Susan Altrui will take the helm as the Little Rock Zoo’s new director, City Manager Bruce T. Moore announced today. Altrui, who has been with the state’s only accredited zoo since 2005, fills the position left open by the retirement of longtime director Mike Blakely in October.
“Our goal is for the Little Rock Zoo to become one of the top mid-sized city zoos in the country,” Moore said. “Susan is the person to get us there because of her experience, dedication and vision. I’m excited to have her leading the Zoo as it continues its growth as a world-class institution focused on education, conservation and recreation.”
Altrui began her career at the Zoo as the director of marketing and development and executive director of the Arkansas Zoological Foundation. In July 2015, she was named the Zoo’s assistant director. She has been responsible for marketing, public relations, special events, development, government relations, and fundraising for the Zoo and has helped to maintain the Zoo’s accreditation.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled to take on this important new role as the next director of the Little Rock Zoo. I’m ready to work hard with our city leaders, staff, volunteers, board members and other members of the community to grow and develop our Zoo,” Altrui said. “The Zoo is a place that nurtures our passion for animals and encourages respect for all living things. It’s a place where learning lives.”
Under Altrui’s guidance, the Zoo has raised funds for the Laura P. Nichols Penguin Pointe exhibit, the Laura P. Nichols Cheetah Outpost, Diamond Express Train and the Arkansas Heritage Farm exhibit, which opened in April of this year.
Altrui served as project manager for a new master plan and strategic plan. She also worked on the Zoo accreditation by attending hearings on three separate occasions before the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Accreditation Committee. She has developed several successful fundraisers, including Zoo Brew and the annual Wild Wines event, which is now one of Arkansas’s largest food and wine festivals.
Altrui holds a master’s degree in Applied Studies in Communication from Colorado State University and a bachelor’s degree in the same area from Arkansas State University.
Ninety years ago, the Little Rock Zoo brought wildlife to the citizens of Arkansas with just two animals: an abandoned timber wolf and a circus-trained bear. Today, the Zoo is one of Arkansas’ most attended attractions, with approximately 300,000 visitors annually. It cares for more than 700 animals representing 200 different species, many endangered.
The Zoo is part of the AZA Species Survival Plan aimed at saving threatened/endangered species through cooperative breeding, a program that Altrui seeks to expand.
“My goal as Zoo director is to enhance our conservation education efforts and to provide an engaging experience for every guest every time they walk through our gate,” Altrui said. “Updating and renovating the Zoo is essential and we have already begun the planning process for the next major animal exhibit. We are also revamping education efforts to provide exciting, engaging programming that helps inspire who you want to be and who you can become. We will help cultivate the next generation of biologists, wildlife scientists and conservationists.”