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CZS/Brookfield Zoo

Curator, Primates

The Brookfield Zoo is in the process of reimagining our Primate Department and we are looking for a person to help lead that effort. We are currently in the design phase for a series of new, state of the art outdoor exhibits for gorillas, orangutans, and South American primates. The project also includes a new gorilla holding facility that will accommodate both a family and a bachelor group. The successful candidate for this position will be involved the development of the project as well as the repurposing of the current exhibits. The new facilities will provide an opportunity for collection development. Our talented Primate staff is eager to further develop their skills with the addition of a positive and energetic new leader. This is an exciting opportunity to be a part of the redevelopment of our primate program.


The Curator, Primates contributes to the success of the Chicago Zoological Society (“CZS”) by leading the management of all on-site and off-site programs and operations of the Primate Department in accordance with the Society's long-range plan, especially with respect to personnel, facilities, animal, and public programs.  Contributes to animal welfare by providing leadership and direction for operations, staff management, and animal care within the Animal Care and Programs unit as assigned.


Primary duties and responsibilities:


Work closely and collaboratively with the Curatorial, Veterinary, and Animal Care staff at all levels to establish and assure the health and well-being of the animal collection and the integration and coordination of information, plans, and activities with other areas to assure optimum care of the collection and achievement of Society goals and objectives. Manage the daily operations of the  department to:  a) maintain exhibition program, oversee acquisition and disposition of specimens; b) coordinate controlled breeding; c) oversee behavioral enrichment and training programs; d) ensure established husbandry standards are met; e) assure compliance with USDA and other regulatory standards; f) observe and communicate health, diet, reproductive and other husbandry needs of the collection to appropriate staff; g) identify and anticipating problematic areas and working with appropriate staff to assure successful resolution; h) and consult with AP managers with respect to decision, planning, and problem solving. 

Lead in the selection of department staff and activities related to personnel management: scheduling and job assignments, new hire training and department orientation, ongoing staff training and development, coaching and counseling, performance appraisals, recognition, and recommendation of employment actions including, but not limited to, salary changes, promotions, disciplinary actions, and separations.  Foster ongoing animal care staff training and development. Responsible for assuring adherence to the union contract.  Provide fair and equitable accountability practices for staff. 


Works with Conservation, Education, and Training, Creative Services and other staff to confirm a comprehensive guest communication program in accordance with the Society's long-range plan. Provides technical input, suggestion and feedback for the program to ensure that existing and newly designed interpretive programs and staff/guest interactions are implemented, evaluated, maintained, periodically reviewed and updated.


Participate in the development of plans for any new facilities and necessary modifications to existing facilities in support of communication and animal husbandry goals.  Arrange and monitor performance specifications during projects to ensure that the completed project is on time and within budget and that it meets the requirements and expectations of the Society and Animal Care and Programs as to quality, health, safety, and guest satisfaction.  Review and recommends changes to facilities and their environments in consultation with appropriate staff to enhance or improve animal management goals. 

Works in collaboration with Curator of Behavioral Husbandry to enhance and/or improve animal management goals.

Assist the institution as requested by serving on Society-wide committees and task forces in providing input on regional, national and international conservation issues and meeting with and touring special guests, VIPs, and guests.

Represent the Society and the Animal Care and Programs unit and promote its interests externally including, but not limited to, representation with the AZA, other zoos, local, national and international conservation groups, the academic community, and the media.  Represent the Society's position and interests in animal conservation and other issues in a well-informed, positive, and responsive manner, including remaining current with pertinent regulations and standards (federal, state, industry, etc.) which may affect zoo programs and provide recommendations for complying with relevant regulations.  Contribute articles to scientific journals and make presentations to professional organizations and institutions.  Represent the Society to external visitors, i.e. guests, trustees, donors, media, visiting colleagues, etc.


Communicate and implement the management plan for the assigned collection and for the department to include implementing divisional and area procedures and institutional policies and dissemination of divisional and institutional information including species selection, reproduction and contraception, and animal transactions.  Manage the collection to optimize the well-being of individuals and populations as well as genetic and demographic management and to meet exhibition/guest experience goals.


Identify financial priorities for the department and create departmental budget.  Recommend, implement, and monitor the annual operating budget for departmental expenses; manages operations based on the approved budget and takes corrective action when necessary to ensure that approved budgets are not exceeded.

Supervises the maintenance, use, and distribution of internal and external departmental records related to animal management and other departmental operations.  In collaboration with the Registrar, Veterinarians, department staff and CZS topical specialists, ensures recordkeeping meets short-term and long-range needs for standardization, retrieval, problem solving and identification of trends.


