The executive director of the Seneca Park Zoo Society plans to retire at the end of January.
Rachel Baker August joined the Zoo Society as executive director in 2001. She previously served six years on the Zoo Society’s board of trustees.
David Riedman, past president of the Seneca Park Zoo Society’s board of trustees, is chairing the search committee.
“I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to create transformational change at such an important community facility and to work with incredibly dedicated volunteers and staff,” August said. “Nevertheless, the time is right for a change in leadership.”
During her tenure, the zoo’s membership base grew more than 50 percent from 11,000 to over 17,000, zoo officials said. Also, the organization’s operating budget expanded from $2 million to more than $5 million.
August guided capital projects including the 2004 Animal Health and Education Complex, which includes a conference center, classrooms, state-of-the-art animal hospital and an interactive Zoologists of Tomorrow Zone.
In the winter of 2013, the Seneca Park Zoo Society completed an $8 million campaign that helped fund new habitats and interactive exhibits, including popular lion, baboon and elephant enclosures. Fundraising for the “Step Into Africa Exhibit” campaign began in 2005, after Monroe County's construction of a new elephant barn and yard.
The goal was to provide a watering hole for the elephants, a baboon exhibit and a lion exhibit, complete with interactive educational features, officials said. The campaign pulled in more than $8 million from 1,143 donors. “A Step Into Africa” exhibit opened in May of 2012.
“A Step Into Africa is the crowning achievement in my career,” August said. “It gives me great pleasure to see families learning together as they enjoy the animals and activities in this magnificent exhibit.”
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