Alejandro Grajal, PhD, President & CEO, Woodland Park Zoo, “Zoo of the Future”
Alejandro Grajal became the eighth leader of Woodland Park Zoo in its 117 year history, assuming the helm in May 2016. He is internationally known for his vision to define a new relationship between humans and nature by helping to restore the deep, affective bond between people and animals. He advocates for zoos as the best community institutions to create a social movement for conservation, to foster science learning beyond the classroom, and to ensure that all people have access to nature, regardless of socioeconomic background.
Reporting to the zoo’s Board of Directors and overseeing more than 350 full-time and seasonal staff, Alejandro is responsible for leading all zoo operations, programs, and exhibits as well as facilities, fundraising and partnership development to increase WPZ’s positive impact in the community and world.
Before joining the zoo, Alejandro served as senior vice president for conservation, education and training at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo, where he headed the Center for Conservation Leadership, oversaw field conservation and research programs for the Center for the Science of Animal Welfare, and supervised education programs. Previously, he had served as executive director of international programs for the National Audubon Society and director of Latin American programs at the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York.
A noted author, Alejandro’s publications include 45 peer-reviewed books, chapters, and scientific and popular articles covering topics which span the psychology of conservation, measuring the impact of environmental education, the sustainable use of natural resources and ornithology, among others. He leads the Climate Literacy Zoo Education Network (CliZEN), a coalition of zoological institutions, universities and NGOs. He has also participated in protected-area planning and conservation policy with the United States Agency for International Development, the Global Environment Fund, the World Bank and the European Union. In 2016, Trustees of the Chicago Zoological Society awarded him the prestigious George B. Raab Medal for Conservation Leadership, recognizing his lifelong contributions to environmental and species protection, and inspiring future generations of scientists and leaders to tackle big questions about living harmoniously with all beings on the planet. In his spare time, he is an accomplished wildlife artist whose work has been exhibited in galleries in major cities.
Alejandro earned his undergraduate degree in ecology from Simón Bolívar University in Caracas, Venezuela and his PhD in zoology from the University of Florida.