Goodbye to BIAZA CEO Madelon Willemsen

Posted: 12th June, 2020

A Message from Dr Christoph Schwitzer, Chair of BIAZA Council  

I regret having to inform you that Madelon Willemsen has resigned from her role as BIAZA’s CEO and is leaving the organisation. During her short tenure as BIAZA CEO, Madelon has made a significant contribution to BIAZA and to the UK and Irish zoo community. Madelon has driven the reframing of our communications, putting BIAZA in stakeholder’s minds as a trusted collaborator in achieving joint outcomes in animal welfare and species conservation.  Her vision for a high-impact organisation has led to an expansion of BIAZA's political and external stakeholder network. This has played a critical role in achieving the most recent outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic and preparing BIAZA for the challenge ahead. 


Madelon lost her husband earlier this year, and that the last few months have not been easy for her. On a personal note, I would like to take this opportunity to say how much I have enjoyed working with Madelon, and I know that experience has been shared by my colleagues on Council and our staff. On behalf of BIAZA Council, I thank Madelon for her vision, leadership and contributions. 


While we are recruiting for a new CEO, BIAZA’s two senior managers, Nicky Needham and Cerian Tatchley, will jointly take up the role of Acting Directors and provide interim leadership to the Association and the BIAZA Office staff. Cerian and Nicky have been covering for Madelon already for some time during her absence, including the past few busy weeks. I am confident that BIAZA is in very capable hands with the two of them and with our excellent team of staff. 


As Chair of Council, I will continue to support the team in this transition period, helped by our Vice-Chair, Douglas Richardson, as well as the Chairs of the Membership and Licensing Committee, Bryan Carroll, and of the Mission Enabling Committee, Jamie Christon. Thank you to all of them, and to Council and all Committees, for their help. 


In these unprecedented times, when many of our members are facing uncertainty, it is essential that our Association speaks with a strong voice for zoos and aquariums in the UK and Ireland. Together, we have achieved a lot over these last few months, but we still face an extraordinary challenge. Collectively, we can make our voice heard and shift government policy. Working as one community, we will recover from this crisis.