The InterZoo project is dedicated to the development of higher level training in international zoo management. There is a wealth of experience and knowledge in the zoo sector based on large numbers of institutions of various sizes and individuals with diverse backgrounds. Zoo sector employees across Europe and beyond often enter on relatively low qualifications or else are employed on the basis of degree-level programmes, yet whatever the background over time they have a wealth of experience and knowledge that can be developed further through the application of the critical evaluation and wider subject contextualisation that both professional development and academic progression bring.
Whilst competency-based training is commonplace in the sector in maintaining the currency of practical skills, there is a lack of similar opportunities at higher levels of study. In a wider European context undergraduate training is patchy in its provision with postgraduate study even less structured. Higher Education institutions are often disassociated from the sector with structured collaborative work often restricted to individual research activities rather than on-going longer term collaborations.
For the individual, on-going professional development opens up opportunities for career progression, better understanding of wider strategic issues in zoo management and ultimately impacts upon both the animals and people in such establishments. At an institutional level it fosters cooperation with external bodies and promotes a better qualified and informed workforce. At EU level it encourages cooperative working, increases staff mobility, builds professional zoo industry capacity, improves capacity for collaborative work and improves applied knowledge exchange.
Both the HE and the zoo sectors are inherently international with personal, institutional, sectorial and professional networks extending well beyond individual country boundaries. The overarching aim of the InterZoo project is therefore to bring these two sectors together to develop a structured training programme that blends the applied/experiential-based knowledge of the zoo sector with the rigour of Higher Education-based pedagogy and research. The outcome will be a defined training curriculum incorporating three specific training modules that target:
– International zoo welfare and management,
– International management of zoo-based conservation, and
– Ethical and legal issues with international zoo management.
The six consortium partners constitute three Higher Education Institutions – University of Wolverhampton (UK, lead), University of Bologna (IT) and University of Limoges (FR) – and three zoo partners – Twycross Zoo (UK), Budapest Zoo (HU) and Parco Natura Viva (IT). Between them they cover significant areas of expertise in teaching, training and research on a national and international level. This expertise is added to by the input from the associate partners which are tied into the same professional and collaborative networks. These associate partners include Dudley Zoo (UK), Ecole Nature Recherche (FR), Fondazione ARCA (IT), British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria (UK) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria.
Through a mix of partner-focused workshops, a wider multiplier event and a summer school, the consortium will develop and test a suite of training materials that can be used either independently within the context of each training module or as part of a coherent whole. Ultimately the aspiration is to develop the modules into a formal international post-graduate qualification and/or incorporate the material produced into zoo sector professional development programmes, thus giving the project outcomes and impacts beyond the time limit of the project itself.