Kent Conservationist Scoops Major Award at the ‘Zoo Oscars’ as her Work is Celebrated on International Women’s Day

The Director of Conservation and Rewilding at a Kent wildlife charity has been named “Woman of the Year” at a national awards ceremony, which recognises outstanding achievements in the zoological world.

Laura Gardner, from The Wildwood Trust, has been awarded the prestigious prize today – on International Women’s Day – by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA).

In her current role at The Wildwood Trust, which has wildlife parks in Kent and Devon, Laura has led on a number of innovative and award-winning projects from the globally acclaimed Blean Bison project to the reintroduction of the red-billed chough.

She beat off stiff competition from twenty-eight experts representing eighteen zoos and aquariums from across Britain, to win the first ever ‘Woman of the Yearcategory. This new award has been designed to showcase the immense contribution of women in championing nature and conservation. Dr Jo Judge is the CEO of Biaza:

“We’ve been so thrilled by the quality of nominations for BIAZA Woman of the Year, and Laura is a shining example of going above and beyond not just for the zoo sector, but for measurable conservation action and wildlife.”

Having started her career, at the age of ten, volunteering at her local zoo – Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust – Laura later honed her skills at Birdworld, followed by twenty-four years at Leeds Castle’s aviary. Prior to her role at Wildwood, Laura was a bird curator at ZSL Whipsnade and London.

Accepting her award, Laura said:

“I really didn’t expect to win – to be nominated was amazing in itself. I was absolutely blown away by the number of amazing, powerful, dynamic, intelligent women leading conservation and zoological collections today. It’s great to be part of this world and I’m so proud. On International Women’s Day, I want to give a shout to all the incredible women that work in this field.”

Laura was nominated by the Conservation team at Wildwood. In support of her nomination, Paul Whitfield, the charity’s Director General, said:

“Laura has an incredible ability to bring people together from different organisations to work collectively for the good of our native species. She leads without ego and builds trust, confidence and a shared sense of purpose. She goes above and beyond for her team at Wildwood and as a result they are delivering some of the most innovative and exciting native species conservation projects in the UK.”

The award announcement comes in the same week that Wildwood Trust launched its very own podcast, with Laura paving the way as guest on the inaugural episode, “What is Conservation?”.

The Wildwood Podcast will feature interviews with leading conservation and rewilding experts and will highlight the important work taking place to fight the biodiversity crisis, halt the extinction of species and to create resilient habitats in which nature thrives.


Photo Credit: Nathan Harding-Lee