Keynote speakers




The Speaker
Elisabetta Palagi is Associate Professor at the Department of Biology (University of Pisa). She has been studying social carnivores (meerkats, lions, spotted hyenas, wolves, domestic dogs), horses, sea lions, dolphins and most of all primate taxa, including lemurs, macaques, geladas, all the African apes and humans since 1992. She published more than 150 papers on international journals with a high IF on a wide array of topics bridging sociobiology, multimodal communication, social cognition and conflict management. Her comparative studies focus on functions and evolutionary significance of both object and social play, conflict management and resolution in social groups, multimodal communication, sociosexuality and the behavioral patterns underlying emotional resonance (facial mimicry and yawn contagion) as a mean to understand the evolution of empathic abilities in human and nonhuman animals.
In 2020, she obtained the Animal Behavior Society Award for the activity in the field for 10+ years and distinguished contributions. Most of her studies have attracted a strong media interest (i.e., New Scientist, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Science Daily, Smithsonian).
The Abstract
Data collection carried out in different settings are crucial to understand proximate and ultimate causes of animals’ behavioral flexibility. By selecting geladas (Theropithecus gelada) as a model, here I will show the importance of combining research in captive and wild settings to unveil how animals adjust their behavior as a function of both physical and social environmental fluctuations. By providing information at different scales, captive and wild studies provide a fuller picture of a given behavioral trait. Finally, the two settings allow unveiling and validating behavioral aspects that are observed in the other setting. I really hope that this contribution will stimulates scholars in designing their research by taking into consideration the incredible power of a complementary captive-wild approach.




The Speaker
Dr Luca Toledano is the clinical head of the dental practice that belongs to his family for more than 100 years. He devotes much of his professional activity to the evolution of computer-guided implant surgery, for which he invented and patented an original system. As an entomologist, he is specialized in the study of the world's Coleoptera Carabidae Bembidiina. He has described more than 200 species new to science. He and his wife Rebecca often travel the world driven by their passion for nature and photography.

The Abstract
In order to study the nature of a country, it must first be discovered by someone. James Cook was a champion in this. His first voyage to the Pacific, organised with the aim of making a rare astron omical observation, became a geographical, botanical, zoological and anthropological expedition thanks to Cook's ingenious versatility, opening the door to a future of exploration and research. Cook's first voyage is described on the basis of a study of the Captain's own logbooks, from the pages of which we can sense the rare human qualities that enabled him to be loved by his crew and the native populations he visited.


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The Speaker
Dr. Valeria Torti is a Research Technician the University of Torino, Italy. She is part of the Ethology and Bioacoustic Lab at the Department of Life Sciences And Systems Biology (DBIOS). A common thread throughout Valeria's research career has been joining her bioacoustics and ethological work with the biodiversity conservation issue. Her work in Madagascar investigates vocal communication in indris and other lemur species and demonstrated that patterns of vocal communication are much more complex that what usually thought. She is currently the Executive Manager of the Maromizaha Conservation Project, led by Prof. Cristina Giacoma of the University of Turin in collaboration with GERP Madagascar. Nowadays, her research focuses on non-invasive census techniques, based on vocal fingerprints, as a mechanism for monitoring vocalizing animals’ groups and lemur populations in the wild. Valeria was awarded grants from the CRT Foundation (Master dei Talenti della Società Civile), is a PCI fellow, and is a CO-PI for a Margot Marsh funded grant. She participated in writing several funded projects for conserving Malagasy wildlife, collaborating with different international organizations including GERP and Association Mitsinjo.

The Abstract
To preserve natural hotspots like Madagascar, as well as to ensure well-being and prosperity among the local populations, it is fundamental to invest in research, training and in situ conservation. In the last 14 years the University of Turin is leading the Maromizaha Conservation Project, to promote research, education, capacity building, and training in the Alaotra-Mangoro Region (Madagascar), to preserve species and habitat integrity in the remaining forest patches of the Ankeniheny-Zahamena corridor. The Maromizaha Conservation Project largely focuses on working together with local communities and partners to ensure the sustainable exploitation of natural resources and the management and protection of forest species. The main aim is to reduce human pressure on the forest habitat, by creating income-generating activities that alleviate poverty among the rural communities. Thanks to the support of zoos, foundations and private/public organizations, we are running a long-term study, following the life histories of around 152 recognizable individuals in 30 family groups of 5 lemur species (Indri indri, Propithecus diadema, Varecia variegata editorum, Hapalemur griseus, Eulemur rubriventer) and monitoring forest habitat (camera traps, transects, Passive Acoustic Monitoring) at the Maromizaha NPA. Accurate information on the demographic parameters driving lemur population dynamics will help decision-making regarding the conservation of this iconic species.




