Dartmoor Zoo, the family attraction on the fringes of Dartmoor National Park – renowned for its international conservation and education programmes – has played host to representatives from the UK’s leading zoos at a special Working Group to develop new ‘gold-standard’ health and safety guidance for zoos and wildlife parks across the UK.
Under the auspices of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) Health and Safety Working Group, the conference, held at Dartmoor Zoo, marks a crucial step forward in developing and upgrading guidance for health and safety across the sector. Founded in 2009 and formally recognised by BIAZA in 2013, the Working Group has been invited by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to review, update, and re-issue HSG219 – the zoo industry’s guidance on managing health and safety. The revised document, once ratified by the HSE, will provide new ‘gold-standard’ guidance for the sector, overseen by BIAZA.
Twelve delegates attended the two-day event, with representatives from the UK’s leading zoos and wildlife parks, including Dartmoor Zoo, Bristol Zoo, Chester Zoo, Marwell Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo, Paignton Zoo, Newquay Zoo, Living Coasts, Marwell Zoo, ZSL Whipsnade and ZSL London Zoo.
Benjamin Mee, Dartmoor Zoo Chief Executive Officer, said: “The zoo environment presents a unique set of health and safety challenges. We have large predators and exotic wild animals alongside farming activity, construction work, and visiting members of the public. As the safety of our staff, the public, and the welfare of our animals is paramount, we need health and safety policies that take into account the best interests of all.
“We have always collaborated with other zoos on our conservation programmes, and it makes complete sense to extend this partnership approach to creating gold-standard guidance for health and safety across the sector; there are shared challenges that all zoos face, and we have much that we can learn from each other.”
Benjamin added: “When my family bought Dartmoor Zoo ten years ago, there was no health and safety management in place. Since then, we have become an active member of the BIAZA Working Group and a key player leading change in the zoo and wildlife park sector. Being chosen to host this week’s event is a huge honour and a wonderful achievement for our team.”
Dartmoor Zoo was established in 2007 when Benjamin Mee and his family bought an ailing zoo. Since then Ben, his family and team have built the Zoo into the popular tourist attraction it is today. In 2014 the Zoo became a charity, of which Ben is CEO. Ben wrote a book about his experience and in 2011 it was made into the Hollywood Film ‘We Bought a Zoo’ starring Matt Damon. Today the Zoo is heavily involved in research, conservation and education projects to promote the welfare of animals and to enrich both the lives of humans and animals.