28 Jul 2017

Our Living with Tigers project in Nepal has been working on livelihood and conservation interventions by supporting the construction of predator-proof pens and biogas plants in various local communities. These interventions are benefiting both the local villagers as well as the biodiversity in Chitwan and Bardia, the two national parks the conservation project focuses on.

Recently, some Nepalese newspapers and online platforms took an interest in the project and a number of articles have been published nationally praising the positive changes that local people experience thanks to the project.

Prakash Chapagain, a Living with Tigers Field Officer based in Chitwan National Park, tells us more:

Tiger caught on camera trap in Bardia National Park

“The articles have outlined the activities conducted in the different sites of the project and also highlighted the perceptions that local communities and stakeholders have in regard to the project. These articles were published on Kantipur National Daily, Loktantra Sandesh National Daily, Tahakhabar and Setopati Online. The articles reflected the positive impact that the predator-proof pens and biogas plants have brought to local communities in the village of Madi.

Newspaper article about living with tigers in Nepal newspaper

News published in Loktantra Sandesh

“Ishwori Bote, a 48-year-old resident of Tamta-anar Ganeshkunja village explained that he lost several of his goats in the past to leopards that managed to get inside his old pen. However, he added that he is now confident that the new predator-proof pen provided by the Living with Tigers project would keep his goats safe! He said: ‘I am happy and confident that tigers or leopards cannot take my goats away anymore’. And he has also increased the size of his herd thanks to the project.

“Srimaya Bote, a woman from a marginalized group in Chitwan added that thanks to the support of the LwT project, she has been able to build a biogas plant in her community. Srimaya has since been able to enrol her children in school and doesn’t need to collect wood from the forest anymore thanks to the biogas plant installation. She explains:

My family is now safe from wild animals and we do not need to go to the forest in search of fuel wood anymore which means we have no chance of interacting with tigers and leopards.

Srimaya Bote, Chitwan National Park

“Ram Chandra Kandel, Chief Conservation Officer of Chitwan National Park stated: ‘These types of interventions are crucial for human wildlife conflict mitigation and are always carried out with a strong coordination from the Park Office’.


“Another news article highlighted how the installation of biogas plants has transformed the lives of locals in Bardia. Local villager, Hari Bahadur Buda explained that he had not needed to collect wood from the forest for more than six months now and added that he also felt much safer than before. Ramesh Thapa, Conservation Officer of Bardia National Park said: ‘Biogas has brought the illegal collection of fuel wood within the national park to an end.’

“These are only a few examples of how the project has already managed to impact the lives of many local communities in Nepal but many more are expected to benefit from the project in the future.”

18 May 2017

Chester Zoo’s Andean Bear Project, developed and run in partnership with The University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and Bolivian NGO Prometa, has won a prestigious Whitley Award.

Work supported by Chester Zoo to protect critically endangered Philippine cockatoos by employing former poachers as wardens is also being recognised at the ceremony taking place in London today (Thursday 18 May).

Run by the Whitley Fund for Nature, the international prize honours exceptional conservationists working in grassroots conservation projects in developing countries. The six winners were chosen from a total of 166 contenders from 66 countries.

Andean bear at Chester Zoo

Dr Ximena Velez-Liendo, a Chester Zoo and WildCRU Conservation Fellow, is among this year’s winners with her project ‘An uphill climb: enabling coexistence of Andean bears and farmers in the Bolivian mountains’. Dr Ximena Velez-Liendo, Chester Zoo Conservation Fellow and Research Associate of WildCRU, said:

“Thanks to the Whitley Award, the funding will help us to get the research equipment we need to improve our understanding of the bears’ distribution and we will be able to work with more communities and expand our project.

I never imagined I would receive such an honour. The Whitley Awards are very prestigious and only the best of the best of conservation scientists receive them. It’s a dream come true!

Dr Ximena Velez-Liendo

Landscape, Bolivia

Earlier this year, we joined forces with WildCRU to deliver high-impact conservation research. This collaboration aims to 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.

