Tony Vecchio Leaves Oregon Zoo and Heads to Jacksonville Zoo
By Bill LaMarche
Portland, OR - Oregon Zoo Director Tony Vecchio announced this morning that he's leaving the zoo for the director's position at the Jacksonville Zoo in Florida. He will continue his duties as director through July 6.
"The Oregon Zoo is the positive icon it is today largely because of the contributions of Tony Vecchio," said Michael Jordan, chief executive officer of Metro, which governs the zoo. "His extraordinary ability to manage zoo operations, envision new exhibits and work collaboratively with a broad range of community members has made a lasting and positive impact on our region. He will be sorely missed."
Vecchio has had a storied tenure in Portland since his arrival in 1998. Under his leadership, the Oregon Zoo achieved record attendance in nine of the past 11 years and has become the most visited admission-based attraction in the Northwest with nearly 1.6 million visitors. Last fall, a successful bond campaign secured $125 million to help improve animal health and safety at the zoo.
"Portlanders really love their zoo," Vecchio said. "We've had so many successes over the past 11 years. I'm very proud of my staff for rising to every challenge. While I will miss the zoo and Portland, I feel this opportunity will provide me with new challenges - the Florida position was something I just could not pass up."
A passionate conservationist, Vecchio led zoo efforts to bring condors back to Oregon, as the zoo joined the California Condor Recovery Program in 2001. The zoo's condor program is its highest profile conservation effort, but not the only one. Because of Vecchio's leadership, the zoo has embraced a number of Northwest preservation projects aimed to save rare butterflies, frogs, turtles and rabbits.
In addition, Vecchio oversaw completion of the award-winning Great Northwest exhibit - a $36 million project - and, more recently, the $6 million fund-raising campaign to bring lions, African wild dogs, cheetahs and other carnivores to the Northwest as part of the Predators of the Serengeti exhibit, set to open this fall.
"Tony Vecchio has been a tremendous leader and tireless advocate for our zoo," said Jon Kruse, chair of The Oregon Zoo Foundation's board of trustees. "He has always had a clear vision of the future, and has led us to numerous successes -- many of which were thought to be too ambitious or simply not possible."
Prior to his tenure in Portland, Vecchio served as director of the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, R.I., for a decade. He has been in the zoo business for 32 years and literally came up through the ranks to a director's post.
Vecchio is a former member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums board of directors, and is regarded as an established leader in the association's growing focus on conservation and educational programs.
The zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission to inspire the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Washington's pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot butterflies, western pond turtles, and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.
The zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Zoo visitors are encouraged to ride MAX or take TriMet bus No. 63. Visitors who take the bus or MAX receive $1 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit www.trimet.org for fare and route information.
General admission is $9.75 (12-64), seniors $8.25 (65+), children $6.75 (3-11), and infants 2 and under are free; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo's Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $2 per car is also required. Additional information is available at www.oregonzoo.org or by calling 503-226-1561.
Caption: Tony Vecchio, shown posing with his favorite Visayan warty pig, has served as the Oregon Zoo director for 11 years. He will continue his duties as Oregon Zoo director through July 6. Photo by Melinda Holland, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo.
Oregon Zoo " 4001 SW Canyon Rd. " Portland, Oregon 97221 " 503-226-1561
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