Council is the governing body of The Zoological Society of London.
Together, our Charity Trustees form Council, the Society's governing body. Council has thirteen members and normally meets formally five times a year.
Council members serve a four-year term of office and are then replaced by elected successors.
Council is collectively responsible for ZSL’s governance and provides leadership and oversight of the strategic direction of ZSL, in line with our charitable purposes, as well as supporting the Director General and Executive Committee’s management and administration of ZSL.
How are council members chosen?
Ten members of Council are elected from and by the Fellows of the Society. Every year, the Fellows are informed of the number of vacancies on Council, the skills and experience that would best support ZSL, and are invited to stand for election. Newly elected Trustees are formally appointed at the Annual General Meeting in November.
Three members of Council are directly selected by Council based on their skills and experience in a process managed by the Nominations Committee.
Our Current Council Members
President: Professor Sir Jim Smith FRS
Jim Smith is a developmental biologist who served as Director of the Medical Research Council (MRC) National Institute for Medical Research, where he helped establish the Francis Crick Institute. Most recently he was Director of Research Programmes at Wellcome. Jim was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1993 and of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1998, and was knighted in 2017.
Secretary: Position currently vacant due to Professor Sir Jim Smith being appointed as President.
Replacement being considered by Council in accordance with the rules in our Byelaws.
Treasurer: Richard Sykes
Richard, a chartered accountant and a former senior partner at PwC, was appointed as Treasurer in January 2020 and brings his accounting, risk, governance and wider business and charity expertise to his role as Chair of the Audit Finance and Risk Committee.
Dr May Chiao
May launched Nature Astronomy as Chief Editor in 2017, which combines top research in astronomy and planetary science as well as commentary on issues that concern the community, such as social justice and space policy. She joined Nature in 2003 and was on the launch team of Nature Physics in 2005. Her academic training was in low temperature physics at McGill University, followed by postdoctoral work at the University of Cambridge and ETH Zurich. The desire to branch out and do more outreach and communication led her to a career in publishing, and her growing interest in conservation brought her to ZSL.
Alex finished a 25-year career in investment banking at JPMorgan in 2018, where he held a variety of risk management, capital-raising, and corporate finance roles in the UK and Asia Pacific. He now runs his own business working with fast-growing companies.
Martin is an award-winning cartoonist, illustrator, and author and has decades of experience of charity governance. Martin served his first term on Council in 1992 following his involvement in the Reform Group, which successfully spearheaded the campaign to reverse the decision to close London Zoo in 1991.
Ken is the founder Director of Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens in Norfolk, opened in 1979, and is a strong proponent of field and zoo conservation work and of inter-zoo co-operation. Ken became a zoo inspector in 1984 and has been a BIAZA member for over 40 years, having served on both BIAZA and EAZA Council.
Shruti is a partner at law firm Allen & Overy where she created and launched an initiative to build digital skills. She brings this spirit of innovation and adoption of technology in addition to her governance and fundraising experience from serving as a School Governor and sitting on a Fundraising Development Group for a Hospice, in addition to completing the FT Non-Executive Director Diploma.
David had a Board level career at the John Lewis Partnership where he held senior roles in Retail, Commercial and Supply Chain. He brings to ZSL experience in non-executive roles, spanning retail, sport, local government, community and voluntary, charity, regulatory and trade bodies.David is the lead ZSL Trustee for diversity, inclusion and belonging.
Dr Peter Higgins
Peter has over 30 years of experience as a veterinary surgeon, including zoological advisory work, coupled with a Fellowship of the Institute of Company Directors, a passion for wildlife and conservation, and experience and achievements in fundraising strategy for charities, as well as marketing and media skills. Peter was appointed ZSL’s designated Safeguarding Trustee in September 2021 and is the Chair of ZSL's Animal Welfare and Zoo Ethics Committee.
Paul has had a lifelong interest in Zoology and conservation and has been a Fellow of ZSL for almost 30 years. Now retired, Paul was Managing Director of a large UK construction company, delivering major projects across the UK, giving him broad experience in strategic and commercial management.Paul is the lead ZSL Trustee on construction-related capital projects and is also chair of ZSL’s Library Advisory Group.
Athena is a commercial barrister specialising in insurance, construction and property damage. She was an elected member of the General Council of the Bar of England and Wales between 2015 and 2021 and was elected Chair of the Young Bar in 2019, negotiating the first pay rise for publicly-funded prosecutors in 18 years. She is passionate about wildlife, conservation and science, and fostering greater public engagement with ZSL's work on these fronts.
Richard started out in environmental sciences: PhD, Royal Society post-doc, environmental assessment. He was then called to the bar in 1998, practicing in planning/environmental law. Richard was a Trustee of the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association for ten years and its Chair for two. Richard was appointed Queens Counsel 2016 and advises in and appears in respect of development and environmental issues for government, developers, and planning authorities.