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Honolulu Zoo director resigns

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Jeffrey Wilkinson has been selected as to be the new administrator for the zoo, effective April 1.

Jeff Wilkinson has resigned as director of the Honolulu Zoo, less than a year after taking the post.

He is the fourth zoo director to resign in the past five years.

Wilkinson, in a memorandum to zoo staff Sunday night, cited family issues for his departure. A death in his family caused him to decide to return to California to care for his elderly parents, he said.

"Returning home to Hawaii had been my dream for the last 20 years, but you know the saying, ‘Life happens while you’re making other plans,’" Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson spent at least part of his youth growing up in Hawaii and was a graduate of Punahou School. Before becoming zoo director, he was chief operating officer of the nonprofit St. John’s Program for Women and Children in Sacramento.

Wilkinson did not have zoo experience when he began the post in April. In his staff memo, he thanked zoo workers for "the friendship and (camaraderie) you’ve shown this zoo greenhorn."

Mayor Kirk Caldwell, at the time Wilkinson’s selection was announced in March, cited his "strong management, marketing and operations experience."

"I’ve made the difficult decision to resign my position at the Zoo and move back to California to care for my parents," Wilkinson said in an email to zoo staff sent last night. "I am so proud to have been part of this team.  During my short time here, I hope we’ve planted some seeds that will take root and one day bring more resources to the Zoo."

Assistant Zoo Director Baird Fleming will serve as acting director as the city goes through the process of picking a successor.

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