The highest award for Prague Zoo

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  16. 10. 2021

I spent my very first weekend as Prague Zoo’s director in the office. During that weekend I also wrote down ten points where I tried to define what our future approach to nature conservation projects for endangered species would be. These were and still are one of my priorities. Based on this document, we then started to support or directly implement several in situ projects. For one of these, The Return of the Wild Horses, we have just received the highest possible award a zoo can receive: The WAZA Conservation Award.

Photo: Petr Hamerník, Prague Zoo Photo: Petr Hamerník, Prague Zoo

This is the sixth time the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) has awarded this distinction. This means we have joined some truly venerable company.

The very first WAZA Conservation Award was given in 2016 and went to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, founded by the legendary Gerald Durrell. It was his efforts to save endangered species in Madagascar, and elsewhere, that won him the award. This was followed by the US Monterey Bay Aquarium (2017) honoured for its ocean conservation efforts, Australia's Taronga Zoo (2018) awarded for its many projects in a whole host of countries, Switzerland's Zürich Zoo (2019) for a full quarter of a century of work in Madagascar's Masoala National Park, and Georgia Aquarium (2020) for its all-round contribution to the conservation of whale sharks.

And this year the ranks of WAZA Conservation Award recipients has grown to include Prague Zoo and The Return of the Wild Horses. This name is usually associated with the activities of the last decade, especially transporting the Przewalski's horses to Mongolia. However, there can be no doubt that the reason the WAZA award is now in Prague, is because it also takes into account all the endeavours our zoo has put into saving the Przewalski's horse, i.e., efforts that span almost our entire ninety-year history.

Hence, my thanks and gratitude must go not only to the current staff of Prague Zoo, but also to the many generations of their predecessors. Our founder, the city of Prague, which has fully grasped the idea that protecting biodiversity is the most important task of modern zoos, deserves equal thanks as well. Nor can I forget our many partners and collaborators, both here in the Czech Republic and around the world. Finally, we must also thank all the visitors and supporters of our zoo.

The WAZA Conservation Award is an event that goes beyond the world of zoological gardens and is not only relevant for Prague. What’s more, nothing will make me happier than if it helps, even in a small way, to raise awareness about the desperate need for biodiversity conservation.