This project is key to our understanding of the human wildlife conflict facing Andean bears in their habitats in South America. This Whitley Award will provide the essential support we need to work with local communities, developing sustainable options for people to live alongside the species.

Dr Alexandra Zimmermann, Head of Conservation Science at Chester Zoo

Indira Lacerna-Widmann, chief operating officer of the Katala Foundation, a Philippines-based organisation which successfully implemented the Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Programme (PCCP), is also among the prestigious winners with her project ‘Partnering with prisoners to safeguard the Critically Endangered Philippine cockatoo‘. Indira said:

“I am so grateful first to the cockatoos who remained resilient to fight against all odds over the years. This prestigious recognition I dedicate to all Filipinos but most esp to all Palaweños who take pride in conserving this beautiful bird. The Whitley Award will push our efforts to reach and engage more people in all walks of life – be it a prisoner in penal farm, a businessman, military personnel or anyone.”

Pair of Philippine cockatoos

The participation of everyone is not an option; it is a must for things to happen!

Indira Lacerna-Widmann

Philippine cockatoo

Award winners!
Learn more about the two award winners and the conservation projects we’re working on and why they are worthy winners.

15 May 2017

Run by the Whitley Fund for Nature, the international prize honours exceptional conservationists working in grassroots conservation projects in developing countries. The applicants are currently being assessed by a panel of judges for the chance to win an award and a prize of £35,000 to support the project over one year. The Whitley Awards Ceremony will be presented by HRH The Princess Royal at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Thursday 18 May.

Andean bear caught on camera trap

Chester Zoo’s Andean Bear joint project, ran in partnership with WildCRU, is among the finalists

Previous winners include Chester Zoo project partners Arnaud Desbiez from the Giant Armadillo Conservation Project, Patricia Medici from the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative and Inza Koné from the Tanoé Forest project.

Arnaud Desbiez meeting David Attenborough at Whitley Awards 2015
Patricia Medici speaking at TED talk
Previous Chester Zoo supported Whitley Award winners

Chester Zoo’s recently launched Andean Bear joint project, run in partnership with WildCRU and Bolivian NGO Prometa, is among the finalists. Our conservation Fellow, Dr Ximena Velez-Liendo, is working towards understanding the level of human-bear conflicts while also monitoring the Andean bear (Tremarctos ornatus) presence and distribution in the Inter-Andean dry forests in Bolivia.

With severe droughts affecting the country’s agriculture production, people are shifting from agriculture to livestock-raising, which has led to an increase in encounters between local communities and bears.

Applying a cross disciplinary approach between both natural and social sciences, the project aims at developing practical interventions for immediate reduction in bear conflict, developing alternate livelihoods to local communities, and bringing positive change and monitoring the Andean bear populations.

Dr Ximena Velez-Liendo has been shortlisted for the 2017 Whitley Awards

Indira Lacerna-Widmann, chief operating officer of the Katala Foundation, a Philippines-based organisation which successfully implemented the Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Programme (PCCP), is also among the prestigious finalists. Chester Zoo has been supporting the PCCP since 2003.

Restricted to lowland forest areas and mangroves, the Philippine Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia) suffered a rapid decline in the last decade bringing the species to the brink of extinction. Employing former poachers as wardens, the foundation is playing a key role in conserving and restoring the most viable subpopulations of the endangered species and its habitat.

Working in five locations in Palawan, the Katala Foundation’s sites include a project in Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF). The IPPF is surrounded by forest with high levels of biodiversity and the project is working with the staff and prisoners to monitor and protect the cockatoos and other wildlife.

Watch the below video from the Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Programme to find out more about the project and the work that’s going on to help protect this bird species:

Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Programme

12 Oct 2016

The question we are most often asked when we talk about sustainable palm oil is: what does a sustainable oil palm plantation look like?  There is no single definition of sustainable palm oil. 85% of palm oil is grown in Indonesia and Malaysia, and both countries have mandatory national standards for growing oil palm. Voluntary standards are also in place to improve standards of sustainable palm oil; these schemes vary in their aims and criteria which makes understanding sustainable palm oil a bit of a headache!

