Faces of Conservation - Mark O'Riordan

Faces of Conservation - Mark O'Riordan

#Conservation, #Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo

Posted on 19th July 2021 by Media Relations

Mark has been a zoo keeper for almost 20 years now and has worked with animals in a number of different countries. Mark hails from Ireland and Taronga Western Plains Zoo is the third zoo he has worked at in Australia, but has settled in Dubbo with his family. He heads up the Plains-wanderer conservation breeding program in Dubbo that is located behind-the-scenes in the Sanctuary.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The Plains-wanderer is an intricate, highly specialised little species of bird that are very tricky to study out in the wild. I really enjoy studying their behaviours while reviewing the daily CCTV footage and sharing this knowledge with our zoo partners who work with this species and also learning from them.

What’s been your career highlight to date?

I worked at LWIRO Primate Rehabilitation Centre in the Democratic Republic of Congo for over a year. Seeing 30 Chimpanzees move from their small dwellings to their massive forest complex and watching them reignite their natural wild behaviours once again was magical. Also, it has been my goal to work on a breed for release program and I’ve been working on the Plains-wanderer recovery program since late 2017. My future career highlight would no doubt be when we one day release Plains-wanderer born here at the Zoo back into the wild!

What’s something people might not know about your role?

The birds are monitored solely through CCTV. Keepers only enter aviaries when necessary and given their shy disposition, they hide at any sign of disturbance just like they do in the wild. Basically, we rarely see these bird with our own eyes. It’s a completely different type of zoo keeping, not being able to monitor the species in your care physically as you would with every other species here at the Zoo.

What’s an interesting fact about Plains-wanderer people may not know?

The Plains-wanderer is the only representative of the family Pedionomidae and genus Pedionomus, so they stand alone on their branch of the evolutionary tree. They are unique in the way they look, live and behave. It’s because of this that the species has been classified as an EDGE (Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered) Species. This program highlights and protects some of the most unique species on the planet which are on the verge of extinction. The Plains-wanderer is in fact the highest priority bird species on this list!


Mark with Chimpanzee in the Congo.
Mark with Chimpanzee in the Congo.