News | 13 September 2023
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Wellington Zoo Chief Executive first Kiwi to be President of top zoo job

Wellington Zoo Chief Executive, Karen Fifield MNZM, has been confirmed as the President for the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) Council, making her the first New Zealander in history to hold this global position.

Headshot of CEO Wellington Zoo Karen Fifield.

Karen was confirmed as the incoming President during the recent WAZA Council meeting and was appointed by member vote. Her term officially commences on October 12, 2023, and runs for two years. 

“Wellington Zoo is a world leader in animal welfare, sustainability and visitor experience as a progressive zoo and I am honoured to continue to represent us, and our global profession, on a global stage,” said Karen Fifield MNZM, Chief Executive Wellington Zoo.

Karen will be the first New Zealander and fourth woman to hold the Presidential title in WAZA’s 88-year history. 

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a global alliance that works together with leading conservation-based zoos and aquariums, national and regional zoo and aquarium associations and academic professionals, to provide support on species conservation and welfare of animals in human care while encouraging the highest standards from member organisations.

“During my Presidency, I will focus on enhancing WAZA’s niche role,” Karen explains, “so that we continue to set the bar for our members to achieve high standards for conservation, animal welfare, sustainability and social change.” 

Wellington Mayor, Tory Whanau, says this position is great recognition for the remarkable passion and mahi Karen has contributed to the betterment of zoos and their future both locally and on the international stage.

"I'd like to congratulate Karen on this outstanding appointment, and I'm confident she will continue leading the way through her commitment to animal welfare, conservation, education and sustainability in the wildlife environment.”

Karen has been on the WAZA Council for four years during which time she has served as Chair of the Ethics and Animal Welfare Committee, and two years as Vice President. During her time on the Council, Karen has been heavily involved in global discussions to set global standards for animal welfare, conservation, sustainability, conservation education and professional ethics in progressive zoos and aquariums. 

“Two of our values at Wellington Zoo are ‘we are a voice to be heard’ and ‘punch above our weight’,” said Karen. “My recent appointment as President of WAZA goes to show that we walk the talk here at Wellington Zoo.”

About WAZA

Since 1935, the goal of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) has been to guide, encourage and support the zoos, aquariums, and like minded organisations of the world in animal care and welfare, environmental education, global conservation, and sustainability.