Well in a few words, it’s the gathering of over 830 people coming from worldwide institutions -and not just from Europe- to attend conferences over 4 entire days. Each day is divided into 4 to 5 sessions lasting 1h30 to 2h, during which 9 talks are given simultaneously. Conferences start at 8.30 am and go on until 8 pm or later, all that gives you a lot of food for thought for the following weeks. But what could we talk about for almost 12 hours per day? Actually, a bit of everything: ex situ breeding programs (in captive settings), in situ conservation plans (in natural habitats), education, communication, scientific research, veterinary medicine… The topics are broad and diverse, especially if you consider how many species are involved!
So here I am, just arrived in Athens for my very first EAZA event, and I have to admit it’s not exactly what I expected. With so many people there, it’s hard to find your way around! It took me 2 days to get used to the crowd, and thanks to Michel Saint-Jalmes, director of the Ménagerie Zoo, Aude Bourgeois, veterinarian at the Ménagerie and coordinator of the binturong European breeding program, and Aude and Franck Haelewyn, curator and scientific director of the Parc Zoo du Reynou, I started to settle in. The four of them definitely facilitated my integration in this huge community, as they introduced me to a large number of people. Little by little, I was able to put a name on the faces around me and proceed with my propaganda for binturongs during coffee breaks.
Beyond the networking aspect, EAZA allowed me to present the association and especially the latest achievements of the Bearcat Study Program (BSP). For this purpose, we had created two large posters with Pauline and Melissa. The first was about the educational involvment of the association and the second described the scientific part of the BSP with the preliminary results that Murielle has obtained. But that’s not all, thanks to Aude Haelewyn, who is also the president of the Small Carnivore Group, I got the opportunity to do a short but efficient presentation of the association and the BSP for a group of over 50 people. And this talk already paid off as Xavier Vaillant, director of the zoo of Lyon, directly committed to add an extra 500€ to the 500€ donation this institution had already given us, to further support the BSP!
I will end this short article with a thought that still resonates with me today. During these few days, I met a lot of people, I attended over 50 presentations, and the thing that particularly stuck to my mind is the passion everyone had for their topic. Among this crowd of 800 representatives, it was evident to me that most of them were driven by one matter: conservation. So when you’re lost in Palawan, collecting the memory card from a camera trap, secretly praying you’ll find at least one picture with a binturong on it, sometimes you feel like you’re taking very little steps, alone and isolated. But what I learned during this EAZA event is that there’s actually many of us taking little steps, which as a whole represent giant steps in the end. I will then end on a hopeful note: many thanks to EAZA for welcoming me, allowing me to talk about the binturong, and most of all for making me realize there is still hope as long as we’re acting together.