Conservationist and Animal Health Business Leader Jonathan Ayers Appointed Chair of Panthera Board of Directors

Panthera Founder and 15-year Board Chair Dr. Thomas S. Kaplan to assume Chairmanship of The Global Alliance for Wild Cats 

September 20, 2021

Media Contact: Susie Weller Sheppard,, 347-446-9904

New York, NY – Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, today announced that conservationist and former Chairman, President and CEO of IDEXX Laboratories, Jonathan Ayers, has been appointed as the organization’s new Chair of the Board of Directors. Founder of The Ayers Wild Cat Conservation Trust alongside his wife Helaine, Ayers joined Panthera’s Board of Directors in 2020 and this March signed on to Panthera’s Global Alliance for Wild Cats with a pledge to devote $20 million over 10 years to wild cat conservation.  

Founding Panthera and steering it as Board Chair since the organization’s inception in 2006, Dr. Thomas S. Kaplan will continue to serve as a Board member while assuming the Chairmanship of The Global Alliance for Wild Cats — an international coalition of environmental philanthropists committed to preserving the planet’s biodiversity through species conservation, driven by the goal of establishing an unprecedented $200 million wild cat conservation fund.  

Dr. Kaplan stated, “Wild cat conservation has been, and will always remain, my greatest passion. From our founding Panthera 15 years ago with my wife Daphne, and my late comrade Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, we dreamt of creating the world’s most impactful organization uniquely dedicated to the preservation of all wild cat species — big and small. Our team’s innovative entrepreneurialism, unbridled commitment and zeal for the cause have taken Panthera a very long way. Having gone from a “VC start up” to an NGO now present in 39 countries, Panthera is beautifully poised to achieve “escape velocity”.  

“For that most consequential leap forward, we have found exactly the right leader. Or more precisely, we have found each other. Having funded our small cats program, Jon Ayers witnessed up close and personal our expertise in doing what we do best: really saving cats. As a well-educated consumer, he saw that Panthera’s band of brothers and sisters, led by Dr. Fred Launay, is quite simply the best in breed in that single-minded objective. Jon quickly became more involved and loved what he saw.  

“To be candid, from our first conversation, I knew he was “the one”. For years now, I had been waiting for someone with such a rare combination of talent, expertise and dedication to come into the world of wild cat conservation. Jon is that person. To his very core, he is not just a man of great empathy for these creatures that need champions, but indeed a highly achieved businessman who excels at mastering the big picture strategy required to lead and solve the complex conservation challenges facing wild cats — and hence to take Panthera to even greater heights.  

“An absolute game-changer in the field with the largest ever commitment made to small cat conservation, I am thrilled to see Jon already bringing to Panthera the same brilliance and devotion that turned IDEXX into an industry leader and soaring success for all of its stakeholders.” 

While CEO of IDEXX, the veterinary diagnostics and software leader, Ayers refined a strategy focused on science, innovation and global expansion to advance the standard of care and health of pets and livestock. From the start of his tenure in 2002 through the latest 12 months, IDEXX’s annual revenue has grown from $380 million to $3 billion, and its share price has enjoyed a more than 100-fold increase. IDEXX’s stock has outperformed Google, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Facebook over the last five years. 

After experiencing a serious cycling crash that left him paralyzed, in October of 2019 Ayers rolled off his role as Chairman and CEO of IDEXX. He remains on the IDEXX Board.  

Panthera Board Chair Jon Ayers stated, “I feel incredibly lucky to have encountered Panthera when I did, with the journey from supporter to Board member to Board Chair constituting an exhilarating and gratifying opportunity to use my leadership capabilities. The organization has provided me with a new purpose, and I am eternally grateful to Tom, Fred, and my fellow Board members for the trust and confidence they have placed in me to chair such a precious mission.”  

Ayers continued, “As we learn of and bear witness to on a daily basis, the natural world is facing precarious times. It is my strong belief that species conservation, and particularly protection of biodiversity guardians like wild cats, represents a scarcely utilized strategy to make our planet more robust and combat many human-induced challenges facing the natural world. What better species to engage with the global community to protect our planet than the charismatic wild cats of the world.”  

Ayers concluded, “I am truly thrilled to join Tom in leading Panthera into its next chapter of growth and impact, with the same dedication to science, innovation and outcomes for the cats of the wild that I brought to their domestic cousins and other pets in our homes during my tenure as CEO of IDEXX.” 

The announcement of Panthera’s new Board and Global Alliance Chairs comes as the organization celebrates its 15 year anniversary. Kicking off a new chapter for the global organization and driven by the Global Alliance’s goal of establishing an unprecedented $200 million wild cat conservation fund, Ayers and Kaplan together will continue to strengthen Panthera’s worldwide network of biologists, law enforcement experts and wild cat advocates while expanding the number of investors and partners supporting Panthera’s mission. 

In addition to his roles on Panthera’s Board and as Chair of The Global Alliance for Wild Cats, Dr. Kaplan will dedicate significant resources to mobilizing Panthera’s Conservation Council, an extraordinarily diverse global advisory board drawn from the worlds of business, law enforcement, government, fashion, media, entertainment, tourism, the military and the arts. Among his chief priorities, Dr. Kaplan will work alongside Conservation Council member and Ambassador to the United States for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, H.R.H. Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, to amplify Catmosphere — a new foundation utilizing transformational and catalytic public awareness campaigns to promote wild cat conservation and the work of Panthera. 

Leaving an indelible mark on the planet and the long-term survival of its species, Dr. Kaplan and his wife, Daphne Recanati Kaplan, rank among the world’s foremost wildlife conservation advocates, having invested over $100 million to species conservation. During Dr. Kaplan’s 15-year Board Chairmanship, Panthera has come to be regarded, in the words of H.E. Razan Al Mubarak — IUCN President and the board representative of Global Alliance member H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi — “the Gold Standard in wild cat conservation.” 

The organization now operates a roster of successful long-term and cutting-edge conservation initiatives, including the Tigers Forever program in Asia, aimed at increasing tiger numbers by at least 50% over a ten-year period; the Jaguar Corridor Initiative, which seeks to connect and protect the species across its six million km2 range from Mexico to Argentina; and the Furs for Life Leopard program, which has distributed over 18,500 synthetic leopard fur capes to replace the use of authentic leopard furs by followers of the Shembe Church in Southern Africa, saving hundreds of leopard lives each year.