It was with great sadness that I heard the news of the death of Ed Maruska this weekend. Ed served as Director of the Cincinnati Zoo from 1968-2000, leading with a strong hand and a belief that he could transform this small corner park into one of America’s leading zoos. The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden we have today is proof of Ed’s leadership.
Ed was 88 when he died of cancer, but was sharp as a tack all the way through. All that knew Ed well know that he was a family man, well=read, curious, at times head strong, and a life-long learner. His great skill as a zoo director is that above all Ed Maruska was an animal man. Through a lifetime of experience, learning, debating and thinking Ed had the most remarkable ability to know the condition of an animal and how to stretch the limits of what might be the best way to create a habitat for them at the zoo. By 1970, with the birth of Sam & Samantha, our first lowland gorilla births, Ed was able to convince the zoo board that we could get crowds of visitors with our animal exhibits and we didn’t need unrelated things like the Food & Home Show, or Playland and the rides at the back of the zoo. Later in the 1970s Ed created innovative facilities like the world’s first outdoor barless gorilla exhibit, the first Insectarium to show the public the importance of biodiversity, and the first major education center, including a full time public high school. In the 1980s the zoo founded CREW, the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife, an outgrowth of Ed’s belief that there is still much to learn about reproductive biology that can aid endangered species. These programs and many others created during Ed’s tenu8re have stood the test of time and are thriving today.
The Cincinnati Zoo prospers today, and it is a truth we hold self-evident that our success and our vital role in the community are built on the shoulders of those who came before us, and principally on the leadership of Ed Maruska.
He will always be remembered at the Cincinnati Zoo.