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San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Leader Has a Broad Mission

NONPROFITS: CEO Builds on a Career That Began With Disney

Paul Baribault, CEO of the 107-year-old San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, is dedicated to making it the most effective conservation organization in the world.

Paul Baribault
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

“I mention San Diego, it’s always, ‘have you been to the zoo?’ It’s the first thing people ask,” said Baribault, who received a CEO of the Year Award in the Nonprofit category.

“I want people to view us not only as a world-class zoo, but a world-famous conservation organization. We are a conservation program that also operates a zoo and a park.”

The Wildlife Alliance is a global nonprofit conservation organization that until 2021 was known as the San Diego Zoo Global, encompassing the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park.

As the largest zoo-based conservation group in the world, Baribault said that the new name better represents the organization’s focus on conservation and the connection between animal and human health.

The name change also represents Baribault’s drive to form alliances with other conservation groups.

“We’re not just out there alone,” Baribault said.

Unlike most other conservation groups, he said that the Wildlife Alliance doesn’t rely solely on donations to support its efforts, but draws funding from the operation of the zoo and Safari Park.

“When the zoo and the park are operating as successful operations, we take the revenue, that profit, and push it back into our conservation work,” Baribault said. “We’ve been increasing our investment in conservation the last three years in a row.”

Economic Impact of $2.4 Billion

Under Baribault’s leadership, the economic impact of the Wildlife Alliance grew to $2.4 billion in 2022 with nearly 6 million guests, setting a new record, and the organization’s social media reach expanded from 30 billion impressions in 2019, when Baribault became CEO, to 90 billion for the past two years.

“We are constantly in a state of always evolving, that’s key to us as an organization,” Baribault said. “Growth is important but it’s about quality of experience that’s important.”

His colleagues at the Wildlife Alliance described Baribault as a collaborative leader with a passion for protecting endangered species and developing that same passion in budding conservationists.

They credited Baribault with building on a solid core of executives to help the Wildlife Alliance broaden its reach.

Baribault said that one of his goals is to increase the Wildlife Alliance’s involvement in the San Diego community.

Baribault came to the Wildlife Alliance in 2019 after leaving The Walt Disney Studios, where he was vice president of animation marketing operations and strategy, and general manager of Disneynature. He said he joined the Disney organization as a summer job and spent 24 years with the organization.

At Disney, he was a leader of theatrical film campaigns for Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, and The Muppets.  He also oversaw all aspects of the Disneynature film label, including marketing, feature film production, and brand development.

Baribault said he’s long had “a passion for nature and wildlife.”

“I grew up loving to get outdoors with our family,” Baribault said.

In addition to his work with the Wildlife Alliance, Baribault is board chair of the Jane Goodall Institute, an executive committee member of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival and a board member of the Academy of Our Lady of Peace. He was executive chair of the Aspen High Seas Initiative.

Baribault earned a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in studio art photography from Stanford University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.

IN HIS OWN WORDS:

“I view the recognition to be a great tribute to all the work the organization has done. It’s a great honor to be recognized and, while this award is bestowed upon me, I view it as a recognition of how the organization has evolved, how we evolved our mission and our purpose and our role in the world and also how we engage the San Diego community and increase our role of being a key leader in the community.”

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