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Metro mum on Oregon Zoo shakeup

by: OREGON ZOO - Former Oregon Zoo Director Kim Smith.Metro officials are refusing to comment on the sudden replacement of the director and chief veterinarian at the Oregon Zoo.

The regional government, which runs the zoo, announced that Director Kim Smith was replaced late Monday afternoon. Her job is being filled on an interim basis by Teri Dresler, the General Manager of Metro Visitor Venues.

Metro also announced that Veterinarian Mitch Finnegan is also no longer with the zoo. Existing veterinarian staff will continue providing care to zoo animals, Metro says.

No reasons were given for the departures. Metro said it is agency policy not to comment on personnel matters.

by: OREGON ZOO - Former Oregon Zoo Veterinarian Mitch Finnegan.Jeremiah Johnson, a first-time candidate running against Metro President Tom Hughes, took partial credit for the shakeup. He says they were in reaction to protests over the treatment of elephants at the zoo that he and other animal rights activists helped organize. A protest was recently held at the zoo on Packy's birthday and another is planned at the Metro headquarters on May 8.

"We are already making an impact! Metro just released this today that they fired the Zoo director and the lead veterinarian! Imagine if this is the impact I have when I'm just a candidate what I can do once I get in office!" Johnson wrote on his Facebook page after the shakeup was announced.

Smith became zoo director in February 2010. Before that, she was vice president of animal care at the Brookfield Zoo.

Dresler is a 10-year veteran of the zoo, having work there from 1995 to 2005 and previously serving as the zoo’s deputy interim director from 2009 to 2010.

“Under Teri Dresler’s experienced leadership and with the support of Metro, the dedicated Oregon Zoo staff and the community, the zoo will continue focusing on its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife by creating engaging experiences and advancing the highest level of animal welfare, environmental literacy and conservation science,” Metro Chief Operating Officer Martha Bennett said in a prepared statement.

Metro also said that Deputy Chief Operating Officer Scott Robinson will manage Visitor Venues while Dresler serves in the interim leadership role at the zoo.

According to Metro, zoo and Metro leadership will engage stakeholders and the community in conversations about the zoo’s vision and seek their input on a search process for a new director in coming weeks. No further details were immediately available.