By Judy Mann
Membership of industry bodies such as the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) plays a critical role in the life of an organisation such as SAAMBR for a multitude of reasons. These include access to Information. Membership ensures that we receive accurate and prompt information about the issues pertaining to our core business of looking after animals, doing research, inspiring conservation action and educating visitors. WAZA is a strong unified voice for progressive zoos and aquariums, thereby providing a valuable advocacy role. By sharing the collective impact of our work, WAZA is helping to change the perception of zoos and aquariums worldwide. Individually each organisation has an impact, but collectively zoos and aquariums are one of the biggest funders of in situ conservation in the world. WAZA promotes cooperation between leading zoos, aquariums, national and regional associations, as well as with leading wildlife experts, academics, and universities. This professional support provides members with opportunities to network with other organisations on issues of mutual interest.
Additionally, WAZA offers multiple opportunities for professional development. This year’s 76th Annual WAZA conference was a prime example, especially as this virtual conference was open to a far wider range of participants from affiliated members from around the world. Over 900 people from 30 countries registered for the conference, which was held in October. The opportunity to offer the conference in multiple languages, including Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish, made the conference far more inclusive and diverse. A number of SAAMBR staff members attended the conference.
The keynote speakers included IUCN President, Razan Al Mubarak; Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); Prof Mauro Guillen, author and Dean, Cambridge Judge Business School, and Dr Brian Davis, President and CEO of Georgia Aquarium.
Conservation featured prominently throughout the conference. Details on the Reverse the Red movement, an initiative of WAZA and the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) and other major partners, were shared with delegates by Dr Jenny Gray from Zoos Victoria, IUCN SSC’s Dr Kira Mileham and myself. We also gave suggestions of opportunities for members to join this exciting conservation movement. The latest WAZA Short Guide – this one on Sourcing Sustainable Palm Oil was officially launched. Please click here for this and other WAZA Short Guides.
Ethics, animal welfare and feedback from multiple WAZA partner organisations made up the rest of the conference. The presentation of multiple awards was especially meaningful – as we celebrated the hard work and commitment of very special WAZA members. The awards ceremony reminded us that, although physically distant, we remain a united community committed to the highest standards of animal care, research, education and conservation.