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Culture & History

St. Louis Zoo names Dwight Scott, head of San Diego Zoo, as its next president

Asian elephants Sri and Jade in their enclosure at the Saint Louis Zoo in 2015.
File photo/Robin Winkelman
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St. Louis Zoo
Elephants stand in their enclosure at the St. Louis Zoo. A 425-acre facility the zoo plans to build in Spanish Lake will include space for breeding animals.

The next president and CEO of the St. Louis Zoo will be an accomplished leader who is dedicated to caring for wildlife, zoo officials announced Tuesday.

Dwight Scott, executive director of the San Diego Zoo, will take over in St. Louis when longtime leader Jeffrey Bonner leaves in January.

Dwight Scott will come to St. Louis after leading the San Diego Zoo since 2013. [10/5/21]
Ken Bohn
Dwight Scott will come to St. Louis after leading the San Diego Zoo since 2013.

Scott took the helm in San Diego in 2013. The Missouri native previously served as executive director and CEO of the Oklahoma City Zoo, and as assistant director of the Tulsa Zoo. He also worked at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida.

The search committee was impressed with Scott’s 30 years of experience in the field, said Cynthia J. Brinkley, chair of the St. Louis Zoological Park Subdistrict Commission, which has oversight of the zoo.

“He’s had tremendous passion for wildlife conservation and certainly feels that diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion programs are really critical to the organization and to the community,” Brinkley said.

Bonner has led the St. Louis Zoo since 2002. His accomplishments include creation of the zoo’s WildCare Institute, which works to save endangered animals at 17 locations around the globe.

During Bonner’s tenure, the private fundraising group St. Louis Zoo Foundation spent $7.2 million on a 425-acre property in Spanish Lake. The zoo plans to build a wildlife park and breeding facility there, which could open as soon as 2026. In 2018, voters in St. Louis County approved a sales tax increase to raise additional annual funds for the zoo.

“Trying to sum up his success in 19 years in just a few sentences is really challenging,” Brinkley said of Bonner. “He has made a lasting impression on the St. Louis Zoo, and we hope to take his legacy and not only build from it but grow it and add even more. He’s had a very successful career, and we’ve been very fortunate to have him as our leader.”

Scott is a native of Chillicothe, in Livingston County. He received his bachelor's degree in liberal arts with a concentration in anthropology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He got his start in the zoo field as an animal keeper at the Kansas City Zoo.

“Growing up in Missouri, I was inspired by visits to the Saint Louis Zoo,” Scott said in a statement. “I look forward to taking the Saint Louis Zoo to new heights just as Dr. Bonner, Charlie Hoessle, Marlin Perkins, George Vierheller and all the past leaders of this world-class organization have done over the years.”

Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @jeremydgoodwin

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