Zoos have been playing an active role in wildlife conservation since over half a century. Collaborative conservation breeding in UK zoos started in the late 1960s with the formation of the Okapi Consortium, of which Bristol Zoological Society was a founder member. This was one of the first formalized conservation breeding programmes worldwide. In the late 1980s, and further pushed by the publication of the first World Zoo Conservation Strategy in 1993, zoos started to fund, and actively run, field conservation projects. Bristol Zoological Society’s first multi-year funding commitment to a conservation NGO was to the Hawk and Owl Trust in 1992/93. In 1998, the Cameroon programme was started as BZS’s first major field conservation programme abroad. The third, and potentially most important strand of zoos’ contribution to conservation is engaging people with the natural world, teaching all levels of Society about the state of the world’s natural environments and promoting positive behaviour change towards more wildlife-friendly actions. Behaviour change and its evaluation has only recently become part of our portfolio. We ran our first dedicated behaviour change campaign, on FSC-certified charcoal, in the summer of 2013. My talk will explore how Bristol Zoological Society is contributing to global species conservation, focusing in particular on primates.
Dr Christoph Schwitzer has been Director of Conservation at the Bristol Zoological Society since May 2014. Prior to this he was BZS’ Head of Research for seven years. Before coming 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 for a French NGO. Christoph gained his PhD in Zoology from the University of Cologne in 2003 and has been a Visiting Professor at the University of the West of England since 2013. He is the Deputy Chair and Red List Authority Coordinator of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group. He was a Vice President of the International Primatological Society between 2012 and 2016 and is currently the Vice President of the Association Européenne pour l’Etude et la Conservation des Lémuriens, a consortium of European zoos dedicated to lemur conservation. Christoph’s recent research has focused on how different critically endangered primates are coping with habitat degradation and fragmentation with regard to their behaviour patterns, food intake, population density, and parasite burden.