The Europe office had a very busy spring. BIWFC Managing Director, Monique Principi and Advisory Committee Chair Stephanie Boyles Griffin visited the UK to attend the International Conference on Human-Wildlife Conflict & Coexistence, held in March in Oxford. In addition to the conference in Oxford, we spent several days in the north of England where we had the opportunity to meet one of our grantees, Professor Russell Hill, at Durham University. Russell gave us a tour of the university which included a very impressive XI century castle. He also gathered a group of students and researchers for a lively discussion on wildlife research at Durham.
The following day found us at the University of York, where we met the Head of the Department of Environment and Geography, Professor Roland Gerhels, and Professor Piran White, Deputy Director of the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability Directorate. Piran’s past includes publishing a paper on fertility control as a means of controlling bovine tuberculosis in European badger populations. We discussed progress and the future for the Europe office and Piran gave us a guided tour of the university’s impressive facilities. Joining us was the Director of the UK Squirrel Accord, Ms. Kay Haw, who discussed with us common interests and future collaborations.
We spent the rest of the day with colleagues from Chester Zoo, Dr. Sue Walker, Head of Science, and Dr. Veronica (Ronnie) Cowl, Reproductive Biology Coordinator. Chester Zoo Science Department is a unique institution in Europe, as its research focuses on both biological and social sciences including animal behaviour and welfare, conservation, physiology and reproduction, population biology and social sciences. Ronnie recently designed the Reproductive Management Open Online Course, an initiative that was launched in May 2023, aimed at professionals responsible for animal management. This course is proudly co-sponsored by the BIWFC that also contributed a lecture in the session dedicated to fertility control for free-living wildlife. The level of interest for this initiative has been impressive. To date more than 900 people have registered.
The 3-day conference in Oxford brought together 550 representatives from conservation organisations, academia, governments, businesses and local communities from six continents and 70 countries. This was organised following the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework agreed at the UN Biodiversity Conference in December 2022, which calls for countries to “effectively manage human-wildlife interactions to minimize human-wildlife conflict for coexistence.”
The conference, which ran along many parallel sessions, had a strong emphasis on human-wildlife conflicts in a conservation context, hence the majority of talks focused on iconic species such as large carnivores and elephants. We felt there was space for this conference to expand in the future, to include the many wildlife species that have economic and environmental impacts such as free-living horses, wild boar, rodents, deer, pigeons and non-native animals as well as other vertebrates and invertebrates. Our talk entitled “The other side of human-wildlife conflicts: a global perspective on fertility control to manage overabundant wildlife” had many questions and positive feedback. Importantly, BIWFC staff made many contacts and had impromptu productive meetings. We returned home tired but excited, having made new friends, renewed old acquaintances, and talked about the BIWFC mission with as many colleagues and stakeholders as possible. We will now build on these contacts to increase awareness of our work.