Deputy Director of Animal Programmes- Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Posted: 9 November 2023| Full-Time| California, United States


Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States and has a multi-ethnic population of approximately four million. It is a world-class city that offers a diversified economy and an unparalleled quality of life. Los Angeles continues to maintain its position as an economic powerhouse, the entertainment capital of the world, and a major trendsetter in virtually every field of human endeavor. 

Los Angeles is a charter city and is governed by a Mayor and City Council. The City Council serves full time and has fifteen members elected by district for four-year terms. Boards of Commissioners, appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council, oversee several of the city’s departments and bureaus. Mayor Karen Bass was elected in November 2022 and is currently serving her first term. 

The city has 44 departments, bureaus, and offices for which funds are budgeted annually by the Mayor and City Council. Within those, the city has three departments (the Departments of Water & Power, Harbor, and Airports) that are financed solely by revenue generated from their operations, which are governed by Commissions, as well as two distinctly separate pension systems.

The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, located in one of the nation’s largest urban parks, Griffith Park, is a destination for over 1.5 million visitors annually, a global conservation leader, a hub for environmental sustainability, a regional gateway to nature and a welcoming place for all. 

The Los Angeles Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and its 133- acre campus is home to more than 1,600 animals representing over 270 different species, of which more than 60 are endangered. In addition, the Zoo’s botanical collection comprises several planted gardens and over 800 different plant species with approximately 7,000 individual plants. The Zoo is owned and operated by the City of Los Angeles. The Board of Zoo Commissioners serves in an advisory capacity to the Zoo and is comprised of five Mayoral appointees and an ex-officio member.

role overview

The Los Angeles Zoo is seeking a visionary, dynamic, collaborative leader driven by a passion to ensure the Zoo’s capacity to provide excellent care so that the animals thrive based on the latest relevant animal welfare research and the application of best practices to serve as the Deputy Director of Animal Programs (DDAP). Through senior managers, this position will effectively lead and oversee the Zoo’s animal wellbeing, animal care, behavioral enrichment, research and animal health programs, which is comprised of 131 full-time positions. As an integral member of the executive team, the DDAP serves as a key thought partner in the development of the organization’s strategic plans and goals, and the development of the institutional collection plan, in accordance with the Zoo’s mission. The DDAP will also work with the leadership team to carry out a bold vision for the Los Angeles Zoo, with a progressive approach and deep understanding of animal wellbeing in the 21st century and beyond. This bold vision is embodied in the recently approved Vision Plan that guides an ambitious physical transformation of the campus that reimagines the Los Angeles Zoo of the future where:

  • We ensure animals thrive
  • We further expand our conservation efforts to have meaningful impact both locally and globally
  • We create meaningful, safe, and fun experiences for our visitors and our communities
  • We serve as a resource to our community and ensure our facility, operations, and outreach are for ALL Angelenos
  • We demonstrate and achieve environmental sustainability and best practices
  • We embody operational excellence at each level

The Los Angeles Zoo is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, and the DDAP will be a leader in both word and action by promoting the values of equity and inclusion in all areas in their purview while embracing this priority and helping advance programs and initiatives. Collaborating with peers and cultivating a strong team orientation, the DDAP will work with a broad range of diverse individuals and groups to achieve shared goals. The DDAP must embrace their role as an integral member of the Zoo community, as well as be involved in the economic, political, and cultural fabric of the City of Los Angeles. This ambassador for the Zoo will demonstrate and instill the values of the Los Angeles Zoo, showing respect for people and the natural world through community-mindedness, integrity, warmth, and humility in their interactions.


  • We strive to be a trusted and valued resource for our Los Angeles community and a model for our peers.
  • We are agents of change, challenging expectations and advocating for wildlife.
  • We find solutions through innovation, creativity, and a transformative mindset.
  • We collaborate by building relationships and working with our colleagues and partners to go beyond the expected and expand our impact.
  • We celebrate and appreciate our team members’ contributions to a unique body of knowledge, expertise and experiences.
  • We embrace and engage all of our communities, ensuring all are included and welcome.

essential functions

Under the direction of the Chief Executive Officer & Zoo Director, and working closely with the Deputy Director of Administration and Operations, the DDAP is responsible for the following essential functions:

Animal Welfare and Conservation Impact Functions

  • Ensures animal teams maintain the highest standards of care for the institution’s animal collection.
  • Facilitates the development of innovative exhibit design that supports the highest animal wellbeing, conservation impact, and research initiatives that make a genuine difference for wildlife.
  • Ensures the animal collection plan supports the Zoo’s conservation strategies.
  • Participates in conservation initiatives that support the Zoo’s Conservation Strategic Plan.
  • Actively participates in the AZA, as well as other industry-specific organizations and professionally represents the Zoo at meetings and conferences.

Visionary and Collaborative Research Functions

  • Embraces, models, inspires, and communicates the Zoo’s mission, vision and goals to ensure the Zoo’s vitality and success in the implementation of strategic initiatives.
  • Establishes a culture of cohesion and unity among staff and embraces their role as a steward of culture across the organization.
  • Ensures a safe, supportive, and goal-oriented culture, including supporting and mentoring staff, promoting a culture of excellence, collaboration and professional growth.
  • Facilitates the development of the institutional collection plan in accordance with the Zoo’s mission, Vision Plan, and Conservation Strategic Plan.
  • Works collaboratively with all Zoo divisions to achieve the organization’s goals.

