By: Presha Soogrim
On the 14-18 October I had the honour of attending the 2018 International Zoo Educators (IZE) conference hosted by the Al Ain Zoo, an organisation with a rich history in wildlife conservation. The mission of the International Zoo and Aquarium Educators Association is to improve the education programmes in the facilities of its members, to provide access to the latest thinking, techniques, and information in conservation education and to support excellence in animal care and welfare.
Being an aquarium educator is a specialised job, there aren’t that many people out there who are privileged enough to spend our days educating visitors about our favourite animals and empowering them on how they can make positive changes for wildlife and their habitats. Access to these sharing opportunities are therefore rare and the IZE conference is an excellent platform to connect zoo and aquarium educators from all over the world, the 120 delegates who attended the conference represented 45 countries.
Part of the IZE’s mission is to support conservation educators from developing countries, one of the ways they achieve this is through the Sponsored Delegate Programme (SDP). Thanks to generous funding from the IZE and Al Ain zoo, I was selected as one of the seven sponsored delegates representing my country and organisation.
The theme for the 2018 IZE conference was “Culture and Conservation”. Culture is something zoo and aquarium educators always need to bear in mind when communicating our conservation messages since effective communication cannot occur without a strong understanding of our audience, and effective conservation cannot be accomplished without support from our communities.
The presentation and workshop sessions I attended opened my eyes to the dedicated conservation education done at facilities throughout the world, understanding each regions challenges and barriers to conservation education was a learning opportunity for us all and an opportunity to find unique solutions to conservation challenges.
Attending this conference contributed both to my professional development as a conservation educator and personally, by reigniting my passion for conservation education and reminding me of the important role zoos and aquariums play in wildlife and habitat conservation.