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It is with bittersweet honor that we announce the retirement of Zoo Miami Director, Carol Kruse. Topping off a 30-year career working with Miami-Dade County, including serving as Assistant Zoo Miami Director from 2003 – 2011, Carol became Zoo Miami Director in May 2015. Five years later, we reflect on her time as Zoo Director, and how much we have grown since she first took on the leadership role.
The initial transition came at a very exciting time for Zoo Miami, as we had recently broken ground on the new Entry Plaza and Florida: Mission Everglades expansion. Carol stepped into her new role, overseeing the completion of those projects in 2016, and much more. With her experience as part of Zoo Miami’s team, her education in biology and business administration, and her genuine passion for wildlife and conservation, Carol’s transition into leadership was seamless.
“As my time at Zoo Miami comes to a close, there is so much to look back on with gratitude and pride,” says Carol. “I love this place, not just the physical beauty of the animals and gardens, but the positive energy and passion that our team (staff, volunteers and partners) and our guests bring to it every day.”
Five foundational pillars guided Carol’s strategic plan for Zoo Miami: Animal Well-Being, Conservation & Stewardship, Guest Experience, Financial Strength and Performance Excellence. During her five years leading Zoo Miami, we’ve celebrated many accomplishments, from history-making animal births, to the completion of new projects and expansions, to record-breaking attendance and successful events. We’ve also endured and overcome challenges, from the passing of beloved animals to the destruction of Hurricane Irma in 2017, the month-long closure that followed, and more. Guided by those five pillars, Zoo Miami has continued to navigate both achievements and setbacks, building on strong foundations to find growth and improvement.
With humility, she credits the team and community around her. Carol has said, since she first became Zoo Director, that her role was to find and retain the best talent for Zoo Miami’s team and to empower upcoming zoo leaders and conservation stewards.
“I love serving alongside everyone in fulfilling the mission of Zoo Miami and its important role in the community,” she says. “I know how lucky I am to have met and worked with so many amazing people, all focused on helping to make Zoo Miami the best it can be.”
As this chapter in Zoo Miami’s leadership history closes and Carol looks forward to the next adventure that life brings her, she leaves us with unshakeable confidence and hope. Five years ago, Carol stepped up into her new role, ready to pick up where her predecessor had left off as we all eagerly awaited the massive addition of Florida: Mission Everglades to our park. Now, Carol leaves behind a reminder that hope is fuel to action, which we need more than ever.
Zoo Miami’s new Conservation Action Center, now in the final stages of construction, embodies Carol’s legacy at Zoo Miami. The Center will stand where Dr. Wilde’s World previously was and will invite Zoo guests to learn more about conservation and wildlife in interactive, engaging ways. This project was built with the spirit of Zoo Miami’s core mission in mind.
“We all share a commitment to connecting people to wildlife so they will conserve it for generations to come,” says Carol. “And, if we continue to focus on our strengths: diversity, empathy and kindness; I have no doubt that Zoo Miami will continue to grow its conservation and stewardship role in the community. Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way.”
We wish Carol nothing but happiness and adventure in the next chapter of her life. Currently, Zoo Miami is working with a search firm to interview candidates for the next Zoo Miami Director. Of course, we know that this is not a goodbye to Carol, but simply the next phase of her relationship to Zoo Miami, as she will always be a part of our wild family.