TAMPA — The man who led the Lowry Park Zoo back to accreditation after a public scandal has been chosen as its new chief executive officer.
The Lowry Park Zoological Society Board said Craig A. Pugh became the clear choice after a national search.
Pugh, the zoo's deputy director since 2005, came to Lowry Park in 1999 from his previous job as executive director for the Palm Beach Zoo, a news release from the board said.
He took over as the zoo's acting CEO following the resignation of Lex Salisbury in December 2008. Salisbury stepped down after it was revealed that he bought, traded, loaned and received more than 200 zoo animals for his Pasco County ranch and a private Polk county exotic animal park he was building.
The animal transfers cost the zoo its accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
But the 60-acre park, which features a collection of 2,000 animals, was reaccredited in March under Pugh's leadership.
He said he intends to focus on enhancing animal care while keeping the zoo fresh for visitors.
"We're able to exhibit [animals] mostly outdoors year round, and we can also manage animals from Asia, Africa, Australia and South America because of our unique geography," Pugh said.
The zoo will emphasize animals facing extinction in the wild, and do what it can to preserve the species, he said.
The process has already begun, Pugh said. In the coming weeks the children's zoo will be getting yellow-footed rock wallabies, which are rarely seen in zoos and listed as a threatened species.
"They'll seem like small kangaroos to the children," he said.
Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or [email protected]