Meet Our Trustees


The key responsibilities of the Trustees

With other Trustees to hold the Society “in Trust” for current and future beneficiaries by:

  • Ensuring that the Society has a clear mission and strategic direction and is focused on achieving these;
  • Being responsible for the performance of the Society and for its “corporate” behaviour;
  • Ensuring that the Society complies with all legal and regulatory requirements;
  • Acting as guardians of the Society’s assets, both tangible and intangible, taking all due care over their security, deployment and proper application; and
  • Ensuring that the Society’s governance is of the highest possible standard.

Malcolm Ardron – Chair of Trustees

Malcolm is a company managing director providing engineering and construction services; and Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. After studying Engineering Science at Oxford University, he has worked in both public and private sectors ranging from construction of nuclear power stations, road and rail projects, industrial and commercial buildings; consultant to nuclear and manufacturing sectors in UK and Europe on commercial dispute resolution including Expert Witness to Court (Technology & Construction Division).

Penny Coates DL – Deputy Chair of Trustees

Former Managing Director of the Manchester Airports Group, Director of Asda and Non Executive Director of the Cooperative Society Specialist Businesses, Penny has held senior roles in retail, aviation, manufacturing and financial services. Penny is now semi-retired to allow her to focus on Non-Executive Director and Trustee roles.

Angie Robinson DL

Angie is a former CEO with over twenty years experience in the role across three different business sectors. During her 40 year plus career, she has held many Board positions including Chair of Marketing Cheshire , having previously been a Director of Marketing Manchester for several years. Now semi retired, she acts as a mentor to social enterprises and is a trustee of a housing charity. She is also a very busy grandmother.

Prof. Rhys Green

Rhys is a Professor of Conservation Science in the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge. He does problem-solving research on the effects of farming, pollution, habitat loss, illegal killing and climate change on the population sizes and trends of wild species and on the effectiveness of actions intended to remedy those effects. He is Chair of the Board of the international consortium Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction (SAVE).

Dr Romain Pizzi

Romain is a specialist zoo & wildlife veterinary surgeon, and a past president of the British Veterinary Zoological Society and a past president of the Scottish branch of the British Veterinary Association. He is a fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and a European recognised specialist in zoo health management. He is a trustee of the Animal Welfare Foundation, and a member of Defra’s Animal Welfare Committee. He has worked for wildlife conservation organisations, government departments, and zoos in over 40 countries from Argentina to Vietnam, with everything from elephants to tree snails.

Prof. Richard Griffiths 

Richard is based at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) at the University of Kent. An advocate of the powerful role that zoos can play in conservation, education and applied research, he is a member of the IUCN Reintroductions Specialist Group, and has chaired several working groups on translocation and reintroduction themes.

Simon Venables

Simon is a Group Financial Controller with experience leading finance teams in both public and private businesses, dealing with all aspects including commercial analysis and strategic reviews, negotiating bank funding, external reporting, governance, financial control, treasury and tax. Simon qualified as a Chartered Accountant with KPMG in Liverpool and worked with a wide variety of clients across the North-West. Simon chairs the Audit and Risk Management Committee and is the Trustee most likely to turn up to a meeting by bike.

“It’s an opportunity to bring my professional expertise to bear for the benefit of a charity where the mission supports my lifelong love of the natural world. For me it might be managing our garden to support our local birds, or planning holidays around a whale watching trip, or taking the kids to an RSPB reserve or the Zoo, helping them learn what they can do for conservation too.”

Prof. David Macdonald DL

David is the Director and founder (1986) of the world renowned Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) at the University of Oxford, the world’s first university-based institute focusing on wildlife conservation research. David has a strong record of public service, having been on the Board of almost every major conservation body – WWF, FFI, ZSL, WWT, RSPB and Chairman of Earthwatch. He was the founding Chairman of Natural England’s Science Advisory Committee and was the Chairman of the UK’s government Darwin Inititative for a decade. Currently he is Chairman of Action for Conservation, a new education charity taking conservation into schools.

