NEW directors are due to take up their positions at Chester Zoo next month.

Dr Mark Pilgrim, currently the zoo’s director of conservation and education, will take up the role of director general on October 1.

He takes over from Prof Gordon McGregor Reid, who is stepping down after 18 years in the zoo and 15 years at the helm.

Dr Pilgrim will be joined by Barbara Smith, who will take on the newly-created position of managing director. Ms Smith is currently executive manager at Edinburgh Castle and will start at the zoo on October 25.

Prof Peter Wheeler, chairman of the Trustees of NEZS, the charitable body that runs Chester Zoo, said: “We are extremely pleased to have appointed a team with the expertise and experience to continue the development of the zoo as a world-class visitor attraction and increase the impact of our internationally important conservation work. We wish Mark and Barbara every success in their new posts and know that they have the skills and vision to drive the zoo forward.”

Dr Pilgrim, 46, a father-of-three from Leeswood, near Mold, joined the zoo in 1988 as a bird keeper and has subsequently held curatorial and managerial roles. He is well known and respected in the international zoo community and is a council member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). Dr Pilgrim is also the European stud book holder for Black rhinos, Equadorian Amazon parrots and Jaguars.

Ms Smith, a mother of three, joined Edinburgh Castle, Scotland’s premier visitor attraction, in 2000 and has overseen a 10-year development plan which included a series of high-profile projects designed to enhance the experience for visitors to the castle.

She also chaired Edinburgh Tourism Action Group between 2007 and 2009, fostering strong links between the private and public sectors. Previously she was manager of Edinburgh’s Meadowbank Stadium.