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October 18, 2007
When Beth Stevens left her rising career within traditional American zoos, she did so for the chance to become the executive leader and conscience of Walt Disney World's animal programs and conservation efforts. Now she's getting a chance to take on that role for Disney worldwide.
Stevens, 48, who as vice president of Animal Kingdom oversaw all of Disney World's animal-science programs, has been promoted to senior vice president for environmental affairs for Disney Worldwide Services. That gives her oversight of environmental and conservation programs throughout Walt Disney Co., from international endangered-species preservation and wildlife-habitat management to the use of biodiesel fuels and the creation of environmentally friendly "green" hotels.
Stevens will remain based in Orlando, where she helped open Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park in 1998, helped found and lead the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, and helped manage zoological programs throughout the giant resort.
Her newly created job "is really just a commitment to build on" her Disney World work throughout the parent corporation, she said. "There certainly is a lot of passion and commitment to the environment all over the company, not just at Animal Kingdom and not just at Walt Disney World. This is really the opportunity to focus on this in a bigger way."
Val Bunting, a 31-year Disney World veteran who also helped with Animal Kingdom's opening and most recently was general manager of the Magic Kingdom, replaces Stevens as vice president of Animal Kingdom.
Jackie Ogden, who joined Disney in 1997, served as director of animal programs and later as operations leader for Animal Kingdom, was promoted to vice president in charge of animal programs and environmental initiatives throughout Disney World.
Stevens' appointment is a positive sign for Disney's commitment to conservation, said Jim Maddy, president of the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Stevens, who has a doctorate in biology, came to Disney from Zoo Atlanta in 1976 with a strong reputation for conservation research and education, and her reputation has only gotten stronger, Maddy said. She was head of the national zoo association's board in 2006.
"She has the highest reputation in the conservation community," Maddy said. "She's a scientist, so she brings those tools to the task . . . and she brings just unbeatable communication skills."
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