Association of British and Irish
Wild Animal Keepers

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Our vision is:
To unite the collective expertise of wild animal keepers to continually advance the highest levels of animal care.

Mission statement:
ABWAK is a membership organisation for those interested and involved in the keeping and conservation of wild animals, which seeks to achieve the highest standards of excellence in animal welfare through communication, cooperation, training and development.

Our values are we believe that:
- we are the voice of animal keepers in the UK and Ireland for whom excellent animal welfare is the highest priority.
- we can have a significant impact on welfare issues by bringing animal keepers and stakeholders together and by being a strong representative and consultative body.
- we can make a significant contribution to the training and development of animal keepers thus raising standards and increasing the recognition of wild animal collections.
- by developing the skills and expertise of our members we can make a unique contribution to conservation.

A Brief History (based on strategy foreword, kindly provided by Jonathan Barzdo)
ABWAK was conceived in 1974 at Marwell Zoological Park. Jonathan Barzdo and Graham Lucas of Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, with the support of their zoo directors John Knowles of Marwell and Colin Rawlins of the Zoological Society of London, contacted a handful of like-minded zoo keepers who helped to set up the association.

The driver for this was a belief that zoos could make an important contribution to conservation through educating visitors. It was understood that animals in zoos must be well cared for, healthy and behaving as normally as possible and living in 'clean' and attractive enclosures, as an environment to encourage breeding. The hope in forming the association was to raise the professional status of zoo keepers, help them do a better job, and provide a way for them to share experiences with other keepers.

ABWAK's founders also believed that there should be a professional qualification for zoo keepers. This has now been realised as the association is now represented on the steering committee for the Advanced National Certificate in the Management of Zoo Animals (ANCMZA) course. Many zoo keepers now hold the ANCMZA or its equivalent preceding award as a result of their own dedication and commitment.

Since ABWAK was founded in 1974, the association has established deep roots and become strong. It is still run by a council of volunteers who are committed to developing the association. It has developed in ways beyond the original founders' hopes and expectations and continues to serve animal keepers in the UK and Ireland.

This website is supported by Chester Zoo