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Indianapolis zoo official to succeed Fernandes in Buffalo

Norah B. Fletchall, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, will succeed Donna Fernandes as the Buffalo Zoo's next president, officials announced Monday.

Fletchall, had been with the Indianapolis Zoo since 2009, where she also worked as vice president of operations and vice president of conservation. As a member of the zoo’s executive cabinet, Fletchall helped prepare the zoo's $29 million annual operating and capital budgets.

“I am honored to be asked to lead the Buffalo Zoo and I see this as the culmination of my career work to bring people – especially children – together with animals they normally would never see in their lifetimes,” Fletchall said. “I know too that Buffalo is growing on all fronts, and I’m looking forward to moving here and being a part of that. I’m also thrilled to work at an institution dating to 1875 that has many more great years ahead.”

Fletchall said her first order of business was to continue the master plan begun by Fernandes, who praised her successor as someone she was hoping would be selected.

The Indianapolis Zoo, which is also an aquarium and botanical gardens, is spread over 64 acres, about three times the size of the Buffalo Zoo. Last year's 1.2 million attendance was more than double the 538,000 recorded by the Buffalo Zoo.

Jonathan Dandes, chairman of the Zoological Society of Buffalo, said a rigorous process led to the unanimous choice of the selection committee and then the zoo's board.

"I, on behalf of our board, have found a successor to our beloved Donna Fernandes," Dandes said. "Someone who has the talent, experience, creativity and energy to take us through the next phase of the zoo's growth, and the next phase of the master plan."

More than 100 applications were received with the help of an international search firm funded by M&T Bank, Dandes said. From that number, a search committee reduced the number to about 12 finalists who had phone interviews. Six were then brought to the zoo, and from them three were chosen to meet all of the members of the zoo's board.

"At the conclusion of that process, I'm happy to report the search committee, and then the board a couple of days ago, unanimously selected Norah Fletchall to be the next president and CEO of our Buffalo Zoo."

Dandes praised Fletchall for "academic credentials that are impeccable, with a long, long history in zoo management, and certainly great activity with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums."

Before joining the Indianapolis zoo, Fletchall worked for John Ball Zoological Garden in Grand Rapids, Mich., between 1987 and 2009.

Fletchall, who was born in Missouri and grew up in St. Louis, has a bachelor's degree in animal studies from the University at Missouri and a master's degree in business from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.

Donna Fernandes announces retirement from Buffalo Zoo


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