The Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, the charity that runs Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, Living Coasts in Torquay and Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, has taken a clutch of honours at the National Zoo and Aquarium Awards.
The event was the annual awards ceremony of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), the body which represents over 100 top zoos.
Newquay Zoo won Gold for its visitor research and Silver for its education partnership with Cornwall College. Paignton Zoo won Gold for research into a rapid field test to help in the global fight against the Chytrid fungus, which is killing amphibians around the world.
Dr Andrew Bowkett, the Programmes Manager for the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, said: “The fungal disease Chytridiomycosis has wiped out frog and salamander populations all over the world. Our partnership with the University of Exeter has resulted in a quick and easy pregnancy-style test that reduces the diagnosis time from days to minutes.
“Collaborating with other BIAZA zoos enabled us to access hundreds of animals to test the device and we have now sent tests to various conservation projects working in areas of known outbreaks to validate its use in the field. This could transform amphibian quarantine and translocation practices and vastly reduce the fungus’ spread.”
The Trust also won Gold for research into the reproductive ecology of the Sorbus – whitebeam – species in the region. Recipient, Dr Tracey Hamston, said: “After spending years looking at DNA in the lab and doing fieldwork in the coastal valleys of Exmoor to complete my PhD, it’s great to finally unravel the genetic mysteries of the enigmatic local whitebeam species. The close relationships of these species and their strange pollination system, revealed by my research, have direct implications for the way these species are managed by conservationists.”
In addition, Paignton Zoo’s the Great Big Rhino Project won Bronze in the PR, Marketing, Digital & Events category. The winners were announced at a special gala dinner event hosted by The Deep in Hull. Categories included Animal Breeding, Care & Welfare; Conservation; Education; Exhibits; Horticulture; PR, Marketing, Digital & Events; Research; and Sustainability.
Dr Kirsten Pullen, CEO of BIAZA, said, “Our annual awards ceremony recognises excellence in the work being carried out by our zoos and aquariums as well as our associate members. Our community is committed to conservation, education, research, and having the highest levels of animal welfare and this is highlighted by the incredibly high standard of award submissions this year.”