David Macdonald and Alexandra Zimmermann celebrate a new partnership between the UK’s number one zoo with the world’s number one university to address key challenges in the conservation of endangered species


Chester Zoo and the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) have joined forces with the shared aim of delivering high-impact conservation research to address the global decline of biodiversity. The new partnership is designed to investigate major challenges in conservation by combining some of the international projects that Chester Zoo coordinate with cutting-edge scientific research. It is the zoo’s largest formal partnership with a university in its 85 year history.

Chester Zoo, which attracts almost 1.9 million visitors per year, leads and supports conservation projects around the world, which range from managing endangered bird populations in Mauritius, to studying Andean bear ecology in Bolivia and mitigating human-elephant conflict in India. The University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) is an internationally renowned leader in applied conservation research, comprising top graduate and postdoctoral researchers from around the world. Over the next seven years this new partnership will see up to 10 doctoral and postdoctoral researchers placed into Chester’s conservation projects around the world. It is hoped that this collaboration will provide new research to assist conservationists in developing innovative approaches to tackle global challenges such as human-wildlife conflict, livelihoods and sustainable development, and monitoring of populations of endangered species in the wild. The initial cohort of scientists under this structure will study the effects of conflict mitigation efforts on tigers in the Terai of Nepal, understand the behaviour of crop-raiding Asian elephants in northeast India, and investigate the varied interactions between bears and people in Latin America where we will also work on jaguars, land-use, conflict and climate change.

In a recent press release, Dr Alexandra Zimmermann, Head of Conservation Science at Chester Zoo, said: “The aim of both Chester Zoo and WildCRU is to deliver top-quality conservation research projects that are directly relevant to urgent global conservation goals. This exciting new collaboration allows us to do this in a way that will maximise the impact of our joint conservation efforts.”.  David Macdonald added:  “This partnership provides an excellent platform for our graduate and postdoctoral scientists to design their research around the real needs of conservation projects on the ground, helping to find solutions to some of the challenges we are facing in wildlife conservation the world over.”

“Chester Zoo is a remarkable organisation, combining an excellent collection with a remarkable conservation team. They also have access to an enormous and loyal public. Shake this heady mix together with the research skills and policy awareness of WildCRU’s researchers and the resulting cocktail is a potent force for invention and impact in the conservation world. At WildCRU, a university-based conservation research unit, we are simply thrilled at our new partnership with Chester and the conduits it brings to a wider public”