10 Oct 2016

The recent trip was a great opportunity to talk about current conservation challenges, progress made so far and to look forward at future opportunities where we can help make a difference.

Chester Zoo staff in Borneo stood in front of plane

Cat Barton (left) and Jenny Tegg (right)

Jenny tells us more about the field trip:

Meeting the orangutan research team…

“The data  gathered from monitoring the orangutans in the field is crucial for estimating  population sizes and understanding more about their ecology. In recent years, orangutans have had to adapt to their ever-changing environment, as oil palm plantations and other human activities encroach upon the rainforest they depend upon. Understanding how orangutans adapt to these changes and their fundamental needs is vital information if we are to conserve and protect them.

Jenny with some of the HUTAN team in the rainforest

Jenny (left) with some of the HUTAN team. Photo credit: HUTAN

It was a real privilege to observe orangutans in the wild and to meet the HUTAN team dedicated to monitoring them.

Jenny Tegg

“Most recently, HUTAN’s research has also resulted in the Bornean orangutan being officially classified as ‘critically endangered’ on the IUCN Red List – only one step away from ‘extinct in the wild’.  We need to work together to make changes in the management of habitat to ensure that humans and orangutans can successfully co-exist.

Meeting the HUTAN warden team…

“The wardens carry out enforcement activities around the Kinabatangan, monitoring human activity in and around the forest and providing a crucial link between the conservationists and the local community.

“Wildlife surveys along the river are a large part of the wardens’ responsibilities: this includes monitoring the eight species of hornbill found in the region and their use of the artificial nest boxes we assisted the team to create in 2013.

“Azri, head of the warden team, took us to see the orangutan bridges and nest boxes that our team helped HUTAN to create.  It was rewarding to also visit a reforestation site which our team visited and helped to plant five years ago. The site had been illegally planted with oil palm trees, but was reclaimed and replanted with fast growing native species.  The site was monitored for three years after planting and is now well established.

HUTAN warden Azri in the rainforest in Borneo

Azri (left) head of the HUTAN warden team. Photo credit: HUTAN

Wild Asian elephant in Borneo

Photo credit: HUTAN

“These wild elephants walked along the river and then disappeared off into the oil palm plantation behind – a reminder that these forests are home to so many animal species and made us more determined to work to protect them.

Visiting a sustainable palm oil plantation

“As part of our Sustainable Palm Oil Challenge we have been encouraging people to buy products that have been certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as using certified sustainable palm oil.

Two bottles of palm oil in local shop in Borneo

Two bottles of palm oil in a local shop.

“To gain a better understanding of what growing RSPO certified sustainable palm oil actually means, we were able to visit a certified plantation. It was encouraging to see the steps companies are taking to protect wildlife and achieve better working practices for their employees.

Working with the community

“For a number of years we’ve been working with HUTAN’s education team (HEAP), assisting with a strategy for  their learning programme. Their programme centres on improving knowledge about the forests and the negative impact humans can have on wildlife.

“One of the focuses for this trip was to discuss next steps with the team and look into how some of the community and education skills we use can help the local community to get more involved in efforts to protect wildlife. We’ll be working with the HEAP team to assist their efforts over the months to come.

HUTAN is about people. We have a lot of hope for the future. Working with the community here, we can fix this

Harjinder Kler, HUTAN

What’s next for our work in Borneo

“The recent news about the change in status of the Bornean orangutan has made the work we do in this region even more important.  Ensuring that orangutans continue to exist in these human-dominated landscapes is a challenge which we’ll continue to help find solutions for through our partnership with HUTAN and our support of their work in the field.  Our support for transforming the palm oil market to a sustainable supply is now even more critical.”

