Wildwood Trust

BIAZA Woman of the Year: Laura Gardner

Posted: 8th March, 2024

For today’s International Women’s Day, we created a new award to recognise the outstanding accomplishments from those in the zoo and aquarium world. After showcasing 29 incredible nominees online, we’re thrilled to announce the winner of BIAZA Woman of the Year: Laura Gardner.

Laura is the Director of Conservation and Rewilding at Kent wildlife charity Wildwood Trust.

Her commitment to native species is unparalleled - she has led numerous projects including the globally acclaimed Blean Bison project, and the rewilding the red-billed chough.

Having started her career, at the age of ten, volunteering at her local zoo - Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust - Laura later honed her skills at Birdworld, followed by twenty-four years at Leeds Castle’s aviary. Prior to her role at Wildwood, Laura was a bird curator at ZSL Whipsnade and London Zoo.

She played a crucial role in the modernisation of aviary design and diets, in particular toucan, hornbill, and blue-crowned laughing thrush for whom the name Laura Gardner is now widely synonymous.

Laura has co-authored several research papers regarding animal welfare, social behaviour, avian nutrition, and captive husbandry. She is a resource advisor and contributor to the Avian Rearing Resource website and sits on multiple BIAZA groups (Native Species, Reintroduction, and Bird working groups) in which she always strives to promote the importance of best practice both in animal welfare and conservation. 

She joined Wildwood in 2018 and as well as undertaking aforementioned rewilding projects, she has been instrumental in establishing conservation programmes at the Trust’s sister site in Devon with species including crayfish and glow worms. 

Accepting her award, Laura said:

“I really didn't expect to win - to be nominated was amazing in itself. I was absolutely blown away by the number of amazing, powerful, dynamic, intelligent women leading conservation and zoological collections today. 

“It’s great to be part of this world and I’m so proud. On International Women’s Day, I want to give a shout to all the incredible women that work in this field.”

Laura was nominated by the Conservation team at Wildwood. In support of her nomination, Paul Whitfield, the charity’s Director General, said:

“Laura has an incredible ability to bring people together from different organisations to work collectively for the good of our native species. 

“She leads without ego and builds trust, confidence and a shared sense of purpose. She goes above and beyond for her team at Wildwood and as a result they are delivering some of the most innovative and exciting native species conservation projects in the UK.”

Dr Jo Judge, CEO of BIAZA said; "We've been so thrilled by the quality of nominations for BIAZA Woman of the Year, and Laura is a shining example of going above and beyond not just for the zoo sector, but for measurable conservation action and wildlife."

She has also appeared in Rosemary Low’s book, Female Heroes of Bird Conservation (2022) in which the author states “When given the chance, females who can carry the caring attitude into higher positions in zoos are able to greatly influence the standard of care and quality of life and health of the animals and ultimately improve success rate – Laura is one such woman. A position that you had to fight for.”

The award announcement comes in the same week that Wildwood Trust launched its very own podcast, with Laura paving the way as guest on the inaugural episode, “What is Conservation?”. 

The Wildwood Podcast will feature interviews with leading conservation and rewilding experts and will highlight the important work taking place to fight the biodiversity crisis, halt the extinction of species and to create resilient habitats in which nature thrives. 


Many congratulations and thanks to everyone who was nominated, and to all nominators of our first Woman of the Year competition!

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