NAPLES — The Naples Zoo has a new leader.
Jack Mulvena, the 20-year executive director of the zoo in Providence, R.I., has accepted the position of president and CEO of Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, effective May 6.
Mulvena, of the Rhode Island Zoological Society and Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, was selected from more than 100 applicants nationwide following an extensive screening and interviewing process. He replaces David Tetzlaff, who left in mid-December after accepting a position as vice president of zoological operations at the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Sanford.
Tetzlaff was the zoo's executive director for the past 10 years, but he had grown up at the local zoo, 1590 Goodlette-Frank Road. The Tetzlaff family name was synonymous with the zoo since Sept. 1, 1969, when David’s parents — “Jungle Larry” Tetzlaff and Nancy Tetzlaff Berens — began leasing the Caribbean Gardens from the Fleischmann family. The Caribbean Gardens served as the winter home for the Tetzlaff family’s animals from Jungle Larry’s at the Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio.
Matt McLean, chairman of the zoo’s board of directors and a member of its selection committee, said the committee conducted personal interviews with four finalists, and Mulvena quickly rose to the top of the list.
“Jack is a terrific fit for what is a very exciting time for the Naples Zoo,” McLean said. “Clearly, we had many qualified candidates. The board of directors wanted to ensure that we also had someone prepared to capitalize on the terrific opportunities on the horizon for this organization and the Naples community. His experiences in Providence will provide a welcome roadmap for leading Naples Zoo into the future.”
Under Mulvena’s leadership, Roger Williams Park Zoo raised $30 million for new exhibits and major capital improvements, including a new veterinary hospital, a children’s zoo feature called “Hasbro’s Our Big Backyard,” and a major overhaul of the zoo’s African exhibits featuring elephants, giraffes, wild dogs, zebras and wildebeest.
“I couldn’t be any more excited about joining the Naples Zoo, especially at a time when they are looking to grow and improve to serve their visitors and community,” Mulvena said. “It is clear to me they have a fabulous and committed staff and board, and their passion for conservation, education and continual improvement is impressive.
“It is also clear to me that Naples loves the zoo and that the entire Southwest Florida region wants it to be the best it can be,” Mulvena said. “That kind of community support is critical to any great zoo’s success and one of the many reasons I am so looking forward to serving as president and CEO.”
Mulvena holds an MBA from the University of Rhode Island and a bachelor’s degree from Boston College. In Providence, he helped double zoo memberships to more than 16,000 households while more than doubling earned operating revenues to more than $6.8 million. Roger Williams Park Zoo’s attendance topped 600,000 visitors in 2012, making it one of the state’s top tourist attractions and the most-visited zoo in New England.
“Jack is recognized by his peers in the industry as a leader in every sense of the word,” McLean said. “His professionalism, experience and management skills make him a perfect fit for Naples Zoo and for our community.”
During Mulvena’s tenure, Roger Williams Park Zoo received both national and international awards from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for its work with tree kangaroos, African elephants, red wolves, American burying beetles, Karner blue butterflies, red wolves and its Frogwatch citizen science program.
“Jack Mulvena is a national conservation leader with a special focus on education and motivating young people to get involved in wildlife conservation,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. "Jack is also a leader in the effort to persuade the United States Congress to pass legislation to address critical environmental challenges by strengthening and expanding environmental education in America’s classrooms. Most importantly, Jack knows from experience how to sustain the highest standards of animal care, offer compelling experiences to zoo guests, and create a professional working environment that attracts the top talent in the zoo profession. In Naples, as he did in Providence, Jack Mulvena can be expected to draw the entire community into efforts to continuously improve the zoological collection while strengthening the zoo’s economic impact on the region and the state.”
Jack Mulvena has accepted the position of president and CEO of Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, effective May 6.
Mulvena has served the past 20 years as executive director of the Rhode Island Zoological Society and Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, R.I., which – like Naples Zoo – is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Naples Zoo Board of Directors Chairman Matt McLean announced Thursday in an emailed letter.
“Under Jack’s leadership, the Roger Williams Park Zoo has become the most-visited zoo in New England, with attendance at more than 600,000 last year,” McLean said in the letter. “Memberships have more than doubled, to 16,000 households, as have earned operating revenues.”
Mulvena also led a campaign to raise $30 million for new exhibits and major capital improvements, including a new veterinary hospital, a children’s zoo feature and a major overhaul of the zoo’s African exhibits, McLean said.
“His colleagues throughout the zoo industry have shared their highest regard for Jack, his leadership and management skills, and his professionalism,” he said. “We look forward to having Jack at the helm to lead Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens into our exciting future.”