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Minnesota Zoo President Lee Ehmke headed to Houston

Ehmke has been director and CEO of the Minnesota Zoo since 2000.

Lee Ehmke, who’s been head of the Minnesota Zoo since 2000 and is prominent in the national zoological community, is leaving to become president of the Houston Zoo.

The Minnesota Zoo and the Houston Zoo announced the change today.

The Houston Zoo has 6,000 animals and gets 2.4 million visitors a year. The Minnesota Zoo has 4,700 animals and gets 1.2 million visitors a year.

Peter Maritz, chair of the Minnesota Zoo’s board, said:

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 “Lee has built an international reputation as a visionary leader in animal conservation and exhibit development.  It is no wonder that another world-leading Zoo like the Houston Zoo would be attracted to Lee based on his accomplishments throughout his 15-year tenure in Minnesota.”

He’ll replace Deborah Cannon in Houston, who is retiring after 10 years in charge.

As a sign of his standing in the zoo world, In 2013 Ehmke was elected president of the World Association of Zoos & and Aquariums.

Ehmke’s last day in Minnesota is Aug. 11. He’ll start work in Houston Sept. 8.

Kevin Willis, the Minnesota Zoo’s Vice President for Biological Programs, will be interim director until a new Zoo Director and President is named.