6 Oct 2016

These forests are home to some of the most threatened species on the planet – including the iconic Bornean orangutan and pygmy elephants. As a zoo, we are in a unique position to provide technical support and assistance to projects on the ground, using our skills to help boost their conservation efforts.  Conservation is all about partnerships and our relationship with HUTAN is exactly that; HUTAN have a strong sense that collaboration is key to successful projects.

Our partnership has grown over the years and despite the challenges that remain in the field, we continue to work hard to help make a positive difference.

Bornean orangutan

Bornean orangutan. Photo credit: HUTAN

Working with the community to bring about change

For a number of years we’ve been working with HUTAN’s education team (HEAP), assisting with a strategy for their learning programme. Our Discovery and Learning team here at the zoo are specialists in their field and together with HEAP successfully produced a plan for their education programmes which centres on improving knowledge about the forests and the negative impact humans can have on wildlife. Over the years, the HEAP team have built up a positive reputation in the community and work closely with schools, other conservation organisations, government departments and communities to protect the wildlife of the region.  Our next steps will look into how some of the community and education skills we use at the zoo can help the local community to get more involved in efforts to protect wildlife.

HUTAN team working with local people in the forest

“Conservation is all about people.” Photo credit: HUTAN

Sustainable palm oil

One of our key campaigns at the zoo is our Sustainable Palm Oil Challenge, aiming to increase the demand for sustainable palm oil. This is a hugely important campaign for us, as it directly impacts the work that our partners are doing in the field. By working on the consumer end of the palm oil supply chain, we are backing up the work that HUTAN is doing in the field on the production end of the chain.

We are in a unique position as a conservation organisation to help promote behaviour change; not only are we a conservation organisation that has over 1.6 million visitors a year to talk to, we are also a conservation organisation that procures and sells food items on site. This means that we can have a huge impact on the demand for sustainable palm oil in the UK. We work really hard with other UK and international partners to improve the sustainability of palm oil and increase demand, supporting HUTAN’s work on the ground. But we need your help too!

Take the Sustainable Palm Oil Challenge arrow

Palm oil plantation

Orangutan bridges

Starting in 2004, the orangutan bridge project is an area we have increased our involvement in.  The bridges are an innovative idea for reconnecting orangutan populations which have become isolated from each other for many reasons, such as oil palm plantations, roads and drainage channels.  Following the initial six bridges built by HUTAN and partners, we got involved in 2011.  The reason for our initial involvement was simple; HUTAN needed a new material to build their rope bridges with as the ropes they had been using were too heavy and could cause damage to trees.  We discussed the use of webbing material used in our orangutan enclosure in the zoo which has unique properties; lightweight, non-biodegradable and UV resistant – perfect for the environmental conditions found in Sabah. Most importantly, the material had been tried and tested by the orangutans at Chester Zoo! Our teams at the zoo have been involved in two trips so far to build more bridges to connect vital patches of habitat and more are planned in the future. We also have great evidence now of the use of these bridges thanks to one observant tourist!

Artificial hornbill nest boxes

Eight species of hornbill are found in the Kinabatangan region; many are classified as endangered and the helmeted hornbill has been reclassified recently as critically endangered. Due to the forest being a secondary forest, it lacks old mature trees for hornbills to nest in.  As a temporary measure, artificial nest boxes are a key part of the strategy to ensure the hornbill species remain and successfully breed in the area. For many years, our bird team in the zoo have been creating artificial habitat for hornbills to encourage conservation breeding.  Our teams therefore have excellent knowledge and experience of trialling and testing these boxes to end up with a positive result for hornbill breeding.  In 2013, we started to work with HUTAN on this new project to help develop a successful prototype to use in the field.  The boxes built in 2013 are being monitored in the field by HUTAN, and we’re working in the zoo to develop new prototypes which will hopefully promote breeding by the larger more threatened hornbill species of the region.

