Columbus Zoo leader reflects on difficult year
Why it matters: In March, former president and CEO Tom Stalf resigned amid allegations he used zoo assets personally. Stalf and other former officials are now the subject of a state investigation.
- When the board of directors asked Borin to come out of retirement after 13 years, Borin says he didn't hesitate.
- New CEO Tom Schmid, unavailable for an interview last week, takes the reins today.
What he's saying: "He's very much a people's general," Borin says. "He's very much that type of leader, out with the people. And that's exactly what they need right now."
Catch up quick: Borin is no stranger to a tough assignment. He was tasked with filling celebrity zoo director Jack Hanna's shoes in 1992 and aced it, expanding the zoo into an even larger powerhouse before retiring in 2008.
- The zoo's "director emeritus" title is reserved for only Hanna and Borin.
- There's also a boat in the Shores play area and a zoo access road named after Borin.
The intrigue: Soon after his return, Borin's famous predecessor became the subject of an even bigger controversy than Stalf.
- Hanna is accused of working with unaccredited breeders to obtain big cat cubs he brought on TV — which led the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to strip the zoo of its accreditation for the first time in October.
Yes, but: Borin says the zoo has made many changes and hopes the AZA will reconsider.
- "What happened in the past … isn't going to happen again. I guarantee that," he tells Axios.
- And despite the challenges, this could be a record year for revenue and attendance.
What's next: Zoo officials have been granted an opportunity to appeal the accreditation decision and present their case Dec. 13.
- A decision is expected soon after, zoo spokeswoman Jen Fields tells Axios.
Borin bonus fact: While it's hard to pick his favorite animal, Borin says he bonded in the '90s with a bonobo named Susie who remembers him after all these years.
- The ape would tease him by poking a piece of straw through her exhibit fence and then pulling it away before he could grab it. The cat-and-mouse game continued this year.
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