These awards celebrate those making outstanding contributions within the BIAZA community and range across categories, including conservation breeding, animal wellbeing, conservation, education, horticulture, PR, marketing, digital and events, research and sustainability.

Chester Zoo was awarded a total of seven awards (six gold and one silver) across a range of specialisms. Here’s an overview of some of the projects that picked up awards:

Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group

The Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group (OVAG), a project initiated by Chester Zoo and the Orangutan Conservancy, brings together those working to protect orangutans in order to share expertise, knowledge and the exchanging of ideas to move forwards with orangutan conservation.

Communication between conservationists and scientists is crucial to moving forwards with orangutan conservation. The many projects working to protect this endangered animal are doing an amazing job and to strengthen their work, contact between field projects, sanctuaries, zoos, academia and government in a range of countries, is crucial in moving forwards.

Steve Unwin, veterinary officer at Chester Zoo, explains:

“OVAG is striving to create a sustainable regional cadre of professionals able to provide capacity building, advice, guidance and management of ‘One Health’ matters with wildlife in Indonesia and Malaysia. A large part of that goal is convincing and empowering our colleagues in Indonesia and Malaysia that they are leaders in this endeavour. Recognition from BIAZA in this way is a huge confidence boost to all involved.”

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OVAG

Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Programme

Restricted to lowland forest areas and mangroves, the Philippine cockatoo suffered a rapid decline in the last decade bringing the species to the brink of extinction. Employing former poachers as wardens, the foundation is playing a key role in conserving and restoring the most viable subpopulations of the endangered species and its habitat.

Working in five locations in Palawan, the Katala Foundation’s sites include a project in Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF), which is surrounded by forest with high levels of biodiversity. The project is working with the staff and prisoners to monitor and protect the cockatoos and other wildlife. In addition of winning a BIAZA award, Indira Lacerna-Widmann, CEO of the Katala Foundation, was also awarded a prestigious Whitley Awards in May 2017.

Scott Wilson, head of field programmes at Chester Zoo, tells us:

“The Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Programme is hugely successful and we are proud to have been major project partners since 2003. The dedication of Indira and the rest of the Katala Foundation team have led to the effective protection of several high biodiversity sites in Palawan, providing a haven for the critically endangered Philippine cockatoo plus numerous other threatened species. The Philippine cockatoo population, once spiralling towards extinction in the wild has stabilised and seen population growth in key sites because of this project.”

Philippine cockatoo

Learning outreach programme linked to UK native species

Chester Zoo’s outreach programme provides nearby schools with workshops on specific topics. Last year between February and June, five workshops were organised with key stage 2 students from 14 schools (approximately 1,500 individuals) which included four in-school workshops and one zoo visit.

The programme, entitled Protect Our Wildlife (POW) and developed in conjunction with Chester Zoo’s project Wildlife Connections, focussed on local wildlife and what we can do to protect it. Conservation social scientists evaluated the programme using a mixed method approach collecting data from students and teachers; repeated-measures student questionnaires, drawings, and teacher surveys were used.

The participation of students in the programme correlated with significant positive changes in the following variables: conservation and native species understanding, knowledge of pro-conservation behaviours, and attitudes towards zoos and conservation.

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Children in the classroom

Identifying populations of Cape mountain zebra

Chester Zoo Conservation Scholar Jessica Lea studied the causes of poor population performance in Cape mountain zebra by analysing key measures of population performance: population growth rate, zebra density, and the number of foals per mare.

Combining both physiological (faecal hormone monitoring) and behavioural markers (social networks), she investigated the role of habitat and demography on the South African mammal. The results of this project have informed stakeholders about how to improve the species management plan for the Cape mountain zebra. This has involved working with reserve managers, scientific staff and private landowners. The method used can be applied to a wide range of populations both in-situ and ex-situ to evaluate individual health and welfare and to assess the impact of different conservation management strategies.

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Cape mountain zebra

Other awards the zoo picked up included a gold award for the work of the teams that maintain the Monsoon Forest habitat in Islands at Chester Zoo and a gold award for PR, marketing, digital and events for the relaunch of Act for Wildlife.