Inspired by ZACC

By Terri Breeden, GPOCP Program Director
The past month has been a whirlwind of excitement. I was able to travel back to the US and spend the holidays with my family and friends and also attend the ZACC Conference (Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation). This conference was initiated to better integrate the conservation efforts of zoos with field projects throughout the world.
My conference week actually started a few days early as I was invited to a conservationist retreat at Beth Armstrong’s house (founder of ZACC). She invited a group of women who work in all aspects of conservation, including zoos, NGOs and field projects, to get together and talk about the ups and downs of this type of work. Oftentimes, as conservationists, we are working to ‘save the world’ in one aspect or another, and when you look at the overall picture it can get quite depressing. But in reality, we have all made great strides in our organizations and it is important to recognize these efforts. I met such inspiring women and it was great to have the time to sit one-on-one and just chat. I found it extremely beneficial to connect with like-minded people doing similar work in other parts of the world and share our experiences regarding funding, traveling, and culture.
Terri trying out virtual reality. I felt the need to hold onto the table as a Cape Horn Buffalo was trying to lick my hand!
There were a couple of pre-conference workshops held on Monday, and I was able to attend one to learn how to better measure our conservation success (a huge aspect for all field projects)! That evening was the ice breaker event held at a local brewery. I had the opportunity to try out virtual reality for the first time! I will admit I did get a little dizzy with one video, but this seems like a great new technology to bring field projects into the classroom or to people who may not be able to visit and see these majestic animals in their native habitat or their local zoo.
Tuesday was the official first day of the conference and it was jam packed! There was such an energetic feeling around the room with people networking, catching up, and exchanging stories. GPOCP was able to set up a table to sell our artisans’ handicrafts, which made for a great opportunity to talk about all of our great programs here in West Kalimantan. This year’s ZACC theme revolved around threats to wildlife, and in particular the wildlife trade – unfortunately, still a problem not only here in West Kalimantan, but around the world as well.
Terri at our craft table at the ZACC Conference selling handicrafts made by GPOCP artisans as part of our sustainable livelihoods program.
Wednesday was Zoo Day and we were able to spend a little time exploring the Jacksonville Zoo. As the day turned to evening there was a poster session where Executive Director, Cheryl Knott, and I presented about the success of our Sustainable Livelihoods program. This was also a great networking opportunity as participants were able to mingle and I was able to finally put some faces with all the emails I have been sending over the past year and a half!
Bobbi Miller, Field Conservation Coordinator at the Woodland Park Zoo, and Terri Breeden at the Jacksonville Zoo with our poster highlighting GPOCP’s sustainable livelihood program.
On Thursday, Cheryl participated in an interactive panel discussion about ‘What do field people want and need from zoos?’ She was able to discuss the successes of GPOCP because of the long-term support from zoos such as the Woodland Park Zoo, the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, and Sea World Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. Many zoos offer small grant support that provides crucial support as well. Our project has been fortunate to receive grants and donations from the Seneca Park Zoo, Zoo New England, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Riverbanks Zoo, Phoenix Zoo, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Zoo Atlanta, Houston Zoo, and AZA’s Ape Tag Program. Most people probably do not realize that many zoos take a portion of every ticket sale and put that money towards conservation projects around the world. Without this support, our project would not be where it is today and for that we must give a heartfelt thank you to each of our partners.
Dr. Cheryl Knott (second from left) participates in a panel at the ZACC Conference on “What do field people want and need from zoos?”Type caption text here.
The conference wrapped up on Friday and I feel everyone left with a renewed sense of hope and ideas to implement in their future projects. There were connections made and motivation was rejuvenated. I am now ready to get back to saving orangutans and their habitat… just after I adjust to this jet lag!
GPOCP Executive Director, Dr. Cheryl Knott, and Program Director, Terri Breeden, at the ZACC Conference in Jacksonville, FL.