The Santa Barbara Zoo has announced the retirement of its longtime zoo director Nancy McToldridge, at the end of September.
Nancy McToldridge

Nancy McToldridge

McToldridge has called the Santa Barbara Zoo home since 1982 when she began her four-decade career as the director of education.

Her commitment, vision and leadership helped shape the zoo and set the course for it to become the No. 1 most visited attraction in Santa Barbara and one of the most respected institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The zoo celebrates its shared history with McToldridge and the accomplishments made for wildlife conservation, people working to help endangered species, and members of the local and global communities.

“Being a part of the Santa Barbara Zoo and this beloved Santa Barbara community has been such an honor,” McToldridge said. “I know Ted would agree with me that our many years together at the Santa Barbara Zoo were some of the best of our lives.

“Looking back to see how far we’ve come, and everything that has been accomplished with our amazing team, all while being advocates for wildlife conservation worldwide, is tremendously rewarding. I look forward to supporting the Santa Barbara Zoo for many years to come.”

Nancy McToldridge’s late husband Ted McToldridge served as the zoo’s first director from 1964 until his retirement in December 1997.

Nancy McToldridge began her career at the Ohio State Parks as an interpretive naturalist, where she discovered her passion for connecting people with nature. This led her to volunteer as a docent at the Columbus Zoo.

She moved to Santa Barbara in 1982 after accepting the education curator position. She was promoted to assistant director in 1989, COO in 1999, and director in 2007.

“There aren’t too many people who serve for 40 years at the same institution and still fewer who have the kind of impact of Nancy McToldridge.  It is impossible to overstate the significance of Nancy’s contributions to the Santa Barbara Zoo and our professional community,” said Rich Block, zoo president/CEO.

“While Nancy is a beloved local figure, she is equally beloved across the entire community of Association of Zoos & Aquariums accredited institutions,” he said. “She has served her profession and colleagues through outstanding leadership, passion, devotion, and joy, infecting all around her with energy and inspiration. We were lucky to claim Nancy as our own.”

In recognition of McToldridge’s 40 years of service, the zoo has established the Nancy H. McToldridge Zoo Camp Scholarship Fund. Her commitment to education and connecting people with animals in a meaningful way continues on through this fund. To make an inaugural gift and help send a child to camp in honor of Nancy, McToldridge, click here.

For more about the Santa Barbara Zoo, visit