Kirsten Pullen's Story

Author: Penelope Pullen
Kirsten Pullen's Story

Kirsten’s eight-week Fellowship allowed her to travel to Canada and the United States, exploring gorilla welfare.

The Fellowship

Whilst in Calgary Kirsten participated in an international workshop designed to bring together those who work with gorillas in zoos and in the wild.  The subjects varied from their welfare in captivity to the conservation and behaviour of gorillas in their natural habitat.  

After the conference she spent several weeks with the keepers in Calgary Zoo learning how they looked after the gorillas housed there, and understanding their conservation work.  

Kirsten then went on to Columbus Zoo in Ohio to spend some time with their gorilla keepers.  Columbus has the longest history of breeding gorillas in captivity and uses innovative techniques of surrogacy to ensure that any youngsters not being cared for by their mothers are cared for appropriately within the gorilla group.  

The Results

Kirsten’s Fellowship gave her a greater understanding of the variety of techniques with which we manage gorillas in captive situations, and a greater knowledge of the challenges faced by those conserving them in the wild.  In addition, she gained greater insight into how zoos can support of conservationists in the wild.

As a result of her participation in the International Gorilla Workshop, Kirsten was able to bring the 2006 workshop over to the United Kingdom to be hosted by her place of work, Paignton Zoo Environmental Park in Devon – a fantastic opportunity to bring together participants in the U.K. to share experiences of working with gorillas both in captivity and in the wild.

Kirsten’s work with gorillas has led her to become an advisor in how zoos work with gorillas in captive situations within Europe, as well as a co-author on husbandry guidelines for gorillas in European zoos. She also carried out a PhD in captive gorilla behaviour.  

In 2014, Kirsten took on a new position as Chief Executive Officer for BIAZA (British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums).  Although she doesn’t get to spend so much time with gorillas, her understanding of welfare standards in British and Irish zoos (for all animals) and conservation initiatives are integral to her role.