the mission of the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo and especially driven by the conservation mission that underpins all endeavors across the organization. The CEO will champion the work and mission of WICZ externally, on local, national, and global stages, and strategically position the organization to achieve the growth in conservation impact to which it aspires. Additionally, the CEO will work with the talented team at the Zoo to continue to nurture a world-class guest experience and maintain exceptional animal welfare for the over 100 species for whom the Zoo is home. This position requires an astute ability to influence and persuade, determination to achieve goals, the capacity to inspire vision, and a firm commitment to supporting WICZ’s high-performing staff in their ongoing exceptional work and professional growth. The successful candidate should bring significant leadership experience in a complex organization and demonstrate the ability to lead with vision and unite internal and external stakeholders to achieve common goals.

qualifications and experience

For this pivotal role, the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo seeks a leader who embraces the organization’s bold mission and believes firmly in its distinctive purpose of conservation locally, nationally, and across the globe. While proven leadership and management experience in a renowned, accredited zoo or aquarium would be an asset, it is not required. The successful CEO will be equally visionary, strategic, tactical, and be fluent in the work and issues of conservation.

A deep appreciation of the importance of conservation and the value of zoos in this space is critical. A strong appetite and well-developed aptitude for fundraising, marketing, and public relations are essential.

The CEO must be a gifted public communicator with infectious enthusiasm and the ability to relate to a wide range of audiences. An understanding of global conservation dynamics and the ability to represent the institution locally, nationally, and globally is critical. The CEO must be an agile leader, adept at working within a complex organizational structure.

While no one candidate will meet all the desired criteria, the successful candidate will bring most of the following qualifications and attributes:


  • Track record of providing visionary and innovative leadership and effective management of a complex and sizable organization, preferably one with keen conservation interests.
  • Experience with non-profit governance, including success leading in an organization governed by a Board of Directors.
  • Track record of building and sustaining innovative partnerships and working with diverse stakeholders, including community members, public officials, and professional colleagues.
  • Political savvy and experience working with public officials at the local, province/state, and national levels.
  • Outstanding demonstrated skills in team building and staff development.
  • Fundraising and marketing ability, including experience raising funds from a variety of sources.
  • Strong team-building skills with an ability to mentor and motivate as well as to delegate, inspire, and empower others to succeed.
  • Proven track record building and supporting diverse, equitable, accessible, and inclusive organizations.


  • Passion for conservation and for the leadership role of zoos worldwide in its pursuit.
  • Public presence, exceptional communication skills, and the ability to be a persuasive spokesperson and ambassador for WICZ.
  • Strong emotional intelligence and communication skills to work effectively with the full range of constituents.
  • Imagination, intelligence, gracious self-confidence, good humor, caring attitude, and a high level of energy. Unquestionable integrity.


Lead the transformation of Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo into a preeminent national and international conservation organization

Wilder Institute and the Calgary Zoo are already making a significant impact on the mission of restoring a balance between wildlife and human life. Together, direct action is being taken to save endangered species while inspiring people across the world to focus on conservation and their role in this important endeavor. This already strong reputation provides a solid foundation on which to elevate its scope and influence and for this organization to achieve its full potential of reach and impact. The new CEO will leverage current strengths and future potential in advancing Wilder Institute on a trajectory toward national and global reach for its work and programs in conservation, supported by a world-class zoo. This will require keen attention to government relations, both across Canada and internationally, and significant advocacy work on behalf of the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo, its mission, and global conservation work. The result will be an ever-stronger public identity for the institution that captures the rich breadth and depth of its work and underscores its impact in conservation.

Strategically build and grow alignment across the organization on the vision and strategy of Wilder Institute

The launch of Wilder Institute in 2021 set the stage for a novel paradigm shift whereby two entities across one organization work in concert together on the critical issue of conservation. The Wilder Institute is the framework for an elevated effect in global conservation work. The Calgary Zoo’s track record as a world- class zoo with strong animal care, conservation success, and effective messaging serves as a solid foundation to further leverage and expand WICZ’s unique conservation programs and global advocacy. There is great enthusiasm for this vision across the organization. As it is still in its nascency, there is work to be done to align the various organizational stakeholders in how their specific roles fit into the larger vision for Wilder. The new CEO will work across the organization to reinforce a sense of shared purpose and cohesion regarding Wilder’s vision and how each role contributes to that purpose.

Leverage existing and create new opportunities to generate revenue while ensuring a strong overall financial position

Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo enjoys a solid financial position, achieved through successful fundraising, strong visitation, and other revenue-generating activities. The organization has historically benefited from the engaged community of donors in Calgary, who have provided significant support. This includes the recent successful raising of over $42 million in support of the Wild Canada exhibit. The new CEO will build on this momentum as an eager and able part of the advancement operation. The new CEO will contribute to the expansion of philanthropic engagement beyond Calgary to support the national and global aspirations of the Wilder Institute and ensure that fundraising efforts are aligned to support the organization’s planned trajectory of growth.

Ensure that Calgary Zoo remains vibrant and influential and continues its trajectory of growth and operational excellence

The Zoo is already a beloved institution in the Calgary community and has experienced growth in visitorship, recognition, and influence in recent years. Its reputation for world-class animal welfare, as well as its role as an integral community cultural institution, provide a stable foundation for which all growth and reach will build. The CEO will capitalize on this foundation, strategically and diligently supporting the talented leadership and staff in delivering on these expectations. The CEO will ensure that the Calgary Zoo maintains its record as a world-class facility whose infrastructure, staff, exhibits, programs, and services are efficiently and effectively run. The CEO will lead the talented team and Board of Directors with transparent communication and visionary ideas, serving as a resource and advocate as appropriate. Ultimately, the CEO will maintain the Calgary Zoo as a place that appeals to visitors, volunteers, students, and collaborators as exciting sources of education, inspiration, and joy.

Proactively build and support a culture of inclusivity both within the organization and as a key element in external initiatives

It is vital that the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo leadership and staff be supported in an environment that honors their unique backgrounds through an intentional culture of equity and inclusion. It is equally important that the idea of inclusive conservation be at the forefront of the organization’s work. The new CEO will exemplify these values and work to ensure internal and external initiatives are designed to support inclusion. This consists of recognizing the importance of First Nations, on whose land the organization operates, and engaging with indigenous populations in building and unfolding conservation initiatives worldwide. The CEO will also work with the WICZ leadership to ensure that there is an alignment between the future strategy and the culture needed to achieve that strategy.

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is the global alliance of regional associations, national federations, zoos and aquariums, dedicated to the care and conservation of animals and their habitats around the world.

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