Dr. Cristián Samper Begins his Tenure as President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society

As head of WCS, Dr. Samper will lead the world’s preeminent science-based conservation organization, which includes the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo and conservation projects in 65 nations and all the world’s oceans

BRONX, NEW YORK August 1, 2012—Dr. Cristián Samper begins his tenure today as President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society. Dr. Samper, a scientist and an international authority on conservation biology and environmental policy, follows Dr. Steven E. Sanderson, who retired as WCS President and CEO on July 1.

Dr. Samper joins WCS after serving as Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC since 2003. The WCS Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Dr. Samper in January.

Said Dr. Samper: “I have admired the work of WCS for many years and am honored to join a talented and dedicated team of staff and partners. WCS is unique among environmental groups in our ability to connect millions of people to nature through our zoos and aquarium, and at the same time helping conserve wildlife and wild places around the world. As a tropical biologist, I recognize the urgent need to conserve the natural and cultural diversity of this planet. It is my goal to contribute to these vital efforts as head of the Wildlife Conservation Society.”

Ward W. Woods, Chair of the WCS Board, said: “On behalf of the WCS Board of Trustees, I want to welcome Cristián to WCS, which has grown under Steve’s leadership to be the world’s preeminent science-based conservation organization. Cristián’s strong background in conservation biology, sound management, and fundraising make him a perfect fit to lead WCS well into the future.”

Soon after joining WCS, Dr. Samper will deliver the keynote address at the upcoming IUCN World Conservation Congress to be held in Jeju, South Korea from September 6-15. The IUCN World Conservation Congress is the world’s largest and most important conservation event, held every four years.

As Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, Dr. Samper ran the largest natural history collection in the world, with more than 126 million specimens and artifacts. During his tenure at the Smithsonian, Dr. Samper: reinvigorated the research staff by hiring new curators to replace retiring staff; established an endowed fellowship program; built major new collections, storage facilities, and laboratories; and raised more than $150 million to support new long-term exhibitions and programs, including the Encyclopedia of Life and the Sant Ocean Hall. Samper was Acting Secretary of the Smithsonian from March 2007 until July 2008, when he returned to the Museum of Natural History.

Before moving to Washington, Dr. Samper was deputy director and staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama from 2001 to 2003. Further, Dr. Samper served as director of the environment division of the Foundation for Higher Education in Colombia in the early 1990s and was the moving force behind establishing a network of private reserves in that country.

Born in San José, Costa Rica and raised in Colombia, Dr. Samper studied biology at the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá and earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in biology from Harvard University, where he was awarded the Derek Bok prize for excellence in teaching.


Mary Dixon: (1-347-840-1242; mdixon@wcs.org)

John Delaney: (1-718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org)

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit www.wcs.org.

La Wildlife Conservation Society promueve la conservación de la vida silvestre y paisajes naturales alrededor del mundo. Esto lo logramos a través de la ciencia aplicada, educación en conservación a nivel global, y la gestión del sistema de parques urbanos de vida silvestre más grande del mundo, liderado por su parque principal, el Zoológico del Bronx. Juntas, estas actividades cambian actitudes hacia la naturaleza y ayudan a las personas a imaginar a los humanos y la vida silvestre viviendo en harmonía. WCS está comprometida con esta misión porque es esencial para la integridad de la vida en la Tierra. Visita www.wcs.org.


Special Note to the Media: If you would like to guide your readers or viewers to a web link where they can make donations in support of helping save wildlife and wild places, please direct them to: www.wcs.org/donation.

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