Following his 15-year tenure as president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc., Kirby Fowler brings a passion for conservation and education to his role as president and CEO of The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. Learn what this nonprofit leader loves about Baltimore as well as his focus for leading the Zoo’s mission forward into 2021 and beyond.
Q: How has The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore confronted the challenges associated with the coronavirus pandemic?
A: The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Zoo to close during our highest attendance season, causing serious financial hardship and leading to layoffs and suspension of key programs. We expect the total impact of COVID-19 to exceed $4 million, a loss of 25% of our funding. Despite these challenges, we are still providing top-notch animal care and supporting conservation programs throughout the world. The Zoo sits on a beautiful, expansive outdoor campus, and, with our comprehensive reopening protocols, people are coming back!
Q: What are some of your priorities for the Zoo heading into 2021?
A: In 2021, the Zoo will continue to enrich the lives of our 200 animal species. Incidentally, we are the only zoo in the country with three baby chimpanzees! We are looking to recover our losses by presenting creative new virtual programming and producing events like the first-ever drive-through safari as well as Zoo Lights, a festival of holiday lights. At the same time, we are embarking on
a master-plan process to provide an exciting vision for years to come.
Q: Do you have any favorite animals at The Zoo?
A: That’s not a fair question! I have to say that I am most excited about our six signature animal programs: Panamanian golden frogs, African penguins, African elephants, great apes, polar bears and several species native to Maryland, such as box turtles and snowy owls wintering in Maryland. Each of these programs incorporates collaboration with national and international partners working to save these species from extinction. But, honestly, every day I learn something that there is something new to love about our animals.
Q: What do you love the most about Baltimore?
A: Nothing beats the authenticity of the people of Baltimore and the variety of experiences you can enjoy here. In just a few minutes—without traffic—you can travel from a dynamic downtown to wide-open spaces, not just the Zoo, but the rolling hills of our neighboring counties. The cultural community is enlivened by real artists living in former industrial buildings, and historic architecture is everywhere you look. Baltimore really shines because of the diversity and kindness of the people who live and work here.
Q: How would you describe your personal style?
A: With my wife and children, I love to spend time at home and share their daily experiences, victories and defeats. At work, I try to achieve goals with a sense of perspective but also tenacity. I strive to be fair but recognize that almost every situation is slightly different, requiring the rules to be adjusted. As far as fashion goes, I’m afraid I will let you down, but I do love to discover new music, especially the alternative kind, and I’m also probably too sarcastic for my own good.