BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Buffalo Zoo announced its next President and CEO will be Norah Fletchall on Monday morning. Fletchall has most recently served as Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of the Indianapolis Zoological Society.
“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.”
Fletchall will be taking the position at the Buffalo Zoo most recently filled by Dr. Donna Fernandes, who is stepping back from the role she’s filled since 2000 as she led zoo through major improvements.
“One of the first things I’m going to do is learn and listen,” Fletchall said following Monday’s announcement. “I’d like to hear everyone’s thoughts and ideas about what should be the next great things that we do here at the Buffalo Zoo.”
“I think we’ve got a lot of work ahead to complete the reptile house and the gorilla habitat expansion,” she added.
Fletchall was selected from among more than 100 candidates for the CEO/President job.
“Her academic credentials are impeccable, with a long, long history in zoo management,” Society Board Chair Jonathan Dandes said.
Fletchall served as the Assistant Zoo Director at the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for more than two decades, before moving to the Indianapolis Zoo, where she became COO and served in other vice presidential roles there.
While in Indianapolis, Fletchall helped prepare that zoo’s annual budgets and assisted in managing more than 300 employees. The Indianapolis Zoo has 1.2 million visitors every year.
“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,” Dandes said. “Norah will continue Dr. Fernandes’ rich tradition of excellence the zoo and our community have come to expect.”
Fernandes announced last year that she would be retiring as the Zoo’s president and CEO to be able to spend more time with her family in Massachusetts and Florida. “But I’m not super sad, because I will remain involved with the Buffalo Zoo,” she said Monday. “I’ll still be here seven months a year and active in helping to complete some of the master plan projects.”
The master plan that was enacted under Ferndandes’ leadership brought about major improvements in several of the zoo’s exhibits and helped secure accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Fletchall serves as a leader of the AZA accreditation site visit teams, so she’s well-qualified to ensure the Buffalo Zoo continues to meet those strict requirements.
Fletchall says her focus moving forward at the Buffalo Zoo will be to take good care of the animals and to continue zoo improvements in the ongoing quest for conservation.
“My life’s passion has always been and always will be to help connect people with wildlife,” she said. “I truly believe that together, all of us can continue to create a future where children of all ages can make a positive difference for wildlife and wild places.”
Fletchall will start her new job on May 22.