Oakland Zoo’s New President & CEO, Nik Dehejia, Takes Helm on April 3, 2021

Oakland Zoo
March 25, 2021

Oakland Zoo's new CEO and President, Nik Dehejia

Oakland, CA – April 3, 2021…Fifteen-year Oakland Zoo veteran, and currently serving as Executive Vice President, Nik Dehejia will officially assume the role of President & CEO of the Conservation Society of California—Oakland Zoo on April 3, 2021. He succeeds Dr. Joel Parrott, who has been leading the Zoo over the past 37 years.

As Executive Vice President, Dehejia served under Dr. Parrott, and the two teamed together in key Zoo operations, functions and campaigns over the years, including the challenges surrounding Zoo’s closure and re-openings over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am very excited to know that Nik will be taking over my role as President and CEO of the Conservation Society of California—Oakland Zoo.  We have worked together for over fourteen years, and I am confident he has the leadership skills to take the Zoo to new heights, and help the Oakland Zoo reach its tremendous potential,” said Dr. Joel Parrott.

Managing many Zoo growth initiatives, Dehejia has also been instrumental in creating and nurturing deeper cross-collaboration functions throughout the Zoo’s leadership team. His management has helped the Zoo develop efficiencies and establish new systems for ticketing, guest relations, staff engagement, membership growth, public engagement and more.

Obtaining his MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas Business School and with a background in business development, Dehejia began working at Oakland Zoo in 2006, tasked with navigating the Zoo through the development needs of the Zoo’s massive $72M, 56-acre California Trail expansion; a project 20 years in the making that opened to the public in 2018. Dehejia was soon promoted to CFO, before becoming Executive Vice President in 2019.  His appointment to become President & CEO was voted and approved unanimously by Oakland Zoo’s Board of Trustees.

“After we canvassed the country for a new CEO, the Board of Trustees unanimously selected Nik Dehejia – he was clearly the best candidate.  We could not be more delighted to have someone who understands our community, history, and vision for the future.  His commitment to wildlife conservation, education, and access is unquestionable.  We are fortunate to have such an outstanding leader who is ready to guide the organization to the next level,” said Nancy Clark, Co-Chair, Board of Trustees for Oakland Zoo.

Dehejia is a member of the prestigious Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Honors and Awards Committee and the AZA Trends Committee, as well as a board member of the Regional Parks Foundation. Deeply invested in wildlife conservation, he envisions expanding upon and continuing to evolve the animal welfare and conservation-based focus Dr. Parrott built at Oakland Zoo over the past decades. Visiting some of the Zoo’s conservation partners in Africa in 2019, Dehejia’s passion for wildlife and species conservation only grew after seeing firsthand the Zoo’s impact has in those areas through its annual support and in-kind services.

Along with conservation efforts, he is making it a priority for deeper involvement in the local and greater community and developing programs to increase access and inclusion across the Zoo as an organization. Universal access to the Zoo, across all demographics and capabilities, is part of his vision.

"I am privileged and deeply excited to have the opportunity to serve as the President and CEO of the Conservation Society of California—Oakland Zoo. We are once again at a critical moment in time where wildlife and wild places need to be protected and revered. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped us realize, more than ever, the importance of connecting to nature and each other. Our ecosystem and the world we all live in is complex and diverse, and I stand ready to be a voice for all who need our help. We are all living things, human and animal, and our collective future is in our hands," said Nik Dehejia.

A 24-year resident in the Bay Area, he has served as a board member for Heyday Books, Community Initiatives, and Slide Ranch. Before Oakland Zoo, Nik worked in international public policy at the World Resources Institute and World Bank, in corporate responsibility at Business for Social Responsibility, and in a more traditionally commercial role at Levi Strauss & Co. The father of two teenagers, Nik lives in Alameda.



Oakland Zoo, home to more than 850 native and exotic animals, is managed by the Conservation Society of California (CSC); a non-profit organization leading an informed and inspired community to take action for wildlife locally and globally. With over 25 conservation partners and projects worldwide, the CSC is committed to conservation-based education and saving species and their habitats in the wild. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the national organization that sets the highest standards for animal welfare for zoos and aquariums.