Tony Vecchio – Executive Director


Tony Vecchio has been Executive Director at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens since July 2009, but Vecchio’s zoo career spans a 36 year period.  It began at Highland Park Zoo (now called Pittsburgh Zoo) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and continued with Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina, Zoo Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia, Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, Rhode, Island, and Oregon Zoo in Portland, Oregon.  As Executive Director of the Oregon Zoo, the Zoo achieved record attendance in nine of the 11 years he was there.


Vecchio has a Master of Science, Biology, from the University of South Carolina and a Bachelor of Science, Environmental Resource Management/Wildlife Conservation from Penn State University.   His honors and awards include the Vanguard Award, Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association in 1995; Outstanding Citizen Award, Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, 1994; and the Outstanding Service Award, Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), 1991.


Vecchio is currently on the board of directors of Visit Jacksonville, Jacksonville’s Cultural Fusion, and the Southeast Zoo and Aquarium Research Consortium (SEZARC).  He also serves on the Curriculum Committee of Leadership Jacksonville and the Advisory Council of Eckerd College.  Previously, Vecchio served on the Board of Directors, Board of Regents, Animal Welfare Special Committee, Pig and Peccary Advisory Group, and Science and Technology Committee of the AZA and is considered a leader in the organization.  He has also been member of the American Association of Zookeepers; Animal Behavior Society; American Society of Primatologists; International Bear Biology Association; Society for Conservation Biology; American Society of Mammalogists and the American Federation of Herpetoculturists. 

Dan Maloney - Deputy Director of Animal Care & Conservation


Dan’s 32-year career has given him the opportunity to work for some of the world’s top zoological institutions, including the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx and Queens Zoos, the Philadelphia Zoological Garden, the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, and Australia’s Royal Melbourne Zoo.

As Audubon Zoo’s General Curator, he led the Hurricane Response Team.  Dan and 13 others remained at the zoo through Katrina in August 2005, and many staff lived on premises for nearly two months.  Staff was well prepared, and Dan credits Audubon’s triumph to the remarkable dedication of the team, solid preparation and good fortune.


As Deputy Director of Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens since 2010, he’s responsible for animal husbandry and health care, regulatory compliance, environmental enrichment, animal transport, keeper training, exhibit design, species conservation programs, and effective guest interpretation and engagement with the animals.

Teresa Kennedy – Chief Operating Officer

Holly Ellis - Chief Financial Officer


Holly began her career in public accounting working in the audit department of KPMG in Norfolk, Virginia leaving the firm as an Audit Manager after 4 ½ years.  During her tenure as an auditor, Holly gained experience with construction contractors, government contractors, retirement plans and city governments.  With the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens embarking on an ambitious Capital Campaign and Master Plan in 1992 to rebuild the entire facility, the Board of Directors sought out their first Director of Finance to help lead the Zoo’s Finance department.  With Holly’s background and experience with KPMG, she was selected for the position in 1994 bringing financial and accounting expertise to the Zoo, particularly in the areas of construction and governmental accounting. 


For over 20 years, Holly has been responsible for the fiscal oversight of the Zoo’s overall operation, which has grown to a $16.8 million annual operating budget, as well as the Zoo’s Master Plan capital projects.  During her tenure, she has been a member of the Zoo’s Capital Project Team and has had financial oversight for over $60 million in Master Plan capital projects, including such major projects as the Range of the Jaguar and Land of the Tiger exhibits.  Her areas of direct responsibility include the overall management of the accounting, teller and information technology departments.  She has helped ensure that the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens is a financially sound institution with her job responsibilities including financial/accounting internal controls, budgeting, financial reporting, risk management/insurance, governmental compliance, financial statement audit, tax returns, cash management, banking relationships, financial policies and procedures, retirement plan administration and contract review.


Holly attended the University of Georgia graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Accounting, as well as, earning a University of Georgia’s Honors Program Certificate of Academic Achievement in the College of Business Administration for Honors graduation.  During her tenure with KPMG, she became a Certified Public Accountant in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  She is currently a Professional Fellow in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, an active member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums CFO group and a member of the Paxon School for Advanced Studies Parent Teacher Association.

Dr. Terry L. Maple - Professor in Residence and Director of Wildlife Wellness

Dr. Terry L. Maple is Elizabeth Smithgall-Watts Professor Emeritus at the Georgia Institute of Technology where he served for thirty years on the faculty. While at Georgia Tech he was recruited by Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young to serve as the reform director of the troubled Atlanta Zoo. He spent eighteen years leading the zoo while simultaneously operating a highly productive graduate research program at Tech. He is the author, coauthor, and editor of 245 publications including Ethics on the Ark (Smithsonian, 1993), Zoo Animal Welfare (Springer, 2013) and Professor in the Zoo (Red Leaf Press, 2016). During his academic career, he supervised thirty-one doctoral dissertations at Emory University, Georgia Tech, and Florida Atlantic University. He also led the Palm Beach Zoo as President/CEO from 2005-2011. A Fellow of Divisions 1, 3, 6, and 34 of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Maple was elected President of the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 1999. He is currently employed as Professor in Residence and Director of Wildlife Wellness at the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens. In Jacksonville, he worked with administrators at the University of North Florida to implement a partnership to support student and faculty participation in evidence-based management, behavioral research, and the delivery of wellness services. Dr. Maple is the co-editor (with Allison Kaufman and Meredith Bashaw) of a new book Scientific Foundations of Zoos and Aquariums published by Cambridge University Press in 2019.

