John FrawleyOn behalf of the Minnesota Zoo and Minnesota Zoo Foundation Boards, we are thrilled to officially announce Minnesota native and nationally-recognized conservation leader John Frawley has been formally elected as the new Director and President of the Minnesota Zoo and Minnesota Zoo Foundation. Frawley will begin his position at the Zoo on February 16, 2016.

“It’s been 26 years since I was a zookeeper at the Minnesota Zoo,” says Frawley. “But I’m coming home to more than just the Zoo; I’m coming home to Minnesota where I grew up exploring the state’s great outdoors. The animals and the ecosystems here are part of who I am and how I learned to value and love the natural world.”

Frawley, who currently serves as the president and CEO of San Francisco-based, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit working to protect, restore, and inspire conservation of San Francisco Bay and its watershed from the Sierra to the sea, is a nationally-recognized leader within the zoo and aquarium community. An award-winning visionary and passionate conservationist, he brings a strong record of success and commitment to wildlife conservation efforts through his work in the Bay Area, as an entrepreneurial business leader, and as a former employee of the Minnesota Zoo. He has received numerous commendations for his leadership, innovation and public service.

Says U.S. Congressman Jared Huffman, who represents California’s second congressional district: “John has played a key role in environmental and educational efforts throughout the San Francisco Bay and its watershed. While we’ll miss his enthusiasm, leadership and vision, I know that John is excited to put his love for nature and conservation to work in his home state. Minnesota is lucky to have him back.”

As Frawley looks ahead to his early tenure, he says:  “In my first few months, I will of course dedicate a lot of time to getting to know the board, staff and volunteers who have led the Zoo so well.  That said, I’m equally motivated to reach out and connect with friends and supporters of the Zoo’s work and mission. Whether I’m at the Zoo or out in the community, I look forward to getting started right away.”

Frawley will also be actively engaged in the Zoo’s legislative activities in support for the Governor’s recommended capital investment funding. The Governor has recommended a bonding allocation that would complete the renewal of the Zoo’s snow monkey exhibit, add a permanent meerkat exhibit, improve guest amenities in the Zoo’s main building, and fund much-needed repairs to aging structures throughout the 485-acre Zoo campus.

Please help us in welcoming John to the Minnesota Zoo family.

Peter Maritz                                              Samantha Muldoon
Minnesota Zoo Board Chair                  Minnesota Zoo Foundation Board Chair


About John Frawley
For Frawley, alum of both Red Wing High School and Minnesota State University (MSU), the opportunity to lead the Minnesota Zoo is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream and full-circle journey. After graduating from MSU with a degree in recreation, parks & leisure services – wildlife & resource management/biology, he spent two years at Gladys Porter Zoo in Texas before returning to work as a Minnesota Zoo zookeeper from 1988-1992. Frawley then worked on the developing and park management team for the grand opening of Knott’s Camp Snoopy (now Nickelodeon Universe) at the Mall of America, followed by Underwater World (now Sea Life Park) in which he served as director/developer of operations, husbandry and facilities from 1996-1997.

In 1996, Frawley moved to San Francisco to begin a 20-year endeavor focused on highlighting the unique biodiversity and conservation challenges of the Bay Area. His initial appointment as president and CEO of Aquarium of the Bay grew into leadership of, a broad alliance with Aquarium of the Bay, Sea Lion Center, The Bay Institute, EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park and Bay Model Alliance on spearheading the conservation and restoration of the Bay Area wetlands, freshwater flows and native endangered species. Under Frawley’s guidance, is Northern California’s largest watershed conservation group. Working under this umbrella organization, his achievements include significant private fundraising success, strong relationships with civic and state governmental agencies, implementation of successful conservation efforts, and creative partnerships – resulting in a 92% attendance increases at Aquarium of the Bay since 2001 and a 10% contribution to in situ conservation, exceeding the AZA’s recommended 3%, therefore establishing among the top zoos and aquariums in the country for field conservation.  Frawley sat on the board of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) from 2009-2012, and presently sits on AZA’s Aquarium Affairs Committee.

He and his wife, Anita, who are relocating to their home in Welch, Minnesota, have two adult children who both reside in the Twin Cities.

John the Zookeeper with Governor Arne Carlson in tow.