ERIE – The Erie Zoo named Melissa “Roo” Kojancie as its new chief executive officer today, after a robust months-long search to replace Scott Mitchell, who continues to serve as the zoo’s director of development. Kojancie has more than 20 years of industry experience, serving as an animal keeper, educator, and the chief operating officer of the Erie Zoo.
“After a long search, we found the most qualified candidate right here in Erie,” said Jeffery E. Beach, CPA, Erie Zoo Board chairperson, in a press release. “Roo’s qualifications, energy and commitment were illuminated during her time as CEO/COO as she deftly led the completion of a new strategic plan in support of our AZA reaccreditation; welcomed 27 new animals; completed work on two new exhibits and began work on the zoo’s centennial celebration.
“After a year of such accomplishments it’s difficult to imagine anyone else leading our zoo at this point, and the board enthusiastically selected Roo to lead the Erie Zoo into our 100th year and beyond.”
According to the Erie Zoo, Kojancie has worked for more than two decades as an animal keeper and has an expertise and understanding of animal care and well-being. Her extensive experience of animal care, training and enrichment techniques combined with executive experience will help Kojancie successfully oversee daily operations, while simultaneously leading the zoo’s modernization efforts.
“I am honored to lead this amazing team of passionate and dedicated individuals at the Erie Zoo,” said Roo Kojancie. “My role as acting CEO/COO combined with my work to expand zoo programs and make the Erie Zoo’s resources available to everyone in the community will help me seamlessly transition into this role. It is indeed the proudest moment of my career, made so much sweeter because there is no other zoo I love like the Erie Zoo.
“As the Erie Zoo prepares to celebrate its centennial anniversary, I am confident our top-level animal care and incredible zoo experience will allow us to continue to attract visitors as well as the financial and strategic support we need to regain our AZA accreditation – a challenge I began to tackle with gusto in my role as acting CEO/COO.”
In her role as acting CEO/COO, Kojancie successfully led the completion of the zoo’s first facilitated strategic plan in concert with an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) mentor, a key accomplishment toward regaining AZA accreditation. She collaborated closely with an AZA mentor to align the zoo with modern zoological practices. During this time, Kojancie welcomed 27 new animals including an Amur tiger, spot-nosed guenons, and swamp monkeys. In 2024, she will oversee the zoo’s centennial celebration and lead the redesign of the zoo’s red panda and expanded otter exhibits.
“Roo is a visionary,” said Scott Mitchell, Erie Zoo development director. “After having worked with Roo for more than two decades, I know she is the right person to lead the Erie Zoo into the 21st century. I am excited to see what the future holds for the zoo under Roo’s leadership.”
Kojancie’s priorities include zoo research and education. She expanded the zoo’s college animal care intern program and supervised students who gained animal care experience and completed research projects at the zoo. Kojancie cultivated a partnership between the Erie Zoo and Edinboro University that introduced students in a college-level zoo biology class to the inner-workings of the zoo, and she created a partnership with Mercyhurst University that coordinated conservation-based guest speaker events.
For more information, visit eriezoo.org.