Change at the top

Posted: 1st October, 2019

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) has welcomed a new CEO and new Chair of Council to the Association, as the charity works towards a new ten-year strategy.

Bringing a wealth of experience and knowledge to the role Dr Madelon Willemsen is taking over the helm as CEO of BIAZA.

Madelon brings with her a sound knowledge of zoos and conservation and will be focusing on delivering a strategic, collaborative and evidence-based approach to realising effective conservation (the subject of her PhD research). She started her career at Artis Zoo in the Netherlands in 1998 and held senior management positions at Taronga Zoo and Zoos Victoria in Australia until 2015, when she relocated to Vietnam for three years.  

As the country director for TRAFFIC, and most recently as a social change and management consultant for Brooke in Australia, she demonstrated her ability as a facilitator, mediator and negotiator bringing different organisations, institutions, governments and individuals together to collaborate towards a common vision and action – all of which put her in good stead as the Chief Executive Officer of a professional association providing services and support to its diverse members.

“I am inspired by our Association and the drive of our community to deliver the highest standards of care for their animals and excellent visitor experiences, facilitated by the best staff,” said Madelon.

“I have started working on laying the foundations to refine our new mission and vision and I am excited to be working with Christoph, BIAZA Council and all our members to lay out our pathway towards our common goal; namely to prevent extinction and ensure a sustainable future for all species.”

As a registered charity, BIAZA’s governance is overseen by a Council which has welcomed Dr Christoph Schwitzer, Bristol Zoo Garden’s Chief Zoological Officer as its new Chair.

Christoph has been Chief Zoological Officer and Deputy Chief Executive of the Bristol Zoological Society since August 2018, a role that includes responsibility for the Society’s two animal collections at Bristol Zoo Gardens and the Wild Place Project.

Christoph brings a strong conservation and research background, previously holding the positions of Bristol Zoological Society’s Director of Conservation and Head of Research. Before moving to Bristol, Christoph worked as part of the primatological research group at Cologne Zoo, Germany, and spent two years in Madagascar building a field station and heading a lemur research and conservation programme. He is the Deputy Chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Primate Specialist Group and the Vice President of the Association Européenne pour l’Etude et la Conservation des Lémuriens, a consortium of European zoos dedicated to lemur conservation.

About his appointment as Chair of BIAZA Council, Christoph said: "I am humbled to have been elected as Chair, and to work alongside BIAZA’s new CEO Madelon Willemsen.

“It's an exciting and impactful role, and certainly a career highlight for me. I will do my best to chair our Association into a new decade, keeping it impactful and relevant for all our members, to ensure that the British and Irish zoo and aquarium community will continue to lead the way in animal welfare and species conservation."