A scientist at a Devon wildlife charity is to take on a top national job.

Dr. Kirsten Pullen, Zoo Research Officer at the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, is to become the new Chief Executive Officer at BIAZA, the British & Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

BIAZA represents the top zoological collections and promotes high standards in research, husbandry and animal welfare. The Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust runs Paignton Zoo, Living Coasts in Torquay and Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, owns nature reserves and carries out conservation projects at home and abroad.

Kirsten, a gorilla expert, has been with the Trust for just over 12 years. “There have been so many highlights in that time! Getting my PhD, hosting the International Gorilla Workshop, getting a BIAZA research award, becoming chair of the Living Collections Committee - I’ve learned so much through my time here!”

Her new job is wide-ranging, covering animal care, education and conservation. She will also deal with the legislative aspect of zoos in Britain and Ireland and take part in lobbying the UK and EU parliaments. Her responsibilities will include development and membership services, strategy and administration.

Why did she want to take on this post? “The current director has moved the association on in so many ways – BIAZA is often held up as an example of how zoo associations should operate. My challenge is to continue and build on the work that Miranda has done so BIAZA continues to grow as a force for conservation.”

Kirsten, who is from Exeter, says she is going to miss Devon. “I’ve loved working here but it is time for a new challenge. I grew up in Devon and it is hard to leave for a job. I will miss the gorillas, especially Pertinax, who has been here the whole time. I’ll miss the saki monkeys, baboons and cockatoos, as I’ve worked with them a lot. But I’ll also miss the staff here, I’ve worked closely with many of them on research or studbooks or lecturing on the Plymouth Masters course.”

Kirsten carried out her Masters research with orang utans at Paignton Zoo, then became a keeper at the Welsh Mountain Zoo, working with the chimps, doing falconry and sea lion shows and helping to rehabilitate sick and injured wild seals.

She went on to work with primates at Bristol Zoo Gardens before returning to Devon to join the the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Field Conservation and Research team and work towards her doctorate with the University of Exeter.

Kirsten is a member of BIAZA Council and chair of BIAZA's Living Collections Committee. She sits on numerous committees and working groups. She will take up her post with BIAZA in March, when the current incumbent, Dr. Miranda Stevenson OBE, steps down.

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