Lee Rawlinson

Lee is the Environment Agency Director for Sustainability and Service Operations ensuring action in achieving net zero, nature positive and all issues of sustainability. Lee also leads for services that support the wider delivery of the Environment Agency from IT and Digital to our security, business resilience, management of Estates, Fleet and the service delivery of HR, Finance and communications. Lee works closely with central government as well as with governments across the UK and the world in improving sustainability and environmental improvement.  As a senior incident commander for major disasters such as fires, floods and pollution and is vastly experienced at crisis management. Lee is passionate about sustainability and striking the right balance between economic growth, healthy society and the Environment in tackling the climate emergency.

Jen Carter

With a background in law and business, Jen has worked in the energy sector since 2006 and is currently Head of Risk, Control and Assurance at Electricity North West.  As a mum to two small boys, she is keen to instil the importance of conservation, education, inclusion and good stewardship of our world.  She also understands how important time together and days out are for busy families.

David Wootton DL, CBE

David has forty years’ experience in Education, having been CEO of one of the highest performing school groups in the country, Executive Principal, Principal, Headteacher and Music teacher, working mainly with schools and trusts in challenging contexts.

David was an Adviser to the Department for Education, ESFA Board member, Chair of the Independent Academies Association, and member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Leadership and Governance.

David is now Visiting Professor in Education at Manchester Metropolitan University, Chair of The Learning Alliance, Freeman of the City of London and The Worshipful Company of Educators and a freelance consultant adviser, trainer, writer and speaker working across the educational spectrum and involved significantly in governance. He was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s 2021 New Year’s Honours List.

Yvonne Emmett Cannell

Yvonne has wide ranging senior leadership experience at Board level in the NHS, Local Government and Charities. She is an accountant by profession and spent her senior career in Finance Director and deputy Chief Executive roles in the NHS and Local Government.

Yvonne possesses particular skills in the field of financial management, service delivery and transformation. She has extensive experience of developing business cases and leading on large scale capital developments. Yvonne is also Chair of Trustees at the Hospice of the Good Shepherd in Chester.

Neill Skinner

Neill is an experienced Chief Financial Officer and Chartered Accountant. After qualifying with PwC, Neill spent his early career advising on mergers and acquisitions and then went on to hold senior financial and commercial positions at British Nuclear Fuels plc and other businesses operating or supporting large, complex infrastructures, in the UK, US and overseas, including several years spent working across the Middle East and Central Asia where he set up several businesses operating in the engineering and construction sectors.

More recently, Neill has been Chief Financial Officer of both quoted and private-equity businesses in the technology and consumer service sectors. Neill also served three full terms as a non-executive director at the Riverside Group, one of the UK’s largest housing and care organisations which, as a well as managing a large property estate, supports some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Dr Simon Cripps

Simon was until recently Executive Director of Marine Conservation for the Wildlife Conservation Society WCS, with headquarters at the Bronx Zoo in New York. He led a Global Marine Program of 400 staff in 27 countries. Simon has worked at all levels in conservation including: practical fieldwork; academic research; applied environmental consultancy; as global programme director with WWF-International and WCS; on the boards of regulating government authorities; and as a Wildlife Trust CEO. As a passionate supporter of zoos and aquaria Simon and his family have been regular visitors to Chester Zoo over the decades.

Martin Harper

Martin has 27 years’ experience of conservation leadership. He is currently BirdLife International’s Vice President for Regions and Partnership having previously been BLI’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia.

He joined BirdLife in 2021 having spent the previous decade as Conservation Director for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) – BLI’s UK partner. He has also worked for Plantlife International and Wildlife and Countryside Link. He was educated at Oxford University and University College London and undertook research in the Comores and Mongolia. He is a member of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative’s Council and Biodiversa+ Stakeholder Board.


Audit and Risk Management (Chair: Simon Venables)
Ethical Review (Chair: Prof. Richard Griffiths)
Remuneration (Chair: Penny Coates)
Strategic Development Committee (Chair: Penny Coates)
Nominations Committee (Chair: Penny Coates)
Company Secretary (Nick Clarke: Aaron & Partners LLP)

Advisors to the Trustees: Dr. Thomas Webb, Prof. Richard Preziosi, Dr. Lottie Hosie, Mark Ditchburn and Edwin Christmas.