The 8th Annual Conference of South Asian Zoo Association for Regional Co-operation SAZARC, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

 

The 8th Annual South Asian Zoo Association for Regional Co-operation was held at Greenwoods Resort in Ahmedabad, Gujarat from 30 January-3 February for five days. The conference was organized by ZOO and WILD and hosted by Kamla Nehru Zoological Gardens, Ahmedabd Municipal Corporation, Twenty eight participants including two resource persons from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and United Kingdom participated in this conference .

The two days before the zoo conference, the Forest department of Gujarat and GEER Foundation hosted the two day workshop which has accompanied SAZARC conference for last five years.  Following the conference all the foreign delegates visited Gir Lion Sanctuary-the last home for Asiatic Lions and the famous Sakkarbaug Zoo, also hosted by the Forest Department of Gujarat.  Reports of these events will appear later.

The theme of the South Asian regional conference was “Zoo Legislation”. It was inaugurated by the Mayor and attended by Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Pradeep Khanna PCCF (WL), Forest Department, the Director, Animal Husbandry department and others. Dr. R.K. Sahu, President, SAZARC welcomed the gathering.  Ms. Sally Walker introduced the workshop theme and that was improving zoo standards with zoo legislation and inspections. Afterwards country representatives gave a presentation on what kind of legislation or regulation they have at present in their respective country.  These presentations set the tone of a discussion of how SAZARC could help all of its zoos to improve their standards and become more consistent with the conservation aspirations and activities of the international zoo community.

In the second day Mr. Brij Kishor Gupta of CZA covered   Indian Zoo Legislation and the Central Zoo Authority.  Brij gave detailed and engaging presentations on 1. Policy, Legislation, Rules; 2. Implementation of Zoo Legislation;  and 3. Problems and Issues of Indian Zoo Legislation which held participants spellbound and generated many good questions.  Afterwards Indian Zoo Directors from Nandankanan zoo, Sakkarbaug Zoo, Sepahijala Zoo, Chhatbir Zoo and Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens spoke about their experience running their zoos with CZA and Indian Zoo Legislation.  There was good discussion and questions from all participants throughout which set the tone for working groups of the countries the following day. 

Third day theme was zoo regulation, how and what kind.  The day started with an excellent presentation by Mr. Dave Morgan, Executive Director, PAAZAB  on “operational standards in African Association of Zoos and Aquaria”.  Then working groups were formed with respective country members to discuss on strategic actions relative to operational zoo standards for countries.  Then working groups presented their reports. In the afternoon all participants went to the Gujarat Secretariat for a rare honor of meeting the most dynamic Chief Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi. He interacted with the delegates and asked their opinion to improve the government efforts of insitu and exsitu conservation in his state. The meeting was held for one hour although the initial time was given 10 minutes.

Fourth day theme was “New Challenges and Conservation effectiveness”. Today the speakers talked about the different issues prevailing in India as well as other parts of the world. At first, Dr. B.A.Daniel of Zoo Outreach Organisation gave a presentation on “Climate challenges and what zoos can do”. At the end he interacted with participants and asked their views how zoos could contribute to mitigate the problems. Some of the good suggestions came up from the participants. Mr. Sanjay Molur of ZOO gave a presentation on “Status of amphibians in South Asia with special reference to emerging diseases”. He talked at length the status of amphibians in South Asia and present “amphibian crisis” due to diseases. Then ZOO staff R.Marimuthu and B.A. Daniel conducted amphibian education programme with activities using the ZOO amphibian education kit. Dave Morgan of PAAZAB screened a video on amphibians which tells about the current global “amphibian crisis”. Followed to this, Sanjay Molur talked about the present Gharial situation in India-what can zoos do. Mike Jordan of Chester Zoo, UK gave two very interesting presentations on this day and they were 1. Species management planning at Chester Zoo and 2. The world of rodents and their display.

On the fifth and last day,  groups were formed on 1.SAZARC norms; 2. WAZA inspection questionnaire format; 3. Dangers of release of zoo animals in the wild; and 4. Capacity building through SAZARC zoo personnel.  The SAZARC Norms group discussed the desirability of having a set of norms and standards under the auspices of SAZARC which can be used in low-key good will inspections to generate interest in the public about zoo standards. The WAZA norms group worked on reviewing the WAZA complaint tool assessing its applicability and suggesting minor corrections.  Release of animals in the wild group discussed, listed and suggested reasonable solutions for releasing the captive animals in to the wild by following Guidelines of the Reintroduction Specialist Group RSG. The Capacity building through SAZARZ zoo personnel group worked on the mechanism for organizing capacity building by sharing expertise from zoo managers in the regions. After their prolonged discussion, the groups presented their reports.

Mr. Herath, Mudiyanselage Bandula Chandralal, Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Sports and Public Recreation, Sri Lanka has been unanimously selected as next President of SAZARC and 9th SAZARC meeting will be hosted by Sri Lanka.

A few Highlights and achievements of our CBSG/RSG/SAZARC event

 

We conducted a CBSG RSG meeting with explanations of both specialist groups and meaningful working groups on increasing prey base in satellite lion areas, Gharial and Leopard conflict.

 

We had participants, resource persons and policy makers for zoo legislation from seven countries.

 

 

We had excellent presentations on zoo legislation from all the countries as well as South Africa and U.K.

 

 We had Dr. Brij Gupta of Central Zoo Authority India, who spent a whole day expertly reviewing the Indian zoo legislation scenario for the South Asian zoo participants.  Indian zoo directors delivered presentations on their experience with CZA. 

 

We had Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh representation and all came out with an appropriate action plan for their country.

 

 

We had agreement that  SAZARC could be useful to them in finalising the process

 

We had a request for SAZARC to adopt official SAZARC Standards based on the WAZA zoo improvement tool.

 

 

We had a meeting at the office of Gujarat's dynamic Chief Minister spent one full hour speaking

with us.

 

We had a tour to Gir Forest and saw Gir lions in the wild and in captivity at the Safari Park maintained adjacent to Gir.

 

We had a wonderful discussion on Gir’s management with the Conservator of Forest at the Forest Rest House.

 

 

 

We visited the Ashoka Stone and were inspired by this first official document on animal welfare, where Asoka declares “abstention from killing animals, abstention from hurting living beings”  

 

 

We visited the 140 year old Sakkarbaug Zoo founded for displaced Gir Lions, and saw their amazing new enclosures.   

 

 

We decided to hold next SAZARC in Sri Lanka and elected an Additional Secretary with much zoo exposure and interest as our President for the year. 

 

 

The following Zoo organizations sponsored the conference: Chester Zoo, UK; Benindi Fund, UK; Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, UK; Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, UK; Awley People and Wildlife, France; Knowsley Safari Par, UK; Apenheul Primate Park, Netherlands; Asoociation of British Wild Animal Keepers, UK; Saint Louis Zoo, USA; Paignton Zoo, UK; Metro-Toronto Zoo, Canada; Skansen-Akvariet, Sweden.  Additional sponsorship which made the conference much more enjoyable with fine meals and entertainment were:  Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation; Indian Inovatix Ltd; Helpro Health Products Ltd; Zydus AHL; Rakesh Pharmaceuticals; Jaldhara Super Star Amusement Pvt Ltd.