The director of the NEW Zoo & Adventure Park, Neil Anderson, will be retiring from the Zoo this summer.
Since Anderson’s arrival in 1992, the NEW Zoo & Adventure Park has grown and developed into a world-class facility dedicated to connecting our community with wildlife and nature. Upon starting his tenure here, Anderson’s first goal for the Zoo was to earn accreditation by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) within five years. The AZA is a nationwide organization that sets the highest standards of animal care in the industry. With Anderson’s guidance, the NEW Zoo became accredited within just four years, first earning the title in 1996. The Zoo has maintained that accreditation for over 25 years.
“I’ve been fortunate to witness the many positive changes at the NEW Zoo & Adventure Park under Neil’s leadership,” says Carmen Murach, the zoo’s Curator of Animals. “Neil’s commitment to continually improve the welfare of the animals who call the NEW Zoo home is evident to everyone who visits. His vision to preserve the community atmosphere as we grow has created a very special place.”
“I’m proud of the NEW Zoo & Adventure Park’s many accomplishments over the last three decades,” says Anderson. “It’s been an honor to serve the people of northeastern Wisconsin and to see how our community has been so supportive over the years. I’m grateful to our visitors and our donors, and also want to thank all our past and present NEW Zoological Society Board Members who’ve helped us become the world-class facility that we are.”
Being AZA accredited means the NEW Zoo is recognized as one of the top zoos in the country, but, thanks to Anderson’s leadership, it’s never lost that “community treasure” feel.
One of the ways Anderson helped connect the community with the NEW Zoo is through weekly news segments on Fox 11’s Good Day Wisconsin. The “Wild Wednesday” features reached thousands of viewers each week, for 28 years.
“People have always loved to see ‘what’s new at the NEW Zoo’ on those weekly Fox 11 segments,” says Angela Kawski, the zoo’s Educator Coordinator. “And Neil has always loved to bring that behind-the-scenes information to the public and share stories about our animals. He’s always been clear about the NEW Zoo being ‘your’ NEW Zoo, and that the zoo belongs to our community. Neil’s always appreciated the people of Northeast Wisconsin, and I know that the community, and especially zoo staff – we’ve always appreciated him, too.”
The zoo’s long-standing veterinarian, Dr. Tracey Gilbert, adds: “It has been a great privilege to work with Neil for the last thirty years! I am always inspired by his passion for the Zoo and the welfare of our animals and awed at how he has built and transformed the Zoo in his time here.”
Anderson says his time in the zoo industry has provided him with incredible experiences that he’ll never forget.
“Working with so many different animals has been, of course, a wonderful experience,” he adds. “But, it’s really the people that I’ll remember the most. So many incredible employees, volunteers, donors, Society board members, and more have contributed to the NEW Zoo & Adventure Park. I know I’m leaving it in good hands.”
Anderson plans to continue his work to help the facility open a treetop canopy tour this summer before he goes. He’ll be retiring at the end of July.