New York, June 12, 2024 - The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), a global conservation organization, hosted its annual gala this evening celebrating the Bronx Zoo’s 125th anniversary and paying tribute to its director, Jim Breheny.

Said Breheny: “All of us here in New York and our colleagues in the field are united in the common goal of having people respect and care for nature; in protecting species and the places where they live. Through our combined work we provide hope and preserve options for ourselves and future generations."

The annual event is held at Central Park Zoo and welcomes guests from across the world who support WCS’s mission to save wildlife and wild places. WCS harnesses the power of its four zoos (Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo), its New York Aquarium, and its field programs in more than 50 countries to save and protect nature for people and wildlife. The Bronx Zoo is WCS’s flagship park and home to WCS Global.

The gala’s honoree, Breheny, began serving as Director of the Bronx Zoo in 2005; and has served in that position and as Executive Vice President of WCS’s Zoos and Aquarium since 2011.  A Bronx native, he started working at the Bronx Zoo as a summer intern.

“All of us at WCS wish to congratulate Jim Breheny on this well-deserved celebration of his long and successful career,” said Robb Menzi, WCS Interim President and CEO. “His leadership of WCS’s zoos and aquarium has had an outsized impact not only on the innovative progress here at WCS, but also on zoos and aquariums worldwide. I am honored to be among Jim’s friends and colleagues applauding him this evening.“

Added Dan Ashe, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums:  “Jim Breheny is a child of the Bronx who started his career at WCS in the 1970s.  His career path kept him at WCS, and he rose to lead one of the world’s greatest zoos and to become a leader in the global zoological profession. Jim is a leader among leaders, brilliant and brilliantly funny. He has helped transform modern zoos into outstanding conservation organizations that we know today.” 

Breheny, a staunch advocate for animals and saving nature across the world, is responsible for WCS’s four zoos and aquarium, which collectively house more than 20,000 animals representing more than 1,300 species—the largest coordinated collection of animals in the world. Under his leadership, the Bronx Zoo’s education program reaches 1 million-plus students, educators, and families with science education programs annually.

Some of Breheny’s key milestones in his 50 plus years at the Bronx Zoo: He led the development of reintroduction and head-starting programs for species ranging in size from Kihansi spray toads to American bison and has overseen the opening of Madagascar! and many other exhibits. Under his leadership, Ocean Wonders: Sharks! was built and opened as the extensive restoration work at the NY Aquarium was underway following the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Breheny, a mentor to many in the zoo and aquarium profession, has a long record of service to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), including serving as Chair of the Board of Directors. He championed the successful effort to increase AZA member financial support to field conservation programs, which currently contributes over $250 million annually to global conservation efforts.

One of Breheny’s most significant contributions to the zoo and aquarium community is the docuseries THE ZOO, which premiered on Animal Planet and appeared in over 200 markets around the world. THE ZOO, which was taped over five seasons, gave viewers a behind the scenes look at how zoos and aquariums are run. The show enhanced the public’s view of the Bronx Zoo and also other zoos and aquariums run by the AZA.


WCS’s Annual Gala/2024

WHEN: Wednesday, June 12; 6:30 pm Cocktail Reception; 8:00 pm Dinner Program and Dancing
WHERE: Central Park Zoo, Fifth Avenue at 64th Street
HONOREE: Jim Breheny
CO-CHAIRS: Elizabeth and Lee Ainslie, Wallis Annenberg, Judy and Jamie Dimon, Katie and Peter Dolan, Ingrid and Thomas Edelman, Linda and Paul Gould, Laura and Peter Grauer, Antonia and George Grumbach, Diane and Andreas Halvorsen, Judith Hamilton, John and Jeanet Irwin, Tony and Amie James, Terry and Bob Lindsay, Helen and Gene McGrath, Howdy Phipps, Alejandro and Charlotte Santo Domingo, Kitty and Stephen Sherrill, Loretta and Chris Stadler, Allison and Leonard Stern, Ann and Andrew Tisch, Priscilla and Ward Woods, Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, Don and Barbara Zucker
DÉCOR: Visions Decor
CATERING: Thomas Preti Events To Savor