He has been appointed chief executive of the equivalent society in Scotland, which runs both the capital’s long-running attraction and the Highland Wildlife Park, in Inverness-shire.
The former vet – who helped secure two giant pandas for Adelaide Zoo in Australia – has taken over from Hugh Roberts, who was placed in interim charge last year when Edinburgh Zoo was embroiled in controversy over the suspension of two chief executives and the resignation of its chairman.
Mr Roberts oversaw the investigation into mystery allegations which led to the suspensions, as well as a probe by the Scottish charity regulator.
He was also put in charge of the zoo’s efforts to bring two giant pandas from China to Edinburgh in December.
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland yesterday described Prof West, who is originally from the UK, as “one of the world’s leading authorities on animal conservation”.
Prof West, who previously worked at Chester Zoo and the Zoological Society of London, has been in his current post since 2006.