PRESS ROOM

Dr. Hayley W. Murphy Named Detroit Zoo’s First Female Director

September 7, 2021

ROYAL OAK, Mich., 

The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) has named Dr. Hayley W. Murphy director and chief executive officer.

Murphy, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, is the first woman in the Zoo’s 93-year history to hold the position. She comes to the DZS from Zoo Atlanta where she was promoted through increasingly responsible management positions and currently serves as deputy director.

Dr. Murphy’s appointment was the result of a rigorous, months-long search led by a committee of the DZS Board and Koya Partners, an executive recruiting firm that specializes in serving mission-driven clients.

“Hayley is an incredibly successful and respected leader who is often praised for being a strong listener, investing in relationships and showing compassion in all that she does. Not only is she a superb zoo executive, her accomplishments as a scientist will allow the DZS to continue growing as a leading animal and environmental research institution,” said Board Chair Tony Earley.

With more than 30 years of zoo experience and extensive involvement with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Dr. Murphy has proven expertise in conservation, animal welfare and education. She serves on the AZA’s Ethics Board and professional development committee. Also notable is her strong background in zoological veterinary medicine.

Dr. Murphy served as senior director of veterinary services and vice president of animal divisions before her promotion to deputy director at Zoo Atlanta, where she is responsible for mission-related areas including education, animal care and welfare, research, human resource management, exhibits and construction.

One of the country’s leading experts in gorilla cardiac health, Dr. Murphy is also Director of the Great Ape Heart Project, an innovative, international, multi-institutional effort – in which the Detroit Zoological Society is an active participant – aimed at investigating, diagnosing and treating heart disease in great apes. She also serves as the national veterinary advisor for the Gorilla Species Survival Plan and the Ape Taxonomic Advisory Group.

Murphy earned an Associates of Science from the State University of New York, and a Bachelor of Science degree as well as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University.

Widely known as a bold, courageous and compassionate institution, the DZS has earned the reputation as one of the most respected and innovative zoos around the world. Murphy spent her childhood summers in metro Detroit and is drawn to the Zoo’s clear commitment to excellence in animal welfare, conservation, education and community engagement.

“I am thrilled to join the Detroit Zoological Society and to work with such a dedicated board of directors, Zoo staff and the Greater Detroit community to continue the history of excellence and innovation for which the Detroit Zoo is known. Animal welfare, education, research and community engagement are critical to the future of our planet, and I am excited to lead an organization so clearly aligned with this mission,” said Murphy. “My family and I are looking forward to living in the Detroit area and becoming part of this progressive and diverse community.”

DZS Executive Director and CEO Ron Kagan is retiring after 28 years of service.

Murphy is expected to begin her role leading the Detroit Zoological Society Nov. 1.

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