Zoo News

Apr 24, 2017

Buffalo Zoo Names New President/CEO

The Zoological Society of Buffalo Inc. today named Norah B. Fletchall, COO and senior vice president of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, to succeed Donna Fernandes as the Buffalo Zoo’s next president and CEO.

In February 2016, Fletchall moved into the Indianapolis Zoo’s COO post, previously serving as supervising vice president of operations from 2013-2016. As COO, she was a member of the Zoo’s executive cabinet and helped prepare the Zoo’s $29 million annual operating and capital budgets.

Fletchall also helped manage 140 full-time and more than 200 part-time employees at a zoo that attracts 1.2 million visitors annually.

“We are extremely pleased that Norah is going to direct the Buffalo Zoo. She is an experienced and dynamic zoo leader with all the talents and assets we need to continue to grow and improve our great zoo,” said the Society’s Board Chair, Jonathan Dandes. “Norah will continue Dr. Fernandes’ rich tradition of excellence the Zoo and our community have come to expect.”

Fletchall’s responsibilities in Indianapolis included planning and implementation for the animal and plant collections; veterinary care; animal nutrition; infrastructure, construction and facilities; guest services; concessions/catering; and the customer experience.

“I am honored to be asked to lead the Buffalo Zoo and I see this as the culmination of my career work to bring people – especially children – together with animals they normally would never see in their lifetimes,” Fletchall said. “I know too that Buffalo is growing on all fronts, and I’m looking forward to moving here and being a part of that. I’m also thrilled to work at an institution dating to 1875 that has many more great years ahead.”

From 2009-2012, Fletchall was vice president of conservation, leading the Indianapolis Zoo’s Hix Institute for Research and Conservation. In January, Fletchall graduated from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ [AZA] Executive Leadership Development program. From 1987-2009, she was assistant zoo director at the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, M.I.

She is a member of the AZA’s Ethics Board, AZA Professional Development Committee, and serves as a leader or member of AZA accreditation site visit teams. She has a B.S. from the University of Missouri in animal sciences and an M.B.A. from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI.

Her selection resulted from a national search conducted by executive search firm, Korn Ferry International, with the support of M&T Bank.

During Fernandes’ tenure, the Buffalo Zoo developed $50 million in new exhibits and visitor attractions, enrolled more than 18,000 households as members and built annual attendance to a 30-year record high of 538,000 at the close of 2016, with an operating budget of about $8.7 million. In addition to visitation numbers in 2016, the Zoo was awarded AZA accreditation for an eighth consecutive time.

In 2002, Fernandes and the board of directors developed a 15-year strategic master plan that led to development of new animal exhibits such as Vanishing Animals, Ecostation, Otter Creek, Sea Lion Cove, M&T Bank Rainforest Falls, Delta Sonic Heritage Farm, and most recently the Garman Family Arctic Edge. In all, the Buffalo Zoo now has a collection of more than 1,000 animals representing 500 species.

The Indianapolis Zoo cares for 2,000 animals and more than 31,000 plants on 64 acres, about three times the size of Buffalo’s footprint. Like the Buffalo Zoo in Delaware Park, the Indianapolis Zoo is in White River State Park.

Fletchall officially starts her new position May 22.

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