A former Minnesota Zoo zookeeper is now its director


More than a quarter century ago, John Frawley took a job as a zookeeper at the Minnesota Zoo.

Now, he's leading the whole thing.

The Minnesota native has been officially named the new director and president of the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, according to a news release.

He was selected as the final candidate for the role unanimously by the zoo's search committee, and his appointment was signed off by the board of directors on Wednesday.

"It’s been 26 years since I was a zookeeper at the Minnesota Zoo," Frawley said in the release. "But I’m coming home to more than just the Zoo; I’m coming home to Minnesota where I grew up exploring the state’s great outdoors."

Frawley went to Red Wing High School and Minnesota State University. He held a zookeeper gig with the Minnesota Zoo from 1988-1992, after which he went to the Mall of America to help plan and develop what was then Camp Snoopy and Underwater World.

In 1996 he moved to San Francisco (where he's been since) to take a job with Aquarium of the Bay. It eventually turned into a leadership role with Bay.org, a conservation and restoration group that brought together multiple agencies in the area.

Peter Maritz, chair of the Minnesota Zoo Board of Director, said they went through 200 potential candidates, noting Frawley brings a "compelling background and skill set."

First actions include legislative pitch

According to the release, Frawley will be "actively engaged" in the zoo's legislative activities, which includes working to secure funding help.

Gov. Mark Dayton's most recent bonding bill proposal (which is basically him laying out what he would like to do with the money) includes $21.8 million for the zoo, some of which would go to "asset preservation."

That comes after a difficult financial period.

In late 2014, the zoo said layoffs would be coming amid slumping attendance. A few months later, it asked for $1.5 million in emergency funding to help keep things going.

In June, the previous director and president, Lee Ehmke, left to join the Houston Zoo.

For the 2015 fiscal year, the zoo says about 30 percent of its revenue came from state appropriations or the state's Legacy Fund.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2020-11-28 at 6.58.11 PM

Gophers dominate second half to defeat Loyola-Marymount

Marcus Carr scored 26 to send the Gophers to 2-0.

Ambulance hospital emergency

Kandiyohi Co. man airlifted after hand caught in corn picker

Corn pickers are a common cause of farm accidents.

White tail deer

DNR: Passenger shot at deer out of driver's side window

The DNR said 'all sense of safety was disregarded.'

Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 9.10.30 AM

Mpls council proposal would cut nearly $8M from 2021 police budget

The "Safety for All Budget Plan" was introduced Friday.

Shayne Munich

Minneapolis police appeal for help finding missing man

Shayne Munich is described as a vulnerable adult.

Screen Shot 2020-11-27 at 6.26.50 PM

Minnesota nurse's story about her battle with COVID-19 goes viral

A month later, Ashley Walter is on a hard road to recovery.

Adam Thielen

Report: Still on COVID-19 list, Thielen not expected to play Sunday

Thielen was placed on the COVID-19/Reserve list on Monday.

Image from iOS (19)

Mask-wearing, distancing a common sight on MOA's Black Friday

Thousands of shoppers were out and about on Black Friday despite the COVID-19 situation.


Minn. Zoo director explains decision behind closure of dolphin exhibit

Questions and reactions following the announcement earlier this week about closure of Minnesota Zoo dolphin exhibit prompts director Lee Ehmke to release a statement clarifying the zoo's decision. Ehmke notes that the welfare of current dolphins is among the main reasons for the pending closure -- a move unpopular with a Facebook group who started a petition to keep the exhibit running.

Minnesota Zoo opens exhibit for iconic black bears

Decades after the question was first raised about whether to display one of the enduring symbols of the Minnesota woods, three black bears have arrived at the Minnesota Zoo in a new exhibit that opens Saturday.