What we doSteering Committee 


In 2000, representatives from seven of the world´s professional keeper associations met to discuss the need for better communication among zookeepers worldwide. The idea to create the International Congress of Zookeepers (ICZ) was formulated and the first conference of the ICZ was held in Holland in 2003. A steering committee was formed to direct the progress of the ICZ and create a vision for the budding association. The need to incorporate the ICZ as a non-profit association became evident. By-laws and a constitution have been written and accepted by the seven founding associations. Conference and paper guidelines were produced. A website was created. Membership categories have been established.

A Dorcas Gazelle in Barcelona Zoo
The ICZ was created with five priorities, including keeper development, the hosting of conferences, assisting with the development of new national keeper associations, development of the global network of zookeepers, and conservation. Already we have witnessed great success. Yet the challenge for the ICZ remains the continuing development and evolution of the association. Our goal for this paper and this conference is to stimulate the visionary process and get all of our delegates involved in the task of creating a professionally and financially sound international keeper association.

The Steering Committee (SC) of the ICZ consists of 18 members representing the world´s 9 professional keeper associations. They have met once a year since 2000 to coordinate the development of an international association that will promote professional animal care throughout the world.

Strategic directions of the ICZ

  • Achieve the highest standards of zookeeping globally.
  • To assist zoos in need of improvement.
  • Securing the financial growth and stability needed to implement the ICZ´s strategy.
  • Increasing ICZ´s visibility and impact.
  • Improving and developing the ICZ, reflecting the needs of zookeepers, zookeeper associations and zoos needing improvement.
  • Developing and delivering ICZ´s core conservation activities.
  • Developing and strengthening ICZ´s external partnerships.
  • Procure and develop a professional administrative management.

Sharks exhibit in Seaworld, AUS
The first goal for the ICZ was to hold an international keeper conference. Having accomplished that feat, the SC intends to continue having an international conference at the minimum of every three years. Conferences have been scheduled for Australia in 2006 and the United States in 2009. Associations interested in hosting a conference after 2009 should contact the ICZ SC.

Keeper development and the advancement of the animal care profession have become a top priority for the ICZ. The role of the ICZ in helping keepers, especially those in developing countries and those without their own associations has been huge. I can think of nothing else that has occurred in the last 14 years that has had such a positive effect on the global development and networking of the world´s zookeepers. Increased communication, advanced husbandry and the sharing of expertise are the products of the ICZ . Another great example of the ICZ´s positive influence has been the transformation of Dreamnight at the Zoo from a European-based event into an international success story.

Developing the ICZ as a non-profit organisation

In 2008 the ICZ became incorporated as a non-profit association. The Steering Committee determined this to be crucial. Legal issues were the main reason for this conclusion. There are different legalities, in each of the nine countries represented by ICZ that apply to various issues such as liability, fundraising, accounting, etc.

A constitution, by-laws, statement of purpose, mission statement, and various guidelines and other documents were developed to achieve this aim.

The future of the ICZ - where do we go from here?

The ICZ will continue to develop a global network for zookeepers. Already, many keepers have developed lifelong friendships, with colleagues throughout the world, as a result of the ICZ. Additionally, there is greater opportunity to share expertise with colleagues on a global scale.

The ICZ will work towards developing and supporting conservation. The ICZ has many things to accomplish before becoming a major player in conservation; however, the future looks bright for the development of a global conservation effort for zookeepers. We envision a flagship conservation effort that all of the world´s keepers can promote and take pride in.

Pink Dolphin in Sentosa Aquarium, Singapore
There are many things yet to accomplish, but already the ICZ has developed faster and accomplished more than any of us could have imagined when this effort was started in 2000. Many of you and your associations have supported the ICZ. We hope that you find the accomplishments and potential of the ICZ as exciting as we do. But we need your help in planning for our future.

Does having a conference every three years meet our needs? How do we develop financial stability for the future? What does your region need from the ICZ? What else can we be doing for keeper development? How should this association continue to evolve as we grow? How do we improve our communication? What should our conservation strategies include? How do we develop the priorities of this association? These questions cannot be answered by the Steering Committee alone. We need your feedback and involvement. Most importantly, this association belongs to all of you. Speak up, get involved, and help guide the evolution of your international keeper association.
Liz Romer   (ASZK)
President ICZ
Carsten Knott   (BDZ)
Lex van der Leije   (HARPIJ)
After my study with two internships in Rotterdam Zoo (the Netherlands), I was fortuned enough to get a job there as a zookeeper. After I worked for a year on several departments, I moved to the south of the Netherlands in July 2009 and started my job as a hoofstock keeper in GaiaZoo. In 2015 I was appointed as coordinator for the hoofstock department, which means I´m still mainly working as a zookeeper but I´m also responsible for the daily management of the department. Since 2016 I´m a board member for the Dutch zookeeper association `Stichting De Harpij´ and steering committee member for the ICZ. Since the beginning of 2018 I also took on the role of secretary of the ICZ.
Michael Drinkwater   (ASZK)
Annelies Hillewaere   (HARPIJ)
Cristian Gillet   (GACAS)
Diana Fernánde   (AICAS)
Emilia Lastica-Ternura   (AKTAP)
Treasurer, Zookeepers Association of the Philippines Involved in several conservation and rescue projects for Philippine wildlife species
Guillermo Delfino   (GACAS)
Leo Jonathan Suarez   (AKTAP)
Pascal Wohlgemuth   (AFSA)
Raúl Cabrera Porcel   (AICAS)
Biologist and working with primates since 1997. Head Keeper in MONA Primate Rescue Centre (Girona) and as Keeper at Las Águilas Park (Tenerife), Madrid Zoo and currently at Barcelona Zoo. I did stages at Durrell Wildlife Preservation Trust, Monkey World (UK) and Apenheul (NL), and cooperated with in situ conservation centres such as Orangutan Foundation (Indonesia), Limbe Wildlife Center (Cameroon), Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary, Lwiro Primate Rehabilitation Center (RDCongo) and Engangered Primate Rescue Center, Vietnam. President of NGO SOSPrimates, association created to help fundraising CRPL and support the primate rehabilitation centers. I am one of the two AICAS representatives in ICZ and also the ICZ Conservation Committee Chair.
Sara Wunder Steward
ICZ Executive Officer
Sebastian Schorr   (BDZ)
Sebastien Pouvreau   (AFSA)
Vicky Snook   (ABWAK)
Yianna Cooling   (ABWAK)
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