San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance announced today that Erika Kohler will take over as the executive director of the 100-acre San Diego Zoo. Kohler has been a member of the organization since 2015, when she was hired as the Zoo’s director of operations — bringing nearly two decades of experience from her time with the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. She has served as the San Diego Zoo’s interim executive director since November 2021.
“Erika Kohler has been an invaluable part of the San Diego Zoo’s recent success while she worked as a deputy director of operations, and most recently as interim executive director,” said Paul A. Baribault, president and chief executive officer of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “She makes everyone on her team better and is committed to our mission. Erika has proven to be a strong leader during times of change with her considered and thoughtful approach, and we are perhaps most honored to be selecting our newest executive director for the San Diego Zoo from within our very own organization.”
During the last seven years, Kohler provided guidance through several projects, ranging from infrastructure improvements, to the Zoo’s centennial celebration in 2016. She was also critical in managing the Zoo’s unprecedented closures in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the opening of new habitats, including Africa Rocks in 2017, Komodo Kingdom and the Hummingbird Habitat in 2021 and the Denny Sanford Wildlife Explorers Basecamp that opened March 2022.
“Being appointed as executive director of the San Diego Zoo is an opportunity of a lifetime, and I am honored to formally step into the role,” said Kohler. “I am excited to continue leading one of the most dynamic teams in wildlife conservation during one of its best moments in history and continue to create allies for wildlife every day.”
In her role as executive director, Kohler will manage the daily operations of all departments, including admissions, transportation, security, education, food service, retail, facilities, animal care, horticulture, entertainment and events.