OKC Zoo Announces Additions to Leadership Team

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is pleased to welcome Rochelle Wilhelm, director of guest experiences/events and Roby Elsner, curator of primates. The Zoo is also happy to announce the promotion of Tracey Dolphin-Drees to curator of hoofstock. Wilhelm will oversee all Guest Experience departmental operations including admissions, rides/attractions, group sales and events. As curators, Elsner and Dolphin-Drees will ensure the health and welfare of their respective animals, manage caretaker staff and support the Zoo’s conservation efforts. 

Rochelle Wilhelm

Prior to the OKC Zoo, Wilhelm was vice president of guest experience at San Antonio Zoo, director of guest experience at The DoSeum in San Antonio, operations manager at Aquatica - SeaWorld WaterPark and supervisor of park operations at LEGOLAND in Carlsbad, California. She graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in Technology Entrepreneurship and Management. Wilhelm resides in Oklahoma City with husband, Ross, son, Grayson, and black lab, Addy.

“Rochelle’s energy, experience and high standards for excellence have already proven to be significant assets to the Zoo,” said Greg Heanue, OKC Zoo chief marketing officer. “In her short time here, Rochelle has already made strategic improvements that benefit our guests and streamline operations. We are very excited to include Rochelle on our management team – we know she will do great things.”

Roby Elsner

Roby Elsner, OKC Zoo curator of primates, has 25 years of animal management experience at Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited facilities across America. Most recently, Elsner was as assistant curator of mammals at the Bronx Zoo’s Wildlife Conservation Society, as assistant curator of primates at Audubon Zoo in New Orleans and as animal caretaker at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. He has a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Anthrozoology from Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. Since 2007, Elsner has served as lead or contributing researcher on 28 primate-related academic publications and presentations on gorillas, orangutans, chimps and lesser spot-nosed monkeys. He is AZA’s North American Regional Studbook Keeper of Western Lowland Gorillas; a role he has held since 2012. Elsner resides in northwest Oklahoma City.

Tracey Dolphin-Drees

New Zoo Curator of Hoofstock, Tracey Dolphin-Drees had previously served as assistant curator of the department since January 2018. Before relocating to Oklahoma City, she was curator of large mammals at Milwaukee County Zoo, zoological manager of elephants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, and senior keeper of elephants at the San Diego Safari Park. Dolphin-Drees earned a Bachelor of Science in both Biological Sciences and Biological Aspects of Conservation from the University of Wisconsin and her Master of Arts in Teaching from Drake University in Iowa. She and her family, husband Kevin, sons Kadin, 11, and Kolton, 9, reside in Edmond.

“We are so fortunate to have Tracey and Roby, both well-respected animal management experts, on the OKC Zoo leadership team,” said Barry Downer, Zoo deputy director/COO. “Tracey has been a part of the Zoo family for almost two years as assistant curator and has more than proven her ability to lead and provide excellent animal care. Roby’s two-and-a-half decades of experience and dozens of research publications speak volumes to the quality of his work and his dedication to conserve wildlife and wild places.”

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