Team Taronga

Team Taronga

Name: Dr Phoebe Meagher

Job: Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO) at Taronga Zoo Sydney

Taronga’s team of scientists work behind the scenes on a diverse range of projects including the study of animal behaviour, research into disease prevention, habitat restoration and recovery projects for the Great Barrier Reef. To take you behind the scenes of some of Taronga’s conservation work, one of Taronga’s dedicated scientists, Dr Phoebe Meagher, talks about her work as a Wildlife Conservation Officer.


Tell us about your role as a wildlife conservation officer?

I think I have the best job in the world! As WCO I am responsible for population management and conservation recovery programs for all the animals in my portfolio including native mammals like platypuses and koalas, as well as marine animals such as sea turtles and penguins! The population management side of my role is determining which animals we look after at Taronga both genetically and behaviourally, to ensure the best welfare for the individual, the best conservation outcomes for the population and the best experience for the guest.

What do you most enjoy about your work?

Achieving tangible, measurable conservation outcomes. We can see the positive impact our work is having for wild populations.

How are you involved in research to help reduce the illegal wildlife trade?

As part of a research collaboration, we have published a new forensic technique that can be used to combat illegal wildlife trade. The technique uses differences in diets of captive and wild animals to determine if they have been illegally poached from the wild. We tested the tool in a pilot trial on echidnas, which are trafficked as unique pets through Indonesia, and found that we can identify the origin of the animals with 100per cent accuracy. We are now testing the power of the tool across other heavily trafficked species including the Red-vented Cockatoo, Palawan Forest Turtles and pangolins – the most trafficked mammal in the world. In June 2018, I worked with Katala Foundation Inc in the Philippines collecting samples to further test this tool. We spent weeks in the jungle and tracked all target species with the help of local researchers and their conservation dogs. Sadly, during my time with the foundation21 pangolins were confiscated from illegal trade and all had been de-scaled to be sold for medicine. While pangolin scales sell for large sums of money there is no scientific evidence of any medicinal benefits, in fact it’s made of the same material as your fingernails!

What other projects are you involved in?

We are currently teaming up with rescue centres along the NSW coast and at Griffith University to determine movement and migration patterns of Green Turtles, and whether the state has key foraging grounds for the population. This project will use genetic and isotope analysis to complement the satellite tracking project run by Taronga Wildlife Hospital. A lot of my time over summer has been dedicated to helping wildlife suffering from the drought and bushfires in NSW, focusing on how we can help rescue and care for animals such as koalas, platypuses and even endangered freshwater fish whose homes are drying up.

Why is it important to get women involved in science?

Diversity is the key to progress and innovation. It takes people with different backgrounds and experiences to bring new perspectives to global problems like sustainable development. Highlighting the achievements of women in science and sustainability can give girls confidence to share their insights and ultimately aspire to change the world with their ideas – not as women and girls in science, but as people in science.

From the field


From Breed for Release programs to research, our teams work on a range of conservation programs. This week, meet the scientists who are working hard to freeze the future of the Barrier Reef.

Taronga TV

Tune in daily to see your favourite animals, meet our friendly keepers and learn what goes on behind the scenes at Taronga while our zoos are temporarily closed.

Wild Snaps


Do you have a school student cooped up at home?  Get them to explore the outdoors in your own backyard with the Wild Snaps photo competition.