Artificial hornbill nest in treeArtificial hornbill nest in a tree. Photo credit: HUTAN

Social marketing

Our newest partnership project with HUTAN has recently developed with our marketing team at the zoo. Our marketing professionals have extensive experience in areas including website design, social media and behaviour change. All of these areas of work are important in communicating and promoting environmental protection. We’ve started to work alongside HUTAN to develop this area of work and we’ll keep you posted with how it goes!

12 Aug 2016

Elephants are in competition with people for space and unfortunately this has led to human-elephant conflict which is a major threat to the future of elephants in Asia.

Together with our partners we started the Assam Haathi Project which reduces human-wildlife conflict through working closely with the local communities.

As it’s World Elephant Day (12 August) we wanted to tell you more about the work we’re doing in Assam to protect the magnificent Asian elephant. Watch the below film to find out more:

Two young Asian elephant calves side by side
Save Asian elephants

Asian Elephants need your help

3 Dec 2015

The other week we introduced you to some of our Living with Tigers project team and their roles in helping to protect tiger populations in Nepal. In our next post we’d like to give you an idea of the problems the local communities we’ll be working closely with are facing; showing just how vital our work is.

In the last 20 years the population in the Terai, Nepal, has increased by 81% to over seven million people. This has led to habitat loss and fragmentation, but despite this the area is viewed as one of the worlds’ best remaining tiger habitats. Chitwan National Park and Bardia National Park are home to Nepal’s two largest tiger populations – it is estimated that there are around 120 in Chitwan and 50 in Bardia.

Bengal tiger. Photo credit: www.jameswarwick.co.uk
Bengal tiger. Photo credit: www.jameswarwick.co.uk

We’re working with the communities affected by tiger presence; the villages located around the edges of these two National Parks. The livelihoods of these villagers are closely linked to forests with the majority depending on its natural resources for income. People have to enter the forests to collect resources or graze their livestock and by doing so are at risk from tiger attacks.


Across the Terai lowlands, effective conservation action has resulted in an increase in tiger populations; while this is great news, more tigers need more space and as a result are venturing into villages and killing livestock and, too often, people! Local villagers then retaliate through resentment and fear by hunting the tigers. This is cancelling out the hard work of those who have successfully protected tigers from poachers.

We’re currently carrying out phase one of our tiger project; conducting some in-depth research into the major local threats to tigers and the needs, cultures and underlying socio-economic pressures which influence community members’ behaviours. The results from this research will help us to focus on changing specific individual and collective behaviours which threaten tigers.

Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park

Ayodhyapuri, a village located right on the edge of Chitwan National Park, is one of the focal villages our project will be working with. It is surrounded by forest on three of four sides; increasing the risk of encroaching wildlife.

We’ve already spent time carrying out research here, interviewing the local people and building relationships. It’s believed that approximately four tigers live in this area. However, due to the village being surrounded by forest the people that live here are not only at risk from tiger conflict, they’ve also reported conflict with elephants, rhinos and leopards that regularly come into the village for food. And crop damage by wildlife is one of the major forces behind negative attitudes towards conservation by locals.

Juvenile Bengal tiger. Photo credit: www.jameswarwick.com
Juvenile Bengal tiger. Photo credit: www.jameswarwick.com

The Chitwan Forest which surrounds Ayodhyapuri is rich in biodiversity and holds around 36 species of tree, 54 species of shrubs and 66 species of herbs – so, as you can imagine, the forest is a great resource for the locals. The majority of casualties resulting from tiger attacks happen when villagers venture into the forest to collect some of these valuable resources. Two men were killed by tigers in 2014 – both had left the village to go into the forest – and in addition to that, two women were recently killed in the forest by a tiger while collecting resources.

On top of this there are high levels of livestock predation incidents; so not only are the local people worried about getting resources from within the forests, they are also at risk of losing their livestock which they also rely on for survival.

Through speaking to the villagers we’ve discovered that the majority would like to move out of the area as they don’t feel safe or that coexistence with wildlife is possible.

