Every year, the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) holds an AGM and conference which is hosted by a member zoo. This year’s conference was co-hosted locally by Shaldon Wildlife Trust, BIAZA’s smallest zoo, and Living Coasts, BIAZA’s only coastal zoo.
The two days of talks and presentations had the theme of ‘Collaboration and cooperation – working together for wildlife’. Over 100 zoo professionals attended the conference, including directors, marketing staff, educators, keepers, BIAZA Council members and more.
Marine plastics was the focus of the first day, with BIAZA members signing a pledge to take action to reduce the level of plastics at their zoos and to increase awareness of the situation, contributing to positive behaviour change to reduce levels of plastic.
Dr Kirsten Pullen, BIAZA Chair and former Paignton Zoo research scientist: “BIAZA is a professional body representing 117 zoos and aquariums which welcome 28 million visitors a year. We are uniquely placed to raise awareness and change behaviour in the UK”.
Keynote speakers included Jo Ruxton from Plastic Oceans UK, who gave a heartfelt talk on her work creating the film ‘A Plastic Ocean’ (available to view on Netflix). She detailed the amount of plastic they had seen in the oceans while filming, not just on the surface but below as well, and recounted the impact it is having on wildlife out in the open ocean.
Dr Sian Prior from Clean Arctic Alliance gave an insightful talk on working in coalitions to tackle environmental issues in the Arctic, finding common ground with corporations and individuals to tackle the problems caused by the use of heavy fuel oil, achieving more environmentally positive outcomes for all.
Professor Anna Nakaris from the Little Fireface Project talked about their work with locals, organisations and corporations in South East Asia and how they have benefitted the wildlife directly as well as indirectly through the building of schools and the provision of education.
While some presentations focussed on international work, others were more locally relevant. Dudley Zoo gave a presentation about their onsite bat conservation work and Torbay Cleaner Coasts Initiative gave an inspiring presentation about working with local groups to prevent and reduce marine litter in Torbay, passing on a message of ‘act local, think global’.
The theme was present throughout; without collaboration and cooperation, none of these conservation projects would be possible. The conference was an inspiring couple of days, with a positive message for the future to instigate change with the help of others.