For many Czechs it is difficult to imagine anyone other than Petr Fejk running the Prague Zoo, but soon that will be a reality. On Tuesday the hugely successful zoo director (the first non-zoologist in the post) confirmed that after 12 years he was stepping down as of October 31st. The man who transformed the zoo into one of the most exciting venues in the Czech capital - focussing on new services, modern pavilions and new acquisitions – will now be heading to New York, where he will run the Czech Republic’s National Bohemian Hall.
“It’s a very personal decision: 12 years is a long time. I identified with this work 100 percent. But 12 years is 12 years: a long time to be an authority for others, for my employees and colleagues at the zoo. For me this was the right moment to try something different, to be in a completely different space and have a completely different target group.”
How do you think your tasks ahead at the Bohemian National Hall in New York City will compare?
“Maybe it will be similar in a lot of ways. It’s public work, it’s not a ‘way to get rich’, it’s a way to help with the presentation of the Czech Republic. And it’s also about money, about services, about sponsors, about marketing and sponsor-fund raising strategies. New York will be a big challenge.
You mentioned today that the move would also be very important for your family…
“Most certainly: I have two children, a boy who is 15 and a daughter who is eight. To be the father of children as the director of the zoo is something very special, so of course my family was against my leaving at first. Moving to a foreign country will be a different experience. But I think they will get used to it within six months and everything will be okay.”
What will you miss most about working at the zoo?
“A positive relationship with a lot of people: the zoo now has an annual visit-rate of 1.3 million and I feel that the zoo has a lot of support from the public as well as sponsors. A positive relationship is the most important thing for any zoo director and was the most important thing for me personally.”
Will you also miss the creatures you oversaw?
“It was very special of course. But I am very familiar with the Bronx
Zoo, the Central Park Zoo – so when I begin to miss the animals I’ll
know where to go.”
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