And these are the results from just one of the villages we’ve visited. This is happening in many other areas around Chitwan National Park.

Bengal tiger swimming. Photo credit: www.jameswarwick.com
Bengal tiger swimming. Photo credit: www.jameswarwick.com

Another village reported that during the past two years four people have been killed by tigers. All of the deaths occurred within Chitwan Forest, except for one case where a tiger killed a person in their house!

Those who have lost family members to tigers are affected not only emotionally but economically as every member of the family is vital for providing resources. And, although not as significant, losing livestock also has an important impact on these families as most rely solely on livestock as a source of income.

So, when you hear what pressures these people are living with – the frustration of losing their only source of income and living in fear that their family could be attacked by tigers – you can understand why they feel the only option they have to protect their livelihood and, more importantly, their lives is by harming or killing tigers.

Our Living with Tiger project will save lives, contribute to reducing poverty and generate new insights into the dynamics of wildlife conflict. We need your help to continue our work; that’s why we’re asking you to support our 2015 Big Give Christmas challenge.

3 Sep 2015

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of the oil palm tree. It is widely used in our food, cosmetics and household products. In fact, 50% of supermarket products contain palm oil!

Fresh palm fruit. Photo credit: Mongabay.com
Fresh palm fruit. Photo credit: Mongabay.com

The growing demand for palm oil has seen plantations replace natural forests destroying the homes of orangutans, tigers and many more species throughout the island. But this problem isn’t just affecting the biodiversity of these islands; it’s occurring across South East Asia and is spreading across the world, back into Africa where it originated, and also into South American countries.

 Deforestation for oil palm development. Photo credit: Mongabay.com
Deforestation for oil palm development. Photo credit: Mongabay.com

Can it be sustainable?

As the cheapest, most high yielding and versatile vegetable oil on the market and with demand increasing every year, there is an urgent need for all palm oil to be grown and managed sustainably. The most widely recognised certification standards have been developed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) which aims to protect primary forests, areas of high conservation value and the rights of local communities and plantation workers.

Canopy of an oil palm plantation. Photo credit: Mongabay.com
Canopy of an oil palm plantation. Photo credit: Mongabay.com

Engaging with various stakeholders locally, nationally and globally to find solutions to this conservation problem is one way in which Chester Zoo has been a part of influencing many sectors in the chain.  We work with national and international zoos, field partners, food suppliers, schools, local companies and environmental non-government organisation’s (NGO) to influence and create a demand for sustainable palm oil.

Palm Oil Challenge

We have launched the Palm Oil Challenge; a way of celebrating the companies who are already committed to 100% RSPO certified sustainable palm oil, supporting those that want to be sustainable and making it easier for you to choose sustainable palm oil products.




Look, Check Act!
Get involved with our palm oil challenge here.

5 Jun 2015

The field conservation team at Chester Zoo work with partners in many different environments all over the world; from the tropical rainforests of Borneo-to the temperate woodlands of the UK.

Kinabatangan rainforest in Borneo. Credit: Hutan-KOCP
Bontuchel woodland in the UK

We work with those living in areas where conflict with their environment may become a problem and help them to adapt to live in harmony with the animals in the landscape that they are living in. Our Asian elephants programme-for example-through the Assam Haathi Project works to find solutions to the human-elephant conflict which occurs in the area.

Chester Zoo staff members supplying training in Assam

You can also get involved in making changes to your lifestyle that can have positive effects on the environment-not just in the country that we live in-but all over the world.

Palm oil is an issue which is becoming increasingly part of our everyday lives – it is a vegetable oil used in around 50% of our supermarket products and grown predominantly in South East Asia.  Many companies now choose to use sustainable palm oil which has less impact on the environment and local people. By making wise choices with your shopping-you can choose to support sustainable palm oil production and help save the environment that animals-such as orangutans-live in.

Orangutan in the wild. Photo credit: Nick Tignonsini