There are many challenges facing our planet and the environment. Fortunately there are environment, conservation and nature champions making a difference and new generations of inspiring conservationists. I’m honoured to play a small part in training and supporting people and giving them ideas for sharing their passion and enthusiasm for nature with others.
This April I spent a few days with the latest participants on the Durrell Endangered Species Management Graduate Certificate [DESMAN] in Jersey.
“Teaching” conservation education theory and practice in a very short space of time is a challenge too, so my approach is largely one of mixing ‘lecture’ with example and active participation – and demonstrating through presentation techniques how everyone can contribute to conservation communication and action.
The latest DESMAN group have just completed their 12 week course and through the carefully constructed programme by Durrell Conservation Academy leave equipped to play a greater role in conservation back in their home countries and elsewhere. Each group is different but have shared goals, ambitions and aims appropriate to the context within which they work and I always enjoy the new perspectives and points of view they bring, alongside inspiration from their dedication and optimism that change is possible.
Apart from working with the students, visiting the Zoo and the island, I am always grateful to be part of this course delivery not least having been inspired by Gerald Durrell all those years ago – and actually attending the opening of the training centre (academy) in 1984.
Ever since I first began working in zoos I have been involved with ABWAK, the Association of British and Irish Wild Animal Keepers, and I enjoyed being a speaker at the Annual Symposium held at Yorkshire Wildlife Park in March. My talk focused on the ‘business of talking’ in zoos and the fact that many keeper talks can be improved by focusing more on specific outcomes, using stories and editing out excessive “facts”, especially in this day and age where most visitors carry all the basic info in their pockets via smartphone and internet search.
At this time I am also busy working with the BIAZA approved Sparsholt College Zookeeper and Aquarist Apprenticeship students who are doing the module on Customer Care, Visitor Experience & Learning which I lead and wrote the assignments for. This is their last module in the c.2 year apprenticeship and so soon they will undertake the end point assessment.
After my years of experience it is still great to be training the future generation of keepers, through the apprenticeship, my continued involvement in Sparsholt’s DMZAA and CMZAAV, and through ABWAK and running workshops.