Posted on 08th November 2018 by Media Relations
The Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, visited Taronga Zoo on the 16th of October to cut the ribbon at the official launch of the brand-new world class Taronga Institute of Science & Learning, a purpose-built research and education centre on site at Taronga Zoo Sydney and the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. This state of the art facility houses the largest conservation science team of any zoo in the southern hemisphere.
Their Royal Highnesses launched the Taronga Institute, which will put science on display, creating an inspiring and collaborative environment for future generations to become champions for change for the environment and the community. The Taronga Institute will enhance and expand Taronga’s role as a leader in conservation science for wildlife and habitats.
Alongside the NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian and Director and Chief Executive, Taronga Conservation Society Australia, Cameron Kerr, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were presented with their wedding gift from the people of NSW - namesake koala joeys.
Following this, their Royal Highnesses were given a tour throughout the brand-new world class Institute, visiting:
- The Science Hub: dedicated science lab facilities which will support Taronga’s science team, including two multi-disciplinary labs, a behavioural ecology lab, wildlife health lab, CryoDiversity lab and enrichment development centre. The Cryo lab or ‘frozen zoo’ is preserving the largest collection of frozen coral cells from the Great Barrier Reef until they are needed to re-seed the reef
- Learning Hub: made up of three immersive habitat classrooms, these multi-sensory education spaces mimic the climate and geography of the desert, rainforest and woodlands. The classrooms are home to animals you would typically find in these habitats, such as echidnas and bilbies in the Arid classroom and Cotton-top Tamarins in the Rainforest classroom. It also houses a teaching lab, a 250-seat lecture theatre and tutorial rooms providing learning facilities suited to students from preschool right through to PhD
- Atrium and Collaborative Centre: the beating heart of the Taronga Institute, this centre will provide informal spaces for collaboration and independent study for students participating in Taronga learning programs, it is the physical link between conservation science and education programs, where visiting school students can witness conservation science in action and be inspired by role models and pathways for a future STEM career.
After the official tour, Harry was so impressed he announced, “Zoos in the 21st century have to modernise with everything else that is going on at the moment. Taronga Zoo seems to be leading the way and I think zoos across the world have got a lot to learn from a place like this. To see the dedicated staff here is absolutely fantastic.”
The Institute of Science and Learning is the most ambitious project to date in its objectives, as Australia faces an environmental crisis with more than 1,800 plant and animal species and ecological communities currently at risk of extinction. Their Royal Highnesses explored the Conservation Science Laboratory at Taronga Zoo, which aims to turn back the clock for some of these most at-risk and significant species.
Met by Head of Conservation Science, Wildlife Conservation and Science, Dr Justine O’Brien PHD, alongside her team of Conservation Scientists, The Duke and Duchess were given insight into just some of the current projects in Forensic Science, Native Animal Conservation and the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle Recovery Program. It was here Prince Harry and Ms Markle had the opportunity to meet a live echidna who is at the centre of a forensic science project that aims to reduce illegal wildlife trade.
Meeting with their Royal Highnesses, Taronga’s Manager of Conservation Science, Dr Justine O’Brien, a leader in the field of wildlife reproductive research, believes: “everyone should feel empowered in securing a sustainable future for our planet, wildlife and people. As a not-for-profit, Taronga has an absolute commitment to the conservation of wildlife and its conservation science programs support ecosystems across the globe.”
Taronga’s conservation work is strategic and varied. It includes breed-to-release programs for threatened and priority species, field conservation work and habitat restoration and education programs. Additionally, Taronga scientists work with partner zoos, universities and conservation organisations such as World Wildlife Fund and Fauna and Flora International to develop crucial protection, breeding and in-situ conservation programs for species in areas ranging from Tasmania to the Congo. Through Taronga’s breed-to-release programs and the rehabilitation work at its two wildlife hospitals, Taronga has released more than 50,000 animals into the wild.
As Commonwealth Youth Ambassadors, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle also visited the Taronga Institute’s new education centre – The Learning Hub, which will act as the connection between theory and practice, offering learning programs for students from kindergarten to PhD level. This will allow Taronga the opportunity to help shape the mindset of the next generation of conservationists and inspire them to be part of the solution to ensure a shared future for wildlife and people. The Taronga Institute will support the essential need for contextual STEM learning and, together with the wider Zoo sites, will provide authentic, interactive learning opportunities in an environment of working science. The Institute hopes that together with their Royal Highnesses, they can inspire youth on a global scale to be part of the solution to ensure a shared future for wildlife and people.
Following the tour of the Institute, their Royal Highnesses were gifted platypus pins and a bouquet of native Australian flowers in recognition of the opening, before being invited by Mr Cameron Kerr to cut the ribbon and unveil the plaque, officially opening the Taronga Institute of Science and Learning.
The Taronga Institute is the latest milestone for the Taronga Conservation Society Australia, which also operates Australia’s world-renowned Taronga Zoo Sydney and Taronga Western Plains Zoo in regional NSW.
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