Work closely with the Director of Nutrition to ensure that appropriate diets are provided to the collection.  Provide input on dietary issues and work collaboratively with the Nutrition Services staff on implementation and on-going evaluation of nutritional needs.  Develop and implement actions to improve workplace culture with an emphasis on driving results and fostering inclusion.  Actively lead employee engagement, talent development, recruitment, and retention initiatives.  Leverage organizational resources (training and development – CZS University, performance management systems, employee surveys, regular communications vehicles, staff meetings, etc.) to drive continuous improvement and positive outcomes. 

Experience Required

The requirements include: • Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Zoology or related field or eight years equivalent combination of training and/or experience required. High School Diploma or (GED) equivalent is required. • Minimum 10 years’ captive animal care experience in a zoo or large-scale animal care facility or equivalent experience required. • Minimum of 3 years’ managerial experience along with 5 years’ supervisory experience required. • Experience working with primates in a zoo setting is required. In-depth knowledge of the natural history and the zoo management of species including husbandry and management trends as well as medical and nutritional challenges. In-depth knowledge of AZA accreditation standards, code of ethics and representative husbandry standards and other regulations. Familiar with AZA or other captive population management programs. Prior budget management, figure aptitude or relevant experience required. Comprehensive experience in developing, implementing, and reviewing public communications programs. Computer proficiency in MS Office Word or similar word processing and database management essential. Strong interpersonal and communications skills, including verbal, written, and listening skills. Must be able to establish and maintain a strong rapport and positive relationships. Experience working with opposing constituencies, operating as a facilitator, and a reconciler of interests. Effective decision-maker and problem-solver. Coach and facilitator, with a strong commitment to developing staff. A role model who can mentor and teach others; strong team orientation. Must be flexible, cooperative, and able to adapt easily to shifting priorities. Must be able to maintain the confidentiality of privileged information. Strong interest in/commitment to conservation, animals, and the natural world. Strong interpersonal skills and ability to develop strong rapport with others and work effectively as a part of a team. Strong observation, analytical, and organizational skills and abilities. Strong follow-up and follow-through skills. Cultural competency; experience and/or ability to work and interact effectively with a diverse, multicultural audience. English fluency at a professional working proficiency level. Valid driver’s license required. Preferred qualifications: Familiarity with animal record keeping systems, studbook programs. Experience developing and implementing conservation and relevant research projects; developing husbandry and breeding management plans for primates; AZA professional membership preferred. Multilingual ability, Spanish fluency a plus. Additional Information: This position description summarizes the primary duties and functions of this position, but should not be considered a complete listing of every duty the incumbent may ever be called upon to perform. This position has significant responsibility for resources, staff, animals, assets, and results achieved. Incumbent must be comfortable in a mission and value-driven organization with an evolving culture. This position requires an experienced animal care professional who is committed to the continual development of a comprehensive, integrated program for the department and more broadly the Society’s Animal Collection. This position requires an individual to gain an intimate understanding of the mission, vision, and operating philosophies of CZS and Animal Programs. An ideal candidate will exhibit progressive attitudes towards developing captive animal standards and have an interest in developing conservation links to wild populations. Must enjoy a challenge, be passionate about animals, conservation and the natural world, have a commitment to excellence, and a desire to contribute to the whole within a fast-paced work environment. Requires an individual who is positive and highly professional, self-motivated, reliable, results-oriented, and confident. Some travel is required. Will be expected to be present and visible at specific events sponsored by the Society for its employees, Board members, and other professional participants and audiences. This position may include early mornings, evenings and/or weekends as needed. The individual must be prepared to make a significant commitment to the organization.

Further Comments

The Chicago Zoological Society is an Equal Opportunity Employer Workplace safety is the Chicago Zoological Society’s top priority. We require all employees to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 unless they request and receive a religious or medical exemption. New hires must have at least received their first vaccine dose prior to their start date and must test weekly until fully vaccinated. If fully vaccinated, new hires must receive the first booster, if due, within 30 days of their start date.


Benefits, 401K, PTO


commensurate with experience

How to Apply

If interested in being considered for this opportunity, please visit the CZS Career Center to obtain more details about the position and to apply by submitting your profile.  Please visit our website at  Please look for requisition number 2354BR.

CZS/Brookfield Zoo
3300 Golf Road
Brookfield, IL 60513
Phone: 7086888400

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