Saturday, December 14, 2013

Al Ain Zoo Successfully Concludes First Arabian Zoo and Aquarium Association Conference

Al Ain Zoo Successfully Concludes First
Arabian Zoo and Aquarium Association Conference
- Regional plans set for animal welfare, conservation and education -
Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, 14 December, 2013:  Al Ain Zoo has drawn the first ever Arabian Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZAA) conference to a successful close, activating plans for an aligned constitution and working practices for association members. The three-day event brought together wildlife, zoo and aquarium experts from around the region to discuss animal management and other issues.

Delegates from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Jordan worked closely throughout the conference to develop the AZAA’s draft Constitution, Code of Conduct and Code of Practice. Al Ain Zoo also led initiatives to set out the Association’s plans for 2014.
H.E. Ghanim Mubarak Al Hajeri, Director General of Al Ain Zoo, said:
“This historic conference marks a new era for the Middle East’s zoos and aquariums, providing a strong, united voice for the region in the global cause of wildlife conservation. Al Ain Zoo has been an active and committed advocate in this arena, in line with Abu Dhabi’s 2030 vision and with the UAE’s increasing leadership role – both regionally and internationally – to drive conservation efforts forward. As such, we recognise the importance of knowledge-sharing and benchmarking across the region by the AZAA, and we are confident that significant progress can be made in this shared cause through continued collaboration.”
Commenting on the conference, visiting speaker Mr. John Newby, Chief Executive Officer of the Sahara Conservation Fund, said:
“It is a privilege to participate in the first ever AZAA conference, led by Al Ain Zoo. The creation of this association paves the way for more cohesive efforts to conserve wildlife, habitats and other natural resources in the region. While there are many countries represented here, we share similar ecologies and a desire to conserve and sustain them, and we will be able to learn best practice from existing regional associations from around the world.”
Commenting during the event, Muna Al Dhaheri, Chief Executive of Education and Conservation said:
“Unlike other regions, Arabia lacked a formal cross-border association for zoos and aquariums – and for this region in particular, private collections, too. This first AZAA  conference has seen dynamic workshops on key challenges including conservation, education, animal management and training, and our combined efforts will help us address each more effectively. Now that we have established governance documents, our focus is to develop a framework for membership, formalising the process and criteria for institutions to become official AZAA members.”
The AZAA conference brought together more than 60 delegates from the region, with H.E. Ghanim Mubarak Al Hajeri, Director General of Al Ain Zoo opening the event and introducing guest speakers from across the region. In addition to laying out the essential foundations of the Association, conference attendees participated in plenary sessions on the role of zoos and aquariums in the Arabian Peninsula, as well as a series of workshops. Delegates also experienced Al Ain Zoo’s facilities first-hand with a tour of the zoo, new projects under construction, and experienced a gala dinner adjacent to the stunning Mixed African Exhibit.
The AZAA was formed last year when delegates from zoo and aquarium facilities in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Jordan met and unanimously endorsed the idea, recognising the benefit of communication, collaboration and cooperation across the region.  
Al Ain Zoo is also a member in the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and the European Association of Zoos & Aquaria. In addition to hosting the annual WAZA conference in 2015, the zoo will also host the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group annual meeting in the same year. Al Ain Zoo is further actively involved in several internationally-coordinated conservation projects, working with other like-minded organisations such as Jersey Zoo, Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, the Species Survival Commission, San Diego Zoo, the Northern Rangelands Trust of Kenya and the Sahara Conservation Fund.

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