Administrative and Financial Functions

    • Directs the preparation of operating budgets and controls for areas of responsibility.
    • Supports fundraising efforts by facilitating donor engagement and providing proposal content and necessary reports, as needed.
    • Serves as a Zoo media spokesperson.
    • Embraces the Los Angeles community and the City’s governance structure through civic engagement in a variety of settings, including with elected officials, neighborhood groups, community partners and others.
    • Serves as the Acting Director in the Zoo Director’s absence as needed.

person specifications

The successful candidate will demonstrate most of the following attributes:

  • Committed to Mission – Understands and believes in the organization’s mission, and has a passion to advance that mission for greater impact at the Zoo, in the community and across the zoo profession.
  • Animal Expert – Demonstrates knowledge and understanding of implementing progressive management in zoo animal care standards and practices. Maximize the welfare of the animals in the care of the Los Angeles Zoo applying the most up-to-date research and advanced understanding in animal care, zoo husbandry, zoo management and exhibit design to ensure each individual animal thrives.
  • Proven Leader – Has strong leadership abilities and superior interpersonal and communication skills, with a capacity for managing and leading people with diverse backgrounds, views and work styles. Possess a track record of recognized and demonstrated leadership and working collaboratively throughout the organization, as well as external audiences including City officials, other governmental entities, non-profit partner, community partners, labor partners, the general public, donors and others. Ability to adapt to rapidly changing environments and issues and to facilitate change.
  • Team Builder – Builds and maintains a high-performing organizational culture while overseeing the development and nurturing of the next generation of zoo animal professionals. Also, must prioritize empowering, coaching, mentoring and recognizing staff to increase their individual and shared capacity for success. Has the skills necessary to define a direction and inspire teamwork.
  • Strategic Thinker – Has a proven ability to display the competencies of strategic thinking with a focus on finding and developing solutions through innovation that creates value and aligns with organizational strategies and objectives.
  • Collaborative & Communicative – Is able to build trust within their team, among other senior managers and across all Zoo divisions. Must establish a transparent culture, and clearly share information which can help the team be more effective and efficient in their roles. Care deeply about fostering a culture of ongoing learning, collaboration, innovation, creativity, and community engagement.
  • Listener – Is approachable and will listen and learn from their team, leveraging and celebrating their knowledge and expertise, and share learnings across the team and divisions.
  • Committed to Equity & Inclusion – Creates an inclusive and welcoming organizational culture and is open to a wide variety of perspectives, thoughts, and ideas. Is an advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility through actions that demonstrate emotional intelligence, transparency, compassion and authenticity.
  • Professional & Organized – Can handle organizational details including budgets, reporting, presentations and professionally represent the Zoo in all settings.
  • Connected to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) – Is a member in good standing in the AZA and can easily work with colleagues throughout the profession to help advance the Zoo’s practices and programs, and enhance its reputation in the zoo field.


A Bachelor’s degree or higher from a recognized four-year college or university and at least five years of management experience in an AZA-accredited zoo or aquarium, or comparable organization, working with a diverse collection of species. An advanced degree is highly desirable. 

Applicants with demonstrated knowledge and understanding of animal welfare and wellbeing, progressive zoo management concepts and programs, zoology, animal biology, veterinary medicine, or wildlife care, and management experience leading others with that expertise or in an organization devoted to those fields are strongly encouraged to apply.

benefits and compensation

The current salary range is $153,676 to $224,668 per year. A highly competitive benefits package includes an independent retirement plan to which both the employee and the City contribute; a multi option deferred compensation plan; generous vacation and sick leave; 13 paid holidays per year; a flexible benefits plan including multi-option health, dental, and vision coverage; and family and domestic partner leave. Reimbursement of relocation expenses may be considered.

More information about compensation and benefits may be found here.


Electronic submittals are required. Interested candidates should immediately submit a resume, cover letter of interest, and four work-related references (include name, job title, affiliation, and telephone number) via email to:

City of Los Angeles Personnel Department
Attn: Nicole Bawa – Executive Recruitment

Note: When emailing your application material, the subject line should reflect your name and the job title you are applying for. Interested applicants should submit their application as soon as possible.

In order to be considered, resumes must include: A description of the size and function of the organizations managed; description of your role in the organization; at least one major professional accomplishment in which you played a key role; and any relevant experiences or unique characteristics which could further qualify you for this position.

The filing period will close on FRIDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2023 or when a sufficient amount of applications have been received.

Upon submission of the application documents, applicants may be asked to complete a supplemental questionnaire. Only the most qualified candidates will be invited to the next phase of the selection process, which is an interview. Questions and confidential inquiries may be referred to Ms. Nicole Bawa at

*The position of Deputy Director of Animal Programs is an exempt, at-will management position. The incumbent will not accrue any civil service tenure, contractual employment rights or due process rights. The Deputy Director of Animal Programs is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the General Manager. The incumbent may be removed, without any finding of cause, by the General Manager. Such removal would not be reviewable or appealable.

More information about the role may be found here

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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