Janet M. Wesley – Director of Marketing

Janet oversees the marketing and development for the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Her leadership builds to further engage Zoo visitors and donors in fun and meaningful experiences, and build upon the Zoo’s reputation as a valued community partner.

Having managed several successful marketing and fundraising campaigns, Janet believes nothing is more rewarding than matching your passion with your expertise; when that connection is made, success happens. Starting her marketing career 20 years ago in the banking and property management industries, a passion-aligned progression to nonprofit fundraising happened along the way.

During the past 10 years, Janet has aligned her career with mission-driven organizations that resonate with her passion for education, animal welfare and environmental conservation. By focusing on each organization’s unique dynamics, Janet looks for creative ways to “connect the dots” and drive success.

A long-term Jacksonville resident, Janet obtained her Bachelor of Arts from the University of North Florida. In addition to serving on the Jacksonville Public Library Foundation’s board of directors, she also volunteers her time with the Friends of Jacksonville Animals beaches committee and supporting local animal rescue organizations.



Paula Shields - HR Director


Ms. Shields is a Certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) with more than 20 years of experience in the field. She has been recognized for outstanding employee engagement, regulatory compliance, leadership, process improvement, and mentoring.  Her professional affiliations include membership in the Society of Human Resources Management. She has previously served as the HR Director for Orange Park Medical Center and HR Generalist for Sun Trust Bank in North Florida.


Her community activities and affiliations include service as an ALS North Florida Council Member and Board Trustee of Marywood University, Scranton PA. Additionally, Ms. Shields is a sustainer of the Jacksonville Junior League; a former board member of First Coast Child Advocates (Guardian ad Litem Program); former president of the Foster Care Citizen Review Board; a mentor for Take Stock in Children; and a United Way Health Services Team Volunteer. Ms. Shields holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Management from Tulane University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Loyola University. 


Leanne White - Director of Education


Leanne is responsible for conservation and community education as well as volunteer engagement programming.  This includes most on-site and off-site revenue generating programs as well as the value-added guest engagement. She plays an integral role supporting other zoological departments with development, exhibit design, strategic planning and evaluation.


Leanne is co-administrator and an instructor for the Conservation Education: Effective Program Design course as part of the Association of Zoo and Aquarium (AZA) Professional Development Program. She is also the Education Advisor for the Antelope and Giraffe Taxon Advisory Group (TAG).  She is a current member of AZAs Conservation Education Committee (CEC). Prior to coming to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Leanne was the Education Curator for the Greenville Zoo for 13 years.  

Nikki Smith – Director of Development

John Lukas – Curator of Wildlife Conservation


John graduated from St. Anselm’s College in 1971 and received his Master’s Degree in vertebrate zoology from Northeastern University in 1973.   He started his zoological career at the Stoneham Park and Franklin Park Zoos in Boston, followed by one year in British Columbia developing educational programs for the Okanagan Game Farm.  For 6 years, he was curator for the New York Zoological Society’s Rare Animal Survival Center on St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia.   After getting to know paper magnate Howard Gilman during a safari to Africa in 1980, he consulted on expanding the conservation programs at White Oak and became the Center’s first director in 1982.  John led the development of White Oak Conservation Center into a base of conservation efforts for over 25 threatened and endangered species through breeding, research, training and re-introduction programs involving biologists, researchers and students from around the world.  After 30 years at White Oak, John joined the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens as manager of Conservation and Science where he leads the staff in developing a strategic conservation program helping to advance the Zoo’s current partnerships and forge new alliances including: Okapi Conservation Project, International Rhino Foundation and the Wildlife Conservation Network to ensure the protection of these species in their natural habitats.


John’s holistic approach to wildlife conservation is espoused by his involvement in field conservation programs around the world. He is President of the Okapi Conservation Project, a founding member and vice-president of the Wildlife Conservation Network, a founding member and the president of the International Rhino Foundation, a director of the Conservation Action Trust, an adviser of the Anna Mertz Rhino Trust and an adviser to the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center.

Valerie Sagura - Curator of Wildlife Wellness and Behavioral Science

Nikki Smith - Director of Development
Nikki Smith - Director of Development