What’s your role on the Youth Board?
I am External Reach Co-Lead, so alongside Jessica, the other Co-Lead, I help to reach out to other conservation organizations who are youth-led or who make efforts to hear from young voices as part of their decision-making and try to see how we can work together, help each other out and learn from each other.
What does the zoo mean to you?
Chester Zoo means so much to me and it’s been part of my life since I was a child – I lived about an hour away from the Zoo so it’s not somewhere we’d go too regularly but we’d make sure we got a trip in about every year or so, and it was always a big deal! Visiting every year meant that there was always something new to see, a new species, or a new exhibit and it was almost like the Zoo was growing alongside me. As I grew up, I went to university in Bristol, where I now live, with the aim of being a psychologist, not a conservationist – but I soon realised that I didn’t have the same passion for psychology as I did for wildlife. I started gaining experience in zoos around Bristol and to build up the skills to enter a conservation career – and then I saw Chester Zoo recruiting for Youth Board members and it felt like a really natural fit. It felt like such a great opportunity, after the Zoo had such an impact on me, to have an impact on the Zoo and play some part in its incredible legacy.
How have you supported the zoo, whether that be recently or over a longer time period?
I’ve kind of been supporting the zoo since I was a child by visiting at every opportunity we had, but recently since being on the Youth Board, we’ve helped to support the Zoo through the Covid-19 crisis. We helped the Save our Zoo campaign – myself and all of the other Youth Board members helped to fundraise in different ways. I’m a keen runner in my spare time, so I logged some miles as part of our exercise challenge, which was to run 281 miles collectively, which was the combined age of all the Youth Board members at the time (we smashed that target in about a week!). And altogether as the Youth Board we raised over £1900 which we’re incredibly proud of.
I‘ve also supported the zoo as a volunteer since I’ve been on the Youth Board, talking to guests out in the Zoo, when it could open, which has been a really valuable experience and was a really positive use of my time over lockdown and whilst on furlough from my job in Bristol, as a science communicator. And the Youth Board supports the Zoo in trying to reach young audiences and help to get young people more engaged to support the Zoo, in quite a big way as well.
Why do you feel so connected and passionate about the zoo and it’s work?
I feel really connected with the Zoo and passionate about their work because, as I’ve mentioned, the Zoo sparked my passion for wildlife, and now I have a real sense of just how hard the Zoo work to prevent extinction, it’s incredible. The scale of the work Chester Zoo does, the scale of their ambition, and the sheer dedication that all of the staff put in to achieving our mission is really inspiring. Not only that, but it’s also really nice to see how accepting the Zoo have been of the Youth Board and how willing they are to engage with us, to take our views into account.
What do you hope to achieve in your role on the Chester Zoo Youth Board?
My hope, through my role on the Youth Board is that we can encourage more organisations to invite young people into their governance – to give them advice on how they can make changes to engage young people more effectively. I also hope to develop the way Chester Zoo can engage young people and foster an interest in wildlife on a global scale, but also a local scale too, as I think the Covid-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for lots of people to realise the value of wild spaces on their doorstep. I’ve been exploring my local area more and practicing my wildlife photography, which I’d normally do in Zoos, by trying to capture the local wildlife around me – including the family of resident peregrine falcons in Avon Gorge. This has really helped me learn more about our wildlife – I’ve always been more interested in exotic species, I’ll admit – and has been a great help for my wellbeing in the middle of everything going on.
What have you got out of being a part of the Youth Board so far?
I’ve got so much out of being part of the Youth Board so far. I’ve managed to speak to so many members of Zoo staff who are experts in their field and get a real picture of how the zoo works behind the scenes, which I would never have experienced as a visitor. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to other organisations who are also at the forefront of conservation and engaging people in the fight against the biodiversity crisis. And as part of the Global Youth Summit, I’ve been given the opportunity to host sessions, alongside other Youth Board members, that will showcase the valuable role that young people can have in conservation organisations, both at Chester Zoo and in other organisations around the world, to a global audience. But I’ve also managed to talk to 12 other incredible young people who are also getting these opportunities, and who I can work with to have a real tangible impact on the Zoo’s mission. Each of them brings their own ideas and their own perspectives to the table, which is really valuable thing to have.