IBJNews

LEADING QUESTIONS: Zoo's top dog aims to inspire

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Leading Questions

Welcome to the latest installment of “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” in which IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses to talk shop about the latest developments in their industries and the habits that lead to success.

Michael Crowther, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, first realized he wanted to work in the animal kingdom as a 6-year-old, watching the TV program “Zoo Time” in his native England.

“There was a guy by the name of Dr. Desmond Morris who ran the show,” Crowther , 58, said in his lightly tinged British accent. “He worked at the London Zoo. I apparently told my mother that’s who I wanted to be when I grew up. She of course said that was silly and irresponsible, and to go off and be a doctor or something. But I managed to get back to the star that had been drawing me that whole time.”



Crowther immigrated to Pennsylvania with his family as a teenager. Foregoing zoology for training in physics and communications, Crowther first was employed in the theme-park industry. That led to a post at the fledgling New Jersey State Aquarium, which debuted in 1992 and initially struggled with attendance and exhibits that focused only on the less-than-charismatic native New Jersey fishes.

As an executive of the aquarium and its eventual CEO, Crowther helped oversee the creation of new exhibits, the addition of more tropical fish, and a redesign to make visitors feel more a part of the ocean environment.

Named president and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoological Society in 2002, Crowther has endeavored to do something similar at the Indianapolis Zoo—break down as many barriers as possible between animals and patrons. The goal is to give visitors a greater sense of empathy for the creatures and hopefully inspire interest in animal conservation.

“The worst thing that we can possibly do is just show an animal in a space and let people look in there and say, ‘Yeah, there’s an animal in a space,’” Crowther said. “We want them to pass through the glass or over the fence or over the moat and think of what that animal’s life is like in the wild and what its story is and what it needs to survive and thrive.”

Notable examples include a “shark-touch” pool in the Oceans exhibit, where patrons are encouraged to pet dog sharks in a shallow pool. The $2 million “Cheetahs: Race for Survival” exhibit, which debuted in 2010, allows visitors to get within a few feet of the cats via fenced or glassed-in enclosures, challenges them to match their running speed on a short track, and emphasizes the efforts of conservationist Laurie Marker to preserve the cheetah population in Africa.

In the video at top, Crowther explains how the Indy Zoo’s approach is part of its overall mission to “save the world.” He also dials in for tight focus on his position at the top of the organization’s food chain, revealing how he hopes to improve as CEO and what he learned from a particular miscalculation.

He continues the conversation in the video below, discussing how he interprets his role as CEO and monitors his own job performance. He also waxes romantically about leopards, the animal he most wishes he could emulate.



 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. The east side does have potential...and I have always thought Washington Scare should become an outlet mall. Anyone remember how popular Eastgate was? Well, Indy has no outlet malls, we have to go to Edinburgh for the deep discounts and I don't understand why. Jim is right. We need a few good eastsiders interested in actually making some noise and trying to change the commerce, culture and stereotypes of the East side. Irvington is very progressive and making great strides, why can't the far east side ride on their coat tails to make some changes?

  2. Boston.com has an article from 2010 where they talk about how Interactions moved to Massachusetts in the year prior. http://www.boston.com/business/technology/innoeco/2010/07/interactions_banks_63_million.html The article includes a link back to that Inside Indiana Business press release I linked to earlier, snarkily noting, "Guess this 2006 plan to create 200-plus new jobs in Indiana didn't exactly work out."

  3. I live on the east side and I have read all your comments. a local paper just did an article on Washington square mall with just as many comments and concerns. I am not sure if they are still around, but there was an east side coalition with good intentions to do good things on the east side. And there is a facebook post that called my eastside indy with many old members of the eastside who voice concerns about the east side of the city. We need to come together and not just complain and moan, but come up with actual concrete solutions, because what Dal said is very very true- the eastside could be a goldmine in the right hands. But if anyone is going damn, and change things, it is us eastside residents

  4. Please go back re-read your economics text book and the fine print on the February 2014 CBO report. A minimum wage increase has never resulted in a net job loss...

  5. The GOP at the Statehouse is more interested in PR to keep their majority, than using it to get anything good actually done. The State continues its downward spiral.

ADVERTISEMENT