by Mike Drinkwater, President – Australasian Society of Zoo Keeping
I have just returned to our shores having attended the 6th International Congress on Zoo Keeping which was held in the extraordinarily beautiful Temaiken Bioparque, Buenos Aeries, Argentina. We know how uplifting it is when we get together as a zoo based cohort, but this particular event was especially so.
We were privileged to hear from some very inspirational keynote speakers, such as Carmel Croukamp Davies (Director, Parque das Aves in Brazil), Sabrina Brando (Director of Animal Welfare, WAZA) and Yara Barros (Executive Coordinator of the Project Jaguars of Iguaçu).
Carmel took us on their incredible journey towards curating their bird park to focus primarily on local species and issues. This park is set in the spectacular Atlantic Rainforest, and their ethos includes a commitment to never cut down a tree (there has been enough of that done in this region) in order to build an enclosure, which in turn means they build everything by hand. To put this into context, the latest aviary under construction is set to house 500 parrots! Just amazing! And I must admit, it was hard to control the unusual salty discharge suddenly leaking from my eyeballs when she dragged her staff up onto stage to take a bow. We came to understand just how much this congress meant to these keepers. Then there was the short film highlighting the majestic nature of the Maned Wolf and why we should protect them – narrated by a beautiful six-year old girl, OMG…someone pass me a box of tissues, I’m not copping over here! These are just a few tiny examples of the many incredible stories we were exposed to.
The range of presentations, workshops and social activities was an outstanding display of geographical and cultural diversity coming together via specialized skill sets and the unwavering commitment to animals in our care.
But without a doubt, the lasting legacy, are the amazing people we meet along the way and the long term friendships that are subsequently created. This congress witnessed keepers coming together from 29 different nations. Here, we united as animal carers with common goals. Political differences between nations are not even a blip on the microchip scanner, for we all share a unique and binding quirk. One night, whilst sitting around on camp chairs solving the worlds issues, I literally had a classic joke unfolding in front of my eyes. So there was a Kiwi, a Belgian and a Uruguayan sitting round a pool…….I will leave the rest to your imagination, however needless to say, it was a great joke!
Perhaps the most profound outcome of this event was the enormous effect this had on the Latin American keepers present. Not before have keepers from this region been given such an opportunity. Given the congress was delivered bilingually, they were able to hear first-hand from keepers from all over the world whilst having a platform to share their stories, skills, successes and many challenges.
This was a truly remarkable event, so graciously hosted by all the staff at Temaiken. It’s hard to describe the value of bringing together keepers from all over the world, other than to say that you’ll learn more in one week, than perhaps you might over the course of many years!
We really, really look forward to seeing the keepers of the world in Wellington, New Zealand, 2021!
Australasian Society of Zoo Keeping
P.S – Check out this congress video blog from Sarah Blake, a keeper from the British and Irish Wild Animal Keepers.