The Speaker
After he received his degree in Biology and Zoology, Peter Praschag founded the conservation breeding and research institution Turtle Island, together with his father Reiner. Next to his duties as a turtle-breeder and conservator, he supports various ORF UNIVERSUM TV productions as a scientific advisor. Furthermore, he is a sworn and court-certified expert for biology (keeping and breeding of zoo animals) and a member of the Freshwater Turtle and Tortoise Specialist Group/IUCN, the Field Conservation Committee, and a scientific consultant at the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA). He serves as Vice-President of Turtle Island Corporation, a U.S.A based nonprofit with 501(c)(3) status. 

The Abstract

According to the IUCN, 62 % of the world's freshwater turtle species are either threatened or endangered. Alongside with apes, turtles are the most threatened group of vertebrates. Between 1970 and 2020 the Living Planet Index observes a decline of wildlife populations of freshwater animal species of 84 %. 11 out of the 14 turtle families are freshwater species. Because of the ongoing habitat destruction, it seems to be crucial to work on creating assurance colonies of all the most endangered freshwater turtle and tortoise species to prevent biological extinction with the final goal to set out to recover populations to their former full ecological roll across their former distribution. Conservation breeding programs for turtles are long term endeavors, which require international collaboration between zoos and private keepers and the linking of ex-situ and in-situ measures. Turtle Island houses today more than 240 turtle and tortoise taxa on four different locations and has big plans to establish a state of the art conservation breeding center, which is going to be partly open to the public.



The Speaker
Spartaco Gippoliti is a conservationist and mammalogist with experience in both ex situ and in situ conservation. He is author of more than 150 published papers and book chapters dealing with the conservation and taxonomy of African Primates and Ungulates, role of zoos in conservation biology and the interface between mammal taxonomy and conservation. Among his   books La Giungla di Villa Borghese. I cento anni del Giardino Zoologico di Roma (2010) deals with the centenary history of the Rome Zoological Garden. One of his field of interest is the application of conservation ecology theories to a social landscape, both in Europe and tropical countries. He is a member of IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group, Honorary member of Italian Union of Zoos and Aquaria (UIZA) and of the Società Italiana per la Storia della Fauna “G. Altobello”.
The Abstract

“Zoos are or should be one of the last bastions of organismal biology...” Seidensticker and Forthman (1998) - In Italy zoos and aquaria have been often considered a kind of amusement parks specialised in animals, with little perception that they are cultural institutions. While most zoos are open to collaborative research programs or to support environmental NGO's projects, very few can afford to maintain their own scientific staff. This may reinforce the overall view that Italian zoos' only value lay in their zoological collections and in the funds they can direct toward 'conservation', therefore downplaying the contribution scientific, educative and curatorial staff may give to both theoretical and practical issues related to science education, conservation biology, zoo management and animal welfare. Half a century ago, a national association of Italian scientific museums (ANMS) was created under the auspices of the Accademia dei Lincei. It includes botanical gardens, zoos and aquaria together with several other scientific institutions. Despite the relevance of such partnership, the contribution of zoos to the ANMS' journal Museologia Scientifica has been negligible. If the lack of a specific Italian journal on zoo-biology is added, a question is raised about how Italian zoos think to fulfill their cultural mission.
An historical approach allows to appreciate the intrinsic importance of zoos and aquaria when managed as indipendent scientific institutions. Examples, limited to Italy, include the Giardino Zoologico in Rome under the directoriship of Ermanno Bronzini, the Giardino Zoologico in Turin under the scientific directoriship of Alula Taibel, the Civico Acquario in Milan led by Menico Torchio.
Relying on my personal experience, the last part of this presentation is dedicated to show as questions about management issues led to a growing appreciation of the relevance of taxonomy for both Primate conservation and zoos ex situ programs.



The Speaker
I am a behavioural biologist, interested in zoo animal welfare as well as in social relationships in exotic animals, and relationships with physiology. Since my teenage years I have been passionate about great apes and most particular about bonobos. After obtaining my Phd in Sciences at Antwerp University on “Machos or Don Juans, the reproductive strategies of male bonobos in captivity”, I have worked in Antwerp Zoo and Zoo Planckendael as research coordinator on Animal Behaviour and Welfare for 12 years. Here I focused on understanding social relationships and reproduction in zoo-housed bonobos, and did smaller projects on welfare and behaviour on various animal species, from poison-dart frogs to Asian Elephants. Nowadays, I teach animal behaviour and welfare related courses at Odisee University of Applied Sciences in Belgium, where I also supervise bachelor students’ projects, mostly on zoo animals.  I am also coordinator of the Bonobo EAZA Ex Situ Project, and member of the Zoo Committee in the Flemish Ministry for Animal Welfare, and I am chairman of the Dutch Zoo Association peer review visitation process.
The Abstract

