Meet our senior team members
Our team is made up of talented people who come from a range of backgrounds, including commercial, educational, scientific and animal care disciplines.
Click below to find out more about the senior management team at Wild Planet Trust.
Chief Operating Group
Dennis was born in Torquay and educated at Torquay Grammar School for Boys. Following officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Dennis’ military career focused on anti-terrorism and international crisis management, and he was awarded an OBE for distinguished operational leadership. Following his military career, he founded a consulting firm providing specialist services to top-tier companies and government agencies.
After over ten years at the helm, Dennis sold his stake in the company so that he could pursue full-time post-graduate research and he now holds an MSc in Applied Positive Psychology.
He was appointed Wild Planet Trust Chief Operating Officer in late 2020, subsequently assuming the role of Chief Executive in early 2021.
Melanie is Wild Planet Trust’s Chief Finance Officer. She is a seasoned finance professional with more than 15 years of experience across a variety of industries.
She began her finance career in Financial Services with Ernst & Young, where she trained as a Chartered Accountant on their Graduate Programme, before later joining the BBC. After two years in the BBC Internal Audit, Melanie joined Comcast NBC Universal, where she was selected for their Finance Leadership Programme.
Melanie spent three years in the US, rotating across various business segments, including advertising, strategy and TV stations. Melanie returned to the UK in 2018 as Group Controller for Universal Pictures International. More recently, Melanie spent 18 months as Head of Finance for Europe & MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) at a late-stage e-commerce start up, where she led the build-out of the international finance function.
Clare grew up in and around the Bath area. At Plymouth University she studied Biology, majoring in Pollution Ecology and Conservation. She initially worked on conservation management plans for national parks then moved to the water industry working on environmental pollution and research projects.
After completing a Post Graduate Certificate in Education at Exeter University, she moved to the zoo industry as an Education Officer at Living Coasts. After gaining promotion to Operations Manager, she worked at the Living Coasts site until its closure in 2020. During her time at Living Coasts, Clare lectured in marine conservation, aquarium management and population ecology at Bridgewater College.
Clare has been involved in many zoo associations and groups over the years including the inauguration of the British and Irish Assocation of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) presenter’s conference, serving on BIAZA council for six years and currently sitting on the European Assocation of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) penguin taxon advisory group. At a local level, Clare served as Chair of Sea Torbay and Trustee for Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust. She worked with Plymouth University as an industry advisor and is currently Chair of Torbay Cleaner Coasts Initiative.
Steve grew up in a houseful of animals in Northampton, before moving to Liverpool in 1994 to study for an Honours degree in Zoology.
After graduating, he worked as a mammal keeper at Banham Zoo, and an LVI keeper at Chester Zoo before moving to Hampshire in 2001 to work at Sparsholt College. Steve’s final role at the college was as Curriculum Leader for Animal Science, Veterinary Nursing, and Zoo Biology, managing a range of Higher Education programmes, and assisting with the delivery of the DMZAA zoo keeper training course. During this period he achieved a PGCE, an MSc in recreational learning, and Senior Fellow status of the Higher Education Academy.
Steve left the college in 2017 and relocated to Devon to work for Wild Planet Trust. Steve has held several positions here at the Trust: Group Education Manager, Curator of Birds and LVI, and his current role as Head of Department for Campaigns and Programmes.
Heads of Department
Lisa was an Animal Manager at the Isle of Wight Zoo for almost eight years, before moving to Chessington World of Adventures. She held multiple roles at Chessington, progressing from Primate Supervisor to Animal Collections Manager and then Assistant Zoo Manager.
Lisa moved to Paignton Zoo in 2019 and took on the role of Curator of Mammals. She currently holds the role of Head of Conservation Services (Interim).
Dave grew up in Newquay and on leaving school joined Devon and Cornwall Police as a career police officer, serving in both counties in a variety of operational and management roles. His final role was as the Inspector responsible for policing Newquay.
On retiring from the police force, he spent 8 years at the Eden Project with their Visitor Services team and then as their Operations Manager. Dave joined Wild Planet Trust in November 2019 as the Operations Manager at Newquay Zoo. More recently, Dave was the Head of Department for Delivery Support across the two sites.
He is now Head of Newquay Zoo. Growing up in Newquay he was a regular visitor to Newquay Zoo when it first opened in 1969 and this helped ignite a lifetime interest in the natural world. Now he is part of the zoo management team helping to showcase our fascinating world to new generations. He is a Member for the CELT Academy of Schools’ Board of Trustees.
Jen’s career began in bars and restaurants in Torbay and she has twelve years’ experience in the hospitality industry, including six years at the University of Exeter Students’ Guild, where she progressed to Food and Beverage General Manager. During that time, Jen was responsible for overseeing a variety of hospitality operations and events across the campus.
Jen joined Wild Planet Trust in 2018 as Group Catering Manager, progressing to Paignton Zoo Operations Manager in 2020 after returning from maternity leave, and later to Head of Group Services. Jen is currently Head of Support Services at Wild Planet Trust.
Susanne was born in Denmark where she lived until she finished her schooling. She moved to London and spent the next 20 years working for a selection of retailers from Salisbury’s to Habitat in various roles and locations.
When her son was born in 2007 she decided to up sticks from London and relocate to Devon with her husband. She was appointed Store Manager of the H&M store in Exeter where she stayed for a number of years until the opportunity of Retail Manager at Paignton Zoo came up.
Over the last 12 years she has worked in various roles within the organisation and is now Head of Visitor Services.