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Great Plains Zoo

Great Plains Zoo

Director of Animal Programs

Come Join Us At The Great Plains Zoo!

The Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls, SD is seeking a Director of Animal Programs.  The Zoo is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster a greater understanding of our natural world through Education, Conservation, Recreation and Discovery.  The Great Plains Zoo cares for more than 1,000 animals from around the world and offers up-close views of animals not often found in larger zoos, including Giraffes, Tigers, Rhinos and a national award-winning Snow Monkey exhibit.  The Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and sees approximately 300,000 visitors annually.

The 45-acre Zoo is located in Sioux Falls, SD, a dynamic and growing community with:

*  A metro population over 268,000 as of July 1, 2018

*  A healthy economy and robust arts and cultural scene

*  Recognition from Forbes magazine as the second best small metro area in the nation for business and careers.

*  Coverage from the Wall Street Journal under the headline "As Many Midwest Cities Slump, Sioux Falls Soars."

General Statement of Duties:

The Director of Animal Programs leads and directs the activities of the Animal Care Department including staff supervision, budgeting, conservation intiatives and collection planning in addition to overseeing the Veterinary medicine department.  This position reports to the President/CEO and serves as a member of the leadership team to contribute to the future growth and operation of the Zoo as a whole.  The ideal candidate will possess strong leadership skills, deep animal care knowledge, strong relationships within AZA, creativity, tenacity and flexibility.

Responsibilities include:


*  Provide the leadership and management oversight to address and accomplish established goals, objectives and strategies related to animal programs and related projects of the Zoo.

*  Assess needs and priortize resources.

*  Exhibit outstanding knowledge of animal care, insight into animal behavior, possessing an understanding and committment to modern zoological practices.

*  Establish and maintain effective communications with the President/CEO and the VP of Operations.

*  Works with various staff, departments and outside vendors to plan future exhibits.

*  Works with federal, state and local agencies to secure and maintain the necessary permits and licenses for Zoo operations.

*  Develops and monitors the departmental budget in consultation with leadership.

*  Is excited to build an even more dynamic and significant conservation effort in cooperation with leadership.

*  Participates in continuing education programs and maintains professional affiliations to improve professional expertise.

Animal Collection

*  Directs and assists in developing the animal husbandry program to ensure the health and enrichment of the animal collection, including making recommendations on animal acquisitions and disposition.

*  Supervises veterinary care for the collection in consultation with the staff Veterinarian.

*  Provides general direction to animal care staff in the development and preparation of animal diets, maintenance of exhibits and implementation of safety procedures.

*  Ensures records pertaining to the animal collection are maintained and updated in a timely manner.

*  Ensures capture and restraint equipment is in working order and procedures are current.

*  Administers animal transport activities to, from and within the Zoo's animal collection.

*  Supervises ordering, storage and maintenance of animal food, equipment and supplies.


The Zoo is implementing a multi-year plan to increase our financial commitment to conservation of endangered species in the wild.  With a goal of 3% of our annual operations budget dedicated to wildlife conservation, the Zoo is crafting a dynamic plan for significant conservation efforts.  The Director of Animal Programs will play a significant role in shaping our conservation program, and leading efforts through SAFE, SSP leadership, field research and onsite programs.

*  Identifies and recommends worthy and relevant wildlife conservaton initiatives on local, national and international levels.

*  Participates in the formulation and implementation of Zoo conservation initiatives and strategies.

*  Coordinate the Zoo's participation in SSPs, PMPs, TAGs and SAFE programs.

*  Oversees participation in research projects and animal rehabilitation efforts.


*  Ensures the safety of animals, staff and guests.

*  Prepares monthly activity reports and routine correspondence with regard to animal programs at the Zoo.

*  Maintains contact with other institutions and animal professionals for the purpose of exchanging scientific data and procuring collection animals.

*  Develops and monitors departmental budget.

*  Serves as a member of the Zoo's safety committee.

*  Ensures compliance with AZA accreditation standards pertaining to animal care and programs.

*  Responsible for ensuring annual emergency drill requirements are satisfied.

*  Coordinate with Facilities Manager on exhibit and holding area repairs, improvements and maintenance.

Director Level 

*  Serves as a champion for optimal animal care for individual animals, and for saving species from extinction.

*  Acts as the leader in ensuring the Zoo upholds the best care and husbandry, in step with or ahead of ever-changing standards, and modern zoological practices.

*  Communicates as part of the management team and presents management decisions to departmental staff in a positive manner.

*  Strong leadership with the ability to build consensus among diverse groups.

*  Ability to evaluate operations, identify areas for potential improvement and develop plans to implement suggested improvements.

*  Ability to communicate well with internal staff and external partners.

*  Availability for on call coverage for animal related emergencies.

*  Supervision and management of two Area Supervisors and the staff Veterinarian.

Experience Required

This position requires a Bachelor's Degree (BS/BA) in biology, zoology, wildlife management or related field with a demonstrated work history of increasing responsibility in the management of animal programs. A minimum of five years' experience at an AZA-accredited zoo and three to five years' of supervisory experience is required. AZA leadership and involvement on committees, TAGs, and SSP coordination is preferred, or a combination of education and experience acceptable to the hiring authority. A valid driver's license and driving record acceptable to the hiring authority is required. The Great Plains Zoo requires all employees to pass a pre-employment background screening.


The Great Plains Zoo offers a competitive salary and generous benefits package.

How to Apply

Great Plains Zoo
805 S Kiwanis Ave Sioux Falls
Sioux Falls, SD 57104
Phone: 605.367.7003
Fax: Great Plains Zoo

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