ASHEBORO – Dr. David Jones, longtime director of the N.C. Zoo, announced that he will retire later this year, according to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Jones, who has been director of the state zoo in Asheboro since 1994, will be succeeded by Patricia “Pat” Simmons, the zoo’s current chief operating officer, on Sept. 1.
“The citizens of North Carolina owe a great debt of gratitude to Dr. Jones for what he’s accomplished in leading our iconic zoo for all these years,” Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement. “Tens of millions of visitors have walked the grounds in that time, immensely enjoying what he has helped build.”
Jones, 70, came to the N.C. Zoo from Zoological Society of London, where he was CEO.
“These 22 wonderful years have simply flown past,” said Jones in a release. “We’ve achieved a lot, but none of it would have happened without the support and hard work of an amazing staff with such a varied range of talents and skills.”
Jones arrived to oversee the latter building stages of the North America region, including the Rocky Coast complex, with polar bears, seals, sea lions and arctic sea birds. Since then the facility says its focus has been on new exhibits for elephants, rhinos, chimpanzees and, most recently, an expanded polar bear facility and remodeled nature play area for children called “KidZone.” Working with the N.C. Zoo Society, Jones has overseen the zoo’s landholdings, which have increased from approximately 1,400 acres to 2,200 acres.
Simmons, 58, was hired last September to eventually succeed Jones, the department says. She had served the previous 31 years at the Akron (Ohio) Zoo, including the last 29 as president and CEO.
“When Dr. Jones retires, it will have been a year since I started at the North Carolina Zoo,” Simmons said in the release. “His leadership and vision for this amazing zoo speaks for itself. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn about our great zoo from Dr. Jones and the entire zoo staff.”