Recap of the 74th WAZA Annual Conference in Buenos Aires

WAZA held the 74th Annual Conference in Buenos Aires in November 2019, which attracted nearly 200 delegates from 34 countries and regions around the world. We would like to extend a big thank you to everyone who attended the conference and to the hosts, Fundación Temaikèn.

The event officially opened with a welcoming address by Rabbi Sergio Bergman, Secretary of Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina. Followed by a keynote address by Dr Mark Barone of the Population Council, addressing human population growth and its impact on conservation and the role zoos and aquariums can play in addressing this issue.

A panel on the WAZA/IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Global Species Plan delved into how zoos and aquariums can work more closely with the IUCN SSC and the role they can play as IUCN Red List Assessment centres, looking at the example of The Deep aquarium in the UK.

WAZA/IUCN SSC Global Species Plan Panel
In the afternoon session of the first day, Kris Vehrs, Executive Director of AZA, discussed the WAZA 2023 Animal Welfare Goal which states that by the end of 2023: • WAZA national and regional associations must have an animal welfare evaluation process in place and such a process must include specific elements approved by WAZA. • All WAZA institutional members must be compliant with this process. Other main themes of discussion over the week included: inclusivity and diversity at zoos and aquariums and how to work with the next generation of zoo and aquarium professionals; crisis communications, animal welfare policies set by the tourism industry, species conservation, sustainability and rethinking on how the zoo and aquarium community can engage with detractors.
Kris Vehrs receiving the Heini Hediger award.

During the conference, WAZA presented three awards, as well as an additional honour. Zoo Zürich was awarded the WAZA Conservation Award for its outstanding conservation and education capacity-building programme and for its 25-year commitment to the protection of the Masoala National Park in Madagascar. Taronga Zoo was awarded the WAZA Environmental Sustainability Award for its resolute commitment to sustainable practices and driving behaviour change. And Kris Vehrs was honoured with the Heini Hediger award – WAZA’s highest accolade for professional excellence – in recognition of her four decades of respected leadership in the global zoo and aquarium community. Lee Ehmke was presented with an honour in recognition of his commitment and 10 years of dedicated service on the WAZA Council.

One of the highlights from the conference, was the zoo visit to Temaikèn which included talks and a keynote address by Dr Claudio Campagna titled: ‘How to Save Species When the Planet is Seen from Space’, followed by behind-the-scenes tours of the zoo.

Dr Marcela Uhart, from the University of California delivered a keynote address on how to encourage human behaviour change to achieve biodiversity conservation. This was followed by the Future of WAZA session in which Theo Pagel discussed the results of the WAZA membership survey and provided members with a platform to ask questions or share their thoughts on WAZA as it is today, and what they think WAZA should strive for in the future.

One of the highlights from the conference, was the zoo visit to Temaikèn which included talks and a keynote address by Dr Claudio Campagna titled: ‘How to Save Species When the Planet is Seen from Space’, followed by behind-the-scenes tours of the zoo.

Dr Marcela Uhart, from the University of California delivered a keynote address on how to encourage human behaviour change to achieve biodiversity conservation. This was followed by the Future of WAZA session in which Theo Pagel discussed the results of the WAZA membership survey and provided members with a platform to ask questions or share their thoughts on WAZA as it is today, and what they think WAZA should strive for in the future.

Dr Arnaud Desbiez

With members agreeing to the amendments in the new Spanish Bylaws, two new seats from Region Three were added to the council, which means Karen Fifield from Wellington Zoo, and Maria Clara Dominguez from Cali Zoo, will join the WAZA Council, representing Region Three. Karen Fifield will take over as chair of the, now renamed, Ethics and Animal Welfare Committee, while James Cretney will chair the Finance Committee.

Due to the new Spanish Bylaws, a vote needed to be held to determine which four associations would sit on the Council. A ballot was held, and the four associations which have a voting seat on Council are:
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)
The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA)
The Latin American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (ALPZA)
The Zoo and Aquarium Association – Australasia (ZAA)

At the AGM, members voted to pass Resolution 74.2 – 2023 WAZA Goal on Animal Welfare Evaluation Processes, as well as Resolution 74.3 supporting the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s global call for species conservation action.

And finally, the AGM concluded with the handover of Presidency from Dr Jenny Gray to Prof Theo Pagel. We would like to thank Jenny Gray for her leadership and vision during her term as President and to welcome Theo Pagel as the new President of WAZA.

Prof Theo Pagel presents Dr Jenny Gray with a carnival medal for her leadership and service as WAZA President.

In case you were not able to attend you can view some of the presentations on the WAZA Facebook channel.

We look forward to seeing you from 11-15 October 2020 for the 75th WAZA Annual Conference, held in conjunction with the International Zoo Educators Association (IZE), hosted by San Diego Zoo.

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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