Announcing the Winners of the 2020 WAZA Awards

Posted: 16 October 2020

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 WAZA Awards. The awards were presented at the 75th WAZA Annual Conference, which was held virtually from 12-15 October 2020.

The top honour of the year, the Heini Hediger Award was presented to Prof Dr Jörg Junhold, Director of the Zoo Leipzig on the final day of the WAZA Conference. This award is given to individuals who have provided outstanding service and a lifelong commitment to the zoo and aquarium community.

Prof Dr Jörg Junhold, holding the Heini Hediger Award. Credit: Zoo Leipzig

Junhold has over the past 23 years since he became CEO of  Zoo Leipzig in Germany, been one of the major driving forces in the zoo community, promoting the zoo and aquarium community’s shared goals on species and habitat conservation, and animal welfare. He transformed Zoo Leipzig from an antiquated struggling zoo, into one of the best zoos in the world. Under Junhold’s leadership, the Leipzig Zoo has become a world-leading zoo. As WAZA President in 2011-2013, he initiated the WAZA Animal Welfare Strategy.

Prof Theo Pagel, President of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), said; “It is a great honour and joy to present WAZA’s highest accolade to our esteemed colleague Jörg Junhold. He has transformed Zoo Leipzig into a world-leading institution. He has been an incredibly active member of the zoo and aquarium community on a local, national and international level, representing his zoo in many associations and institutions worldwide. He served on the WAZA Council for ten years and also served as the WAZA President.”

The Detroit Zoological Society was presented with the WAZA Environmental Sustainability Award on the second day of the WAZA Annual Conference for their sustained efforts to reduce the ecological impact through their winning programme, including clear and achievable goals on waste reduction and avoidance. Having a zero-waste initiative as part of their commitment to reducing landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions, the institution has discontinued single-use water bottles, plastic gift bags and plastic straws in an effort to reduce plastic waste significantly, and constructed an anaerobic digester to compost manure and food waste, making them the first institution in North America to build and implement this system.

Watch the video below to learn more about their programme and to see their award acceptance speech. 

The WAZA Conservation Award was awarded to Georgia Aquarium for its robust and holistic approach to whale shark conservation, balancing scientific learning, habitat protection, education, capacity building and advocacy to improve the outcomes for this charismatic species since 2004. The Aquarium works with researchers from local and global academic institutions to gain valuable knowledge on the growth, genetics, health and behaviour of whale sharks and sequenced the complete genome of the whale shark. Georgia Aquarium’s programme involves in situ work and has created two marine protected areas focused on whale sharks. The aquarium has lobbied governments at the highest level, run extensive education campaigns and has invested more than $2 million into whale shark field research.

Watch the video below to learn more about Georgia Aquarium’s whale shark conservation programme and to see their award acceptance speech. 

Mike Barclay, Chair of the WAZA Conservation and Environmental Sustainability Committee; said: “With the challenges we have faced this year, we feel it is especially important to recognise and celebrate the great work our members are doing to adopt sustainable best practices and to conserve threatened species. We had many excellent submissions to choose from. It was my great honour to present the Detroit Zoological Society and Georgia Aquarium with the 2020 Environmental Sustainability and Conservation Awards respectively. They both have outstanding, multi-year programmes in place.”

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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