A business executive with experience in strategy and marketing will bring those skills to steering the Brandywine Zoo through a transition of leadership.
Mark W. Shafer is taking the reins as interim executive director of the Delaware Zoological Society, replacing Michael Allen who led the organization since 2014 until leaving earlier this year to head up the Queens Zoo in New York.
The Delaware Zoological Society runs the business enterprise of the Brandywine Zoo, which includes memberships, admissions, marketing, advertising, website, fundraising, and Zootique and snack bar. The society also funds several full-time and part-time support personnel.
The zoo itself is managed by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Division of Parks & Recreation.
Shafer said he was actually a newcomer to the DZS board when the opportunity in New York came up for Allen.
With the zoo closed due to the pandemic, Shafer volunteered to take on the interim role “and the board took me up on the offer.” He says the last few weeks have been “a whirling dervish” of activity and that the mission-focused passion of people involved in all aspects of the zoo “is exhilarating.”
Shafer’s business experience will be an asset as the zoo looks to reopen its operations in June. The near-term future includes plans to broaden its educational programs and launch new features and exhibitions all while facing financial challenges including lost revenue and executing a $5 million capital campaign.
The Greenville resident has held executive positions at the Risk Management Association in Philadelphia, and Bank of America and MBNA in Wilmington.
“The Brandywine Zoo is an amazing asset of Delaware,” Shafer said. “My wife and I brought our kids here when they were young, and it helped develop their appreciation for animals and a broader world.”
Shafer will help guide a major fundraising initiative at the Zoo, “Our Zoo Reimagined,” which is already underway. DNREC funded the new Condor habitat, which is now complete, and the construction of a much-anticipated Madagascar habitat is underway.
Phase 3 of the capital campaign includes a completely new entryway at the Zoo, with new ticketing and security areas as well as yet another new habitat — the South American Wetlands, which will feature Chilean flamingos, Sloths and Southern Pudo, the world’s smallest species of deer. This habitat will be at the perimeter of the Zoo for all to see.