June 24, 2021

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium President and CEO Dr. Barbara Baker to Retire After 31 Years

Search for Successor Underway

dr bakerThe Zoological Society of Pittsburgh’s Board of Directors and Dr. Barbara Baker today announced Dr. Baker’s plan to retire as President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium after leading the organization for the past 31 years. The Search Committee of the Board has initiated an international search for her successor. Dr. Baker will continue to lead the Zoo until new leadership is in place; thereafter, she will become President Emeritus in recognition of her many contributions to the Zoo’s growth and development and will serve as a consultant to the Zoo through the end of 2022.

Today, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is internationally and nationally recognized.

Dr. Baker’s tenure at the Pittsburgh Zoo includes many significant achievements, including becoming its first President & CEO following the successful privatization of the Zoo in 1994 and the creation of the Allegheny Regional Asset District, ensuring a solid base of funding for the future. Under Dr. Baker’s leadership, the Zoo became the most visited cultural attraction in the region, with guest visitation doubling and achieving peak attendance of more than one million visitors.

A veterinarian, Dr. Baker oversaw the growth of the organization in numerous ways, including the development of numerous successful outreach conservation programs, which partnered the Zoo with premier conservation efforts around the globe. The Zoo completed over $100 million in world-class natural habitats and facilities including: the PPG Aquarium, the Animal Care Center, the International Conservation Center, Water’s Edge, Kids Kingdom, Jungle Odyssey, The Islands, Jambo Plaza, Worlds of Discovery, the Education Complex, and a soon-to-be developed new grand front entrance.

International Search for Successor Already Underway

The Search Committee of the Zoological Society of Pittsburgh board also announced it has retained DHR International, a global executive search firm, to recruit candidates for the position. James Abruzzo, Global Head, Nonprofit Practice of DHR, has identified and placed numerous CEOs of the nation’s best-known zoos and aquariums and he will lead this effort along with the non-profit’s Board of Directors.

Zoological Society Board Chair Donna Hudson said, “Barbara Baker has been a ground breaker from the outset, as she came to Pittsburgh as the youngest executive in the zoo industry and one of the few women executives at that time. She has accomplished a great deal in educating people of all ages about animal and habitat welfare and conservation through the quality and variety of the Zoo’s many exhibits and programs.”

Ms. Hudson continued, “We applaud her efforts and wish her the very best as she completes her tenure as the leader of our Zoo. Over the past 30 years, Dr. Baker took over a city zoo, created a contemporary design and elevated the Pittsburgh Zoo to stay on pace with the evolution of best practices in the zoo industry. We are excited about the prospects ahead for the next generation of zoo leadership that we hope to identify by the end of this year.”

Commenting on today’s announcement, Dr. Baker said, “I have been blessed to lead such an incredible organization for more than three decades. It has been an honor and privilege to work with the staff, board of directors, and donors who have worked tirelessly to create a regional asset with national and international impact. While I eagerly anticipate the next great adventure in my life, I find comfort in knowing that the Zoo is in an excellent position and it’s an ideal time to begin the process of welcoming a new generation of innovative zoo leadership.”

Zoo & Aquarium Open Again, Every Day

Like many other non-profit organizations and community assets, the Pittsburgh Zoo faced a significant challenge in 2020 due to the pandemic. The Zoo has successfully reopened and is delivering conservation and education programs, in addition to maintaining the highest standards of animal and habitat care and safety throughout its facilities. In addition to offering the traditional experience at the zoo and aquarium, plans are finalizing for the upcoming Asian Lantern Festival in August, an encore of the highly-acclaimed ZooLights holiday drive-thru this winter, and the commencement of construction for an innovative and engaging front entrance for the facility. Zoo hours daily are 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily.

About The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is one of only six major Zoo and Aquarium combinations in the United States and operates the only center in North America that focuses on the breeding and care of African elephants. It is home to numerous endangered species and superior husbandry abilities to sustain them. The organization’s research and conservation projects are recognized globally and represented on all seven continents and five oceans.

Home to more than 8,000 animals representing over 600 species, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium strives to foster positive, lifelong connections between animals and people. The Zoo is a regional attraction with a global impact, acting as a leader and a significant contributor to the conservation of endangered and threatened species. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, the Zoo has earned the Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating. Plan your next visit to the Zoo here.