Recap of the 73rd WAZA Annual Conference in Bangkok

More than 300 delegates from more than 45 countries around the world, gathered in Bangkok, Thailand for the 73rd WAZA Annual Conference, from 21-25 October 2018.

During the conference, WAZA made a number of resolutions and stepped boldly into the international arena as it agreed to organise a Global Species Congress to address the conservation and extinction crises, committed to sustainable forestry guidelines, and voted to close one of Thailand’s most notorious zoos.

Delegates heard from keynote speakers such as United Nations Messenger of Peace Dr. Jane Goodall, crane expert Dr. George Archibald, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) director Kim Carstensen, and Thai conservationist Prof. Pilai Poonswad.

“WAZA is in an exciting position, poised to tackle critical global issues going forward. The annual conference really saw the global zoo, aquarium and conservation community coming together and taking decisive action on significant matters,” said WAZA President, Dr. Jenny Gray. “WAZA and its members are becoming a global force for change.”

WAZA delegates embraced the WAZA Global Strategy, which calls for the rapid expansion of the membership into regions and countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America where WAZA had little or no impact to date, and an emphasis on recruiting more aquariums to better equip WAZA to address marine and freshwater issues.

WAZA also agreed to take the lead in organising a Global Species Congress in the coming years, based on a 2008 resolution by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) that called for an international summit to “to highlight the status of the planet’s species, articulate and review the consequences of the threats that they face, and chart their future conservation.”

“WAZA is uniquely placed to play a leadership role in staging a Global Species Congress,” said WAZA Executive Director Doug Cress. “An international forum that focuses squarely on species is long overdue and will play an important role in aligning with major assemblies on environment, biodiversity and conservation in the years ahead.”

WAZA expanded its suite of sustainable development agreements in Bangkok, signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Forest Stewardship Council that called on 50 percent of WAZA members to be committed to sourcing 70 percent certified sustainable wood and paper products by 2023. FSC, meanwhile, agreed to increase its FSC-certified forests globally by 50 percent by 2023, with an emphasis on natural forests in tropical regions.

WAZA delegates also took the bold step of resolving to close the Pata Zoo, a dilapidated institution atop the Pata shopping mall in downtown Bangkok that includes endangered species such as gorilla, bonobo, rhinoceros hornbill, Komodo dragon, chimpanzee and orangutan among the 300 animals in the two floors of exhibits. Numerous WAZA delegates, including Dr. Goodall, visited the zoo during the conference and WAZA passed a resolution to help improve welfare and husbandry standards at the Pata Zoo, as it works with Thai government officials to close the zoo as soon as possible.

WAZA also honoured former Sedgwick County Zoo director Mark Reed with the WAZA Heini Hediger Award, an accolade given to leaders in the global zoo and aquarium community. Reed, who retired in 2016 after 37 years at the Kansas institution, also served eight years as a member of the WAZA Council. The WAZA Conservation Award was given to Taronga Zoo in Australia, while the brand new WAZA Environmental Sustainability Award went to Wellington Zoo in New Zealand.

The 74th WAZA Annual Conference will be hosted by Fundación Temaikén, in Buenos Aires, Argentina from 3-7 November 2019.

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is the global alliance of regional associations, national federations, zoos and aquariums, dedicated to the care and conservation of animals and their habitats around the world.

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