New summit to celebrate wildlife conservation success and highlight hope for the future

With more than half of the world’s wildlife having disappeared in the last 40 years and climate change continuing to push many species to the brink of extinction, the challenges facing wildlife conservation have never been greater.

While the threats facing the planet can sometimes seem overwhelming, a new summit being organised by the University of Oxford’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS), the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, is aiming to shift conservation focus onto the success stories and highlight that there is a need, as well as a cause, for optimism.

The Conservation Optimism Summit, to be held 20-22 April 2017, will bring together people from across the worlds of conservation, government, industry and academia to highlight ways in which we can celebrate successes and encourage a new, positive way of thinking about conservation to inspire more people to work for wildlife.

The Conservation Optimism Summit will take place over three days. The first two days, which will take place at Dulwich College, will showcase and explore the potential which can be unleashed by taking a positive and optimistic approach to conservation. The last day, on Saturday 22nd April, Earth Day 2017, will take place at London Zoo and will have strong focus on empowering young people to act positively to change the future of their planet.

Richard Young, Head of Conservation Science at Durrell, said: ‘I have spent the past 10 years working on the science and action to save some of the most threatened species on earth. This might be perceived as an inherently depressing venture but I believe the opposite is the case. We have brought back multiple species from the brink of extinction to much safer numbers, demonstrating that conservation can work.’

‘People and organisations are taking action and producing impressive results on the ground – even in socially and politically challenging conditions - but we are not hearing these stories loudly enough. It is with a positive and optimistic outlook – focussing on achieved and achievable results – that conservationists stand the best chance of convincing the rest of society that it is vital, but also possible, to save and restore our natural world.’

Professor EJ Milner-Gulland, Director of Oxford’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS) and a Trustee of Durrell is one of the figures spearheading the event. She says: ‘Nobody is underestimating the task that faces conservationists. There’s lots of bad news out there and it can give the impression that the field is full of despair. But it’s not like that, and what we need to do is change that mind-set so that we can continue to attract talented young people into conservation, as well as inspiring the public with hope about the future, and ensuring we can influence policy makers to help address the most urgent problems facing the planet.’

The summit has already attracted high-profile support from environmental campaigner and well known Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who says: ‘I'm lucky enough to have the medium of television to discuss and investigate environmental issues that I think are important. One thing I’ve learned is how important it is to present positive solutions and to keep hope alive, as well as educating audiences about the problems facing the world.

‘I’m therefore delighted to support the Conservation Optimism initiative and its partners in their mission to spread a new wave of positivity throughout the environmental community.’

The event will partner with the Global Earth Optimism Summit, coordinated by the Smithsonian Institute, as well as an event being held by the Cambridge Conservation Initiative.

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To learn more about our conservation success stories at Durrell, please visit