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Zoo Gets Interim Manager

Appointments: Retired director of Cincinnati facility is selected but says he doesn't want the L.A. job permanently.


Edward Maruska, who ran the Cincinnati Zoo for 32 years, has been named interim general manager of the Los Angeles Zoo, Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn announced Wednesday.

Maruska, 68, retired from the Cincinnati post in 2000 after a career that included the opening of exhibits devoted to manatees and the rain forest, the birth of the first test-tube gorilla and a national record for the number of black rhinos born in captivity.

He will replace outgoing zoo Director Manuel Mollinedo, who will become general manager of the city Department of Recreation and Parks.

Hahn also announced that David Towne, 70, former director of the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, would become a consultant to the zoo. Both appointments are effective July 1.

Towne, a frequent visitor to the Los Angeles Zoo, said he had strongly recommended Maruska for the interim position.

Both men are active in the American Zoo and Aquarium Assn. They were on an accreditation team that identified numerous problems at the zoo seven years ago.

Those problems included overcrowding of the chimpanzees and other animals, inappropriate habitats and inadequate drainage and other infrastructure flaws.

Since then, Maruska said, Mollinedo "has done a spectacular job" in improving the zoo.

Towne credited Maruska with helping make Cincinnati's one of the top zoos in the country.

Maruska, who has a special interest in endangered amphibians, first made his reputation in Cincinnati with innovative exhibits, including the first "World of Insects" exhibit in the 1980s.

Maruska, who has been visiting the Los Angeles Zoo as a consultant on its "Rainforest of the Americas" exhibit, said: "It's going to take me awhile to assess the operation. There's a great deal of construction going on, and I'm very excited about that."

Julie Wong, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said the search for a permanent zoo director has not begun. Maruska's and Towne's appointments must be confirmed by the City Council, which usually limits them to six months.

Maruska, who is expected to be paid at the rate of about $175,000 a year, said neither he nor Towne wanted to be considered for the permanent post.

Towne said he thinks that the zoo, which was recently accredited, now has a sound development plan in place.

"I think it's on a launching pad to greatness," he said. "We're not coming in to change anything. We're coming in to keep it on track."

Lora La Marca of the zoo's development office said she was hopeful that Maruska and Towne's involvement would attract strong candidates for a permanent director. "I'm thrilled that we're going to have two recently retired zoo directors looking after us," she said.

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