Running a UK embassy and running a zoo can be similar – as long as the zoo in question is engaged in global conservation and scientific research, and acts as a soft-power asset for the UK. “The biggest similarity between being a diplomat and doing what I do now is that both are about changing the world,” says Dominic Jermey, director-general of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), who was previously the UK’s ambassador in Kabul. “In Afghanistan the focus was on the security of the UK; at ZSL it is about safeguarding the future of the planet.”
This ambition requires the charity to work with governments and businesses to conserve wildlife. These initiatives range from incentivising fishing communities in the Philippines to pull discarded nets from the sea to providing poachers in Cameroon with new livelihoods. “In the next decade, 60 per cent of the world’s population will be urban,” says Jermey. “The sole contact that the vast majority will have with wildlife will be through zoos. You then use the zoos to inspire action.”
Inspiring others to act is a good strategy; ZSL’s endangered-animals list has been particularly effective. In 2018 it added the Mary River turtle, a native of Queensland, Australia, to the list. “It has algae growing on its head and breathes through its genitals – good fodder for journalists,” says Jermey. “It was picked up by the media and the Queensland government put in a restoration programme as a result.”
1. Ken Norris Director of science.
“The no-nonsense scientist who ties us down to the facts and the evidence whenever we are taking flights of fancy in our discussions. He’s the Vulcan among us.”
2. Mike Hoffmann Head of global conservation programmes.
“He’s a conservation broad thinker who operates at an international level dealing with organisations, making them work for wildlife rather than for themselves.”
3. Katherine Secoy Senior policy adviser.
“A muddy-booted conservationist who has a steel fist around our policy, gripping the big issues and advocating for change.”
4. Fiona Evans HR director.
“Passionate about diversity and ensuring that we reflect the communities we come from.”
5. James Wren Director of fundraising.
“A life-long fundraiser. Has the most amazing black book of celebrities and high-net-worth individuals.”
6. Amanda Smith Finance director.
“She translates corporate into conservation.”
7. Brian Zimmerman Chief curator.
“Our go-to guy for his deep knowledge of all things wildlife.”
8. Dominic Jermey Director-general, Zoological Society London
Dominic Jermey has been visiting ZSL London Zoo since he was a young boy with scuffed knees. Now he is at the helm of the world’s oldest scientific zoo, charged with leading its research and conservation efforts around the world. Before taking up his position at ZSL, Jermey had an illustrious career in the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, serving as the UK’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi from 2010 to 2014, then as ambassador to Afghanistan from 2016 to 2017.
He feels fortunate to have swapped consular duties for work with penguins. “Every ambassador in the Foreign Office was jealous of me when I got this job.”
9. Kathryn England Chief operating officer.
“A hard-nosed commercial professional who brings that business edge with enormous understanding of the dynamics of conservation.”
10. Dr Chris Carbone Senior research fellow.
“The first guy to get me crawling around looking at camera traps in the wild as we went in search of hedgehogs. He is a scientist’s scientist.”
11. Rich Storton Managing director, zoos & engagement.
“Probably the only marketing professional in the world with a marketing degree who has worked for many years in the zoo business.”
12. Gitanjali Bhattacharya Head of international fundraising.
“Gitanjali is a very respected conservationist. I was proud to see the Nepalese government give her a surprise award for the impact she’s had on conservation in Nepal.”