Meet the New Director, Peter Zahler!

This week, we have a guest blog post from ZNE’s new Director of Field Conservation, Peter Zahler. We’re so excited to have him on board!

Hello everyone! My name is Peter Zahler and I am the new Director of Field Conservation at Zoo New England. I am delighted to be a part of Zoo New England, and I thought I would take this opportunity to introduce myself.

I’ve had the great good fortune of working all over the world on wildlife conservation. This includes here in the US – from research on bristle-thighed curlews and other shorebirds on the Yukon Delta tundra of Alaska, to mountain plovers on the vast Pawnee National Grassland of Colorado, to the tiny but quite nasty (and predacious) grasshopper mouse in the desert lowlands of Arizona, as well as the much larger but equally bellicose wolverine in the high Cascades of Washington.

A man with a ball cap and puffy jacket smiles at the camera while sitting between the two humps of a Bactrian camel. Blue sky and flat plains meet at the horizon behind him.
Peter enjoying the security of two humps on a Bactrian camel in the great Eastern Steppe of Mongolia.

I’ve helped design, run, and supervise numerous international projects, from studying the bizarre hoatzin (a bird I once described as a punk rock chicken) in Venezuela, to saving flare-horned markhor and snow leopards in the mountains of northern Pakistan (come see both at Stone Zoo!), to protecting Mongolian gazelle on the enormous Eastern Steppe grasslands of Mongolia, to conserving Amur tigers in the Russian Far East (a place very reminiscent of the oak/pine forests of Massachusetts, just with tigers!).

Along the way a big focus of almost all my projects has been ensuring that local communities not only have buy-in to the conservation work but are fully invested in managing the process. My work in Pakistan led to a total of 65 communities managing roughly 10,000 km2 of mountain landscape, while my efforts in helping Afghanistan create its first two national parks ensured that they are managed by local communities. I’ve also been deeply committed to supporting young conservation leaders in developing countries through various graduate scholarship programs that give them a chance to move forward in their careers while learning and connecting with the international conservation community they otherwise might not have been able to reach (stay tuned for an upcoming blog on this topic!).

AA bearded man wearing a ball cap and a blue polo shirt kneels next to a dark-haired young boy in a white shirt. Both hold hands and smile at the camera in front of San Diego's Bea Evenson Fountain in Balboa Park.
Peter and son Gabe taking a break during a visit to the wilds of San Diego.

I am SUPER excited to be here at Zoo New England, as the organization has shown a clear and unwavering commitment to conservation. As a conservation organization it has a rapidly growing (and wonderful) team of conservationists doing great work already. This includes my predecessor Bryan Windmiller, who is only stepping to the side a bit and not away – thank goodness – and will remain with the team helping to run our local field conservation initiatives. The team’s leadership in saving wildlife and wild places, both here in New England and around the world, makes it easy to step in and provide support for them and all of Zoo New England in our efforts to protect the natural world. I really don’t have words to express how thrilled I am to have a chance to help Zoo New England on this critically important conservation journey, and I want to thank you for being on this journey with us. Please tell your friends to join us!

2 Responses

  1. Graeme Patterson

    Congratulations. They are fortunate to have you and I know you will together do great work