In the face of adversity, we owe it to the world to rise up and meet the challenges we face.
It is not an exaggeration to claim our sector has never faced a challenge like the COVID-19 pandemic in recent history. At our member collections we have been working flat-out to navigate these uncharted waters, to continue our work or in many cases just to get by. Heartbreakingly, redundancies are being made at many sites and many more difficult decisions lie ahead.
To be candid, I am deeply concerned that some collections will not recover. Coronavirus has more than knocked the wind out of our sails.
I have found it helpful to think about my own motivations for my work, despite the enormity of the situation we face. Across Britain and Ireland, zoos and aquariums and the dedicated efforts of those working in them are playing a transformative role in the fight for nature.
This was made clear in papers put together by a group of our conservation directors, demonstrating the extent to which any sort of future for many native and non-native species is in our hands as conservation leaders. Our members have pulled together data on our truly impressive societal impacts which the BIAZA Office has been able to use to clearly demonstrate our value as a community, to public and politicians alike.
I have been bowled over by the tenacity of the office team at BIAZA. As an organisation we are far beyond our comfort zone and yet we are delivering extraordinary lobbying achievements. The BIAZA team has capitalised on this difficult situation to strengthen and build closer relationships with officials and politicians across the many Governments we work with. BIAZA is now more strongly positioned as a key representative of our sector, with strong networks with other industry-leading organisations. It is as a direct result of this strategy that we are now in a position that every BIAZA member is allowed to open and financial support is on the table for many of our members.
I am also motivated by the extraordinary rallying of the British public around zoos and aquariums. 2020 has been marked by acts of kindness – whether it is the many donors supporting appeals, businesses offering their support or the many thousands who pestered their politicians.
Without diminishing the difficulties we face, there is much to be thankful for and many opportunities lie ahead.
Personally, I am pleased to let you know that I will be taking the helm at Dublin Zoo on the 1st August after 14 happy years at Bristol Zoological Society. I have been here in Dublin a week now, and I want to thank everyone for making me feel so welcome.
BIAZA will also be undergoing changes. We must take this opportunity to build on our new political relationships, newfound public goodwill and more, to enhance the industry and our work. And operationally, having bid a sad goodbye to Dr Madelon Willemsen, we will be recruiting a new CEO.
Together we will deepen and widen the support for our zoos and aquariums, because in a COVID-19 world our work for wildlife, for people and for our planet is more critical than ever.
Dr Christoph Schwitzer
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