The privilege of zoos to care for unique and special species comes with an absolute obligation to have conservation at their core, a koala conference heard.
Caring for our Koalas and our Environment Conference guest speaker Taronga manager conservation, health and welfare Nick Boyle explored the role of the modern zoo in koala conservation.
He spoke about Taronga’s experience and the industry more broadly with a Zoo and Aquarium Association snapshot.
Mr Boyle said Taronga’s approach to conservation had matured over the years.
Taronga’s koala-related conservation partnerships include a partnership with the Jaliigirr Biodiversity Alliance which is looking at restoration of fragmented and degraded habitats around Myelstom.
“Taronga recognises the immediate need to maintain and restore habitat for species and particularly koalas,” Mr Boyle said.
Education and research also have important roles to play.
“But I think potentially the biggest difference that zoos and wildlife parks can make is in engaging our visitors that come through the gates,” Mr Boyle said.
That involves connecting the visitors to wildlife, he said, and inspiring them to make simple differences in their everyday lives.
Some 22 million people visited zoos and wildlife parks in 2016 with 16 million people attending sporting events in the same period.
“Taronga alone will have two million coming through our zoo in Sydney and our zoo in Dubbo [each year] and a projected 50,000 overnight stays,” Mr Boyle said.
“When we have that many people we can reach out to and we can have a conversation with, we have an absolute obligation to make sure we are doing that in a really powerful and meaningful way.”
Mr Boyle said while Taronga would continue to focus on its research programs, rehabilitation, partnering with those people doing great work in the field and in habitat restoration, Taronga was really keen to know how could it best connect with those two million guests.
He said: “How can we tell them the story of the koala?”
Almost 100 people attended the Caring for our Koalas and our Environment Conference at Sails Port Macquarie by Rydges on June 7.
The conference, presented by the Hello Koalas Festival, attracted environmental scientists, wildlife carers and community members with a special interest in koalas.
The conference follows on the success of the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital’s two conferences.
Caring for our Koalas and our Environment Conference convener Margret Meagher said the conference had brought people together from across the east coast of Australia.
“They will be talking and making connections today and continuing to collaborate and share ideas in the future,” she said.
The conference heard from a range of guest speakers on June 7.
Field trips are planned on June 8 to Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, Sea Acres Rainforest Centre and the Old Bottlebutt.