We are delighted to reveal our Panellists for this important discussion:
Conservationist and Wildlife Television Presenter
Chris Packham is a broadcaster and environmental and animal welfare campaigner based in the UK. He works with numerous charities and activist groups to try and instigate rapid and effective transitions to better world, nature and human solutions. He has a long history of working with captive animals and supports far reaching reforms in the way we operate captive wildlife collections.
“Change is now imperative. In practically every aspect of our lives; transport, energy, food – essentially consumption; it needs a personal, national, and global overhaul. And for me as a lover of all life, every last sliming, slithering, stinging thing, symbolically at the core of this lies ‘animal welfare’. The term is often too narrowly considered; it’s not just about physical cruelty or torture, it’s about attitude, understanding, empathy, respect, and the reality that we are destroying life and lives.
“Zoos are a fixture of our lives, they’ve always been there, and thus they sadly have become for many ‘background noise’: too familiar to question, something that just is, just happens.
“But the world has changed way more rapidly than the vast majority of zoos, the core ethos of many is outdated, and few are fuelled with a genuine desire to accept the changes they so desperately need to make. I grew up in zoos, my partner Charlotte inherited a zoo, but that was then. Now more than ever we and they must robustly question their roles and radically change their practices and objectives, because it’s not only ‘Robin Redbreast in a cage’ that ‘puts all heaven in a rage’.”
Director of Program Development for the Elephant Protection Initiative Foundation
Greta is an Ethiopian-Italian environment and wildlife conservation adviser to various African governments and international organisations. She has extensive experience in working to bring an end to illegal wildlife trade across the Horn of Africa, resolve human-wildlife conflict and better understand the gendered dynamics of organised criminal networks — while encouraging more sustainable, and inclusive conservation models across Africa.
Greta is a Women for the Environmental Africa founding fellow, and currently heads the Elephant Protection Initiative Foundation’s (EPIF) program development and human-elephant conflict and coexistence work across 23 African member states, and between Africa and Asia. She passionately advocates for more compassionate and nuanced systems change, including the vital collaboration required of all to enable socio-environmental justice and coexistence.
“I believe that visioning a world ‘Beyond Zoos’ must firmly acknowledge and unpack the complexities of our historical, socio-political, cultural, and broader structural dysfunctions and deficiencies – especially within the environmental arena today.
“The question remains, can we foster holistic thinking on ways to address root causes of wildlife losses, while strengthening safeguards for biodiversity and people, as well as making contingency plans for our most at-risk species? We can only hope that these vital dialogues can and will contribute to a path for a sustainable future that celebrates nature’s magnificence and cultivates harmony between humanity and our environment.”
Chairman of the Aspinall Foundation and The Howletts Wild Animal Trust.
Damian Aspinall owns two zoos in the UK, Port Lympne Safari Park and Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent. However, Damian is well known for his outspoken views on the failure of zoos and his wish that they ultimately be closed, including his own facilities. The Aspinall Foundation breeds gorillas and other wild animals in captivity and works to return them to the wild in Africa.
“We have no moral right as a species to let animals suffer just because we are curious about them,” he says. “Parents should not be taking their kids to zoos. I know that would hurt me as much as anyone else but that’s my honest answer. There’s no excuse for any zoo today.
“The Aspinall Foundation is the preeminent rescue and rewilding organisation in the world today. Well over a thousand animals have been rescued or rewilded including 70 Gorillas and 300 primates. It has projects in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Gabon, Congo, Kenya, Madagascar, Java, Sumatra, and Pakistan.
“The Trust is a charity that runs two wildlife sanctuaries in Kent and is world-renowned for its world-record breeding of endangered animals and its rewilding programmes.”
Dr Winnie Kiiru
Research scientist & wildlife biologist
Dr. Winnie Kiiru is a highly accomplished research scientist and wildlife biologist with over 25 years of experience in wildlife management, environmental policy, and global environmental advocacy. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, she has significantly contributed to conservation through her strategic leadership, organisational expertise, and dedication to sustainable development in East Africa.
Dr Kiiru has held corporate governance and board leadership positions in various organisations, including Stop Ivory, Kenya Wildlife Service, Born Free Foundation, Species Survival Network, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, and even lecturing at the School of Biological Sciences and Physical Sciences at JKUAT and Technical University respectively.
In recognition of her outstanding contributions to conservation, Dr. Winnie Kiiru received the prestigious Order of the Grand Warrior Award in 2022, one of Kenya’s highest civilian honours. Additionally, in2016, she was honoured with the Woman of Excellence Award by the Kenya Association of Women in Tourism, underscoring her significant impact on the conservation landscape.