Andrea’s passion for conservation and wildlife is clear from the moment you start talking to her about her projects and the work she is currently involved in. After spending four years in Ghana where she worked as the Country Co-ordinator for the West African Primate Conservation Action (WAPCA) NGO, she decided to return to the UK in 2018 undertaking the role as WAPCA Programme Manager. Working within the zoological community for 14 years at this point Andrea felt that she wanted to stay in the zoo environment and was searching for an appropriate zoo host. This is where Zoological Society of Hertfordshire’s Director Lynn Whitnall stepped in with the offer to accommodate Andrea in an office on site at Paradise Wildlife Park.
Lynn had shown interest for some time in supporting the work of the IUCN and their Red List Assessment process. Andrea had volunteered at Paradise in her early career and ZSH had supported Andrea’s work at WAPCA by inviting her to present at ZSH / PWP and supported the work of WAPCA through donations. Lynn thought that this might present itself as an opportunity. The Red List for those who do not know is a classification system that assesses species’ risk of extinction. It ranges from Least Concern to Critically Endangered.
Zoological Society of Hertfordshire sponsor Andrea one day a week to collect data on a variety of species from ladybirds to wolf-eels to determine where wildlife species fall into this Red List, this can then be used to guide where conservation efforts should be placed. Andrea also inputs the Zoological Society of Hertfordshire’s conservation contributions made across the globe into the European Association of Zoos & Aquaria (EAZA) Conservation Database. The database was initiated by EAZA and it is a tool that allows us to quantify all of EAZA zoo’s impact on conservation. From this we can derive where funds are being placed, along with hours donated from staff.
Andrea emphasises the importance of this database because the message of the vital role zoos play in conservation is “often lost” with the public. From this data, we can see how many zoos and aquariums actually support conservation projects. Realistically, without all the support gained from zoos and wildlife organisations, the conservation of endangered species would be in a far worse state. Possessing hard facts of how the zoo industry helps with the world’s conservation is also a perfect tool to illuminate the amazing work of zoos to the public, especially those who have negative and misguided views against zoos.
One of the many valuable projects that Paradise is supporting Andrea to complete is one that purely focuses on sustainable livelihoods and green value chains. This encompasses a fully holistic approach to conservation in Ghana where the human element should not be ignored but utilised to enhance the end goals. For example, farmers in Ghana make a very small profit from large produce co-operations. Therefore, they seek an income elsewhere which tends to be unsustainable and detrimental to the primate and their habitats. Andrea and WAPCA’s response to this is to create partnerships with the private sector and the farmers where consumers will pay a premium price for their produce which subsequently allows the Ghanaian farmers to have a larger profit. In addition, the private sector agrees to contribute to a Conservation Fund which facilitates forest patrols and reforestation activities and thereby at the same time creating a self-financing conservation project, reducing or even eliminating the reliance on outside funding which is never guaranteed long term.
The overall result of this is that there will be less impact on the wildlife and ecosystems in Ghana. If the farmers are paid enough they will not seek unstainable incomes which negatively impact the forests and wildlife.
Andrea is hopeful for the future of WAPCA. She intends to investigate the Ghanaian primate landscape to determine different primate species and their conservation needs. Andrea endeavours to discover what is happening in the Ghana forests, what species are living there and what threats are they under. From this, WAPCA and all global organisations can act to save any species if necessary. This is why Andrea’s research is so important. She is actively finding where the threat lies with wildlife and how we can help.
Zoological Society of Hertfordshire, Paradise Wildlife Park feels honoured to accommodate such important research for the world’s wildlife. The park is excited to see what will come in the future years and hope that Andrea can achieve her vital goals in saving as many species of wildlife as possible.