28th Annual SEAZA Conference Successfully Held Virtually

In view of the CoViD-19 pandemic, the 28th Southeast Asian Zoos and Aquariums Association (SEAZA) Conference was held on 16 to 19 November 2020 via Zoom. The Conference, hosted by Htoo Zoos and Gardens Business Unit of Myanmar, marked 30 years since the Association's establishment in 1990.

As in previous Conferences, this event started with addresses and messages from SEAZA personalities. Dr. Cheng Wen-Haur, SEAZA President, opened by first calling for a minute of silence over the untimely demise of Mr. Suriya Saengpong, former Director General of the Zoological Park Organization of Thailand. Dr. Cheng then delivered his opening remarks by welcoming the keynote speakers, dignitaries, and delegates to the Conference and thanking the Organizing Committee for spearheading the Conference online. As is tradition, he ended his talk by leading everyone through the SEAZA cheer.

Next to welcome the delegates was Mrs. Kyiphyu Zaw, Chief Executive Officer of host institution Htoo Zoos and Gardens Business Unit. She began by expressing her gratitude to the Association for the opportunity to host their first SEAZA Conference albeit online. However, she expressed optimism that in 2021, SEAZA can finally come to Myanmar for a physical conference.

Rounding out the opening ceremonies was Mr. Daniel Albert Castillo, Director of the 28th Annual and 1st Virtual SEAZA Conference. He gave a brief primer on what sessions to expect throughout the Conference.

The first session of the Conference was a series of inspirational keynote addresses from dignitaries within and outside the Southeast Asian zoo community. First was Dr. Nyi Nyi Kyaw, Director General of the Forestry Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, Myanmar. Next was Prof. Theo Pagel, President of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, who spoke of the many adjustments WAZA members have had to take amid the pandemic. Then, Dr. Maung Maung Kyi, Myanmar’s ASEAN Biodiversity Hero (2017), delivered a talk on his biodiversity work. Next was Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, Executive Director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, who encouraged SEAZA and its members to be exemplars of conservation and good wildlife trade practices. The session was closed out by Simon Marsh, acting Director of Wild Welfare, who pointed out how the CoViD-19 pandemic magnified the need for good animal welfare and conservation practices.

The first day of the Conference was capped with a forum on how Southeast Asian zoos have been responding to the conditions imposed by pandemic restrictions. These were reported by SEAZA Executive Board members who are themselves representatives of their own national zoo associations. These reports were supplemented by a lecture by Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia’s Executive Director, Ms. Nicola Craddock, on WAZA’s Animal-Visitor Interaction Guidelines.

The next few days were filled with intensive yet interesting scientific sessions covering a range of topics relevant to zoo and aquarium management. Day 2 held three sessions: Animal Welfare and Ethics, Conservation, and Zoo Education. Day 3 had the next three: Nutrition, Ex Situ Species Management, and Zoo Experience. Lastly, Day 4 had Zoo Veterinary Science and Animal Health. The General Assembly was also held on the last day, where SEAZA Committees delivered reports and the Executive Board addressed the members present.

Despite the online setting, the Conference was still well-attended, drawing upwards of 700 registrations, each day of the four-day event averaging one hundred delegates present, and many others watching via the Facebook live stream.

If you wish to see the Conference recordings, please visit our Facebook page. Alternatively, you may also check our page for the SEAZA 2020 Lectures where we have been posting (and will continue to do so until early April 2021) replays of individual lectures delivered during the Conference.

The 28th Annual and 1st Virtual SEAZA Conference was hosted by Htoo Zoos and Gardens Business Unit of Myanmar. Corporate sponsors were 101 Zoos (Israel), The Blink Agency (Myanmar), Gillespies (United Kingdom), Hazkoba (United Kingdom), Marine and Land Associates Ltd. (Hong Kong), Mazuri (c/o AllPets Asia Pte Ltd., Singapore), OceanikZooGroup (Peru), and Studio WLLMS (Belgium).

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