The welfare of great apes in human care is becoming more and more important. There is however little consensus on how to measure welfare in these highly developed primates. While animal welfare science is making major progress in farm, lab and companion animals, its concepts are not readily applied to great apes. Following Fraser’s view, welfare can be regarded from three angles: biological functioning and health; natural living and positive feelings or affective states. Here we review which animal based indicators in behaviour, physiology and cognition may be available and propose using more multidimensional welfare assessment in great apes. In Biological functioning and health, we lack good reference values of physiological and health markers for great apes, and may not take individual variation into account. Cortisol is often taken as physiological marker, but care should be undertaken with the interpretation of this pleiotropic hormone. In Natural living, the validity of putative behavioural indicators of stress or anxiety, such as self-directive behaviours, and a focus on either seeing wild activity budgets as golden standard, or a focus on negative indicators such as abnormal behaviours can be problematic. Affective states are now central in describing good welfare, and have been said to correspond to ‘Happiness’ in human Quality of Life Assessments, but are of course harder to measure. Science is now making progress in measuring emotions in primates, for example through cognitive bias tasks and this knowledge should be integrated into great ape welfare science. Using Qualitative Behavioural Assessments is now commonplace for farm and domestic animals, and may be a useful approach in great apes as well, if anthropomorphism can be avoided. In conclusion, animal welfare science may offer different physiological, behavioural and cognitive indicators of welfare, which could be applied to great ape welfare, if properly validated.





The Speaker
Graduated from the Hunedoara Postgraduate School in 1993, Alexandru Bulacu started his activity as a medical assistant in the Emergency Department of Hațeg. For his 18 years of activity at the highest standards of professionalism and ethics, decorated in 2014 by the President of Romania with the medal "Meritul Sanitar", class III, with civilian insignia.
Graduate of the Faculty of Psycho-sociology of the University of Petroșani - 2006, of the Faculty of Medicine, Pharmacy and Dental Medicine of the "Vasile Goldiș" Western University of Arad - 2009, graduate of the Master's program, Hospitality and Tourism Management, at the University of Petroșani - 2009.
Since 2012 full time as species reintroduction expert.
Over 23 years activity as a volunteer in the field of environment and mountain rescuer.
Founding member and since 2020 president of the Romanian Wilderness Society.
Qualifications: Trainer, Manager of guest house, Touristic guide, Trainer of trainers, Project Manager, Community facilitator, Live animals transport attendant, Expert zoologist.
The Abstract
Over the last two decades there has been a growing global interest in tackling the issue of feral domestic dogs and cats, through the need to define and assess the problem on a real scale.
Romania is one of the countries where this problem is very serious and complex, with causes that have deep roots in the culture of people's relationship with domestic animals. The effects of a high number of feral dogs and cats, especially in relation to other wildlife species and the impact they have on population structure, distribution of individuals in the natural habitat, hybridisation, animal welfare and behaviour are extremely important elements to take into account in the planning and implementation of any in-situ conservation project, but especially projects involving repopulation or reintroduction of extinct native species, due to the high risk that the potential impact of predation, diseases and hybridisation by feral domestic animals may have on populations with few individuals, which are under severe stress through reintroduction into the wild.
In our research on this topic we used direct and indirect observations in the field in two pilot sites and we also set-up camera traps, from which we analysed the data obtained. Camera traps were set in mixed mode, both on photo mode for quantitative analysis of the presence of wild and domestic species and on video mode for qualitative analysis of the behaviour of the occurring species.
A pertinent question in this context is whether we should expect the emergence of new hybrid species prepared to survive in the altered natural environment as a result of anthropogenic impacts?




The Speaker
Franco Andreone is zoologist and curator and head of publications at the Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali in Turin. He has been editor of Acta Herpetologica, ZooKeys, Alytes and Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, as well as past-president of the International Society for the Study and Conservation of the Amphibians. He is currently Herpetology Section Editor-in-chief of Animals, associate editor of Phyllomedusa, Nature Conservation, and Biodiversity Data Journal. He acted as co-editor for the volume of the Fauna d’Italia dedicated to amphibians and published together with other co-authors the guide "Amphibians and Reptiles of Italy". In addition to having conceived the HerpeThon initiative for herpetological dissemination, he is also a member of the scientific community of WWF Italy. For more than 30 years he has carried out research on amphibians and reptiles in Madagascar, a biodiversity hot-spot where he organised and accomplished over 40 missions and promoted conservation actions as Chair of the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. Website:
The Abstract
Madagascar is a hotspot for amphibian species diversity. The island supports more than 370 endemic frog species, many of which are assessed as at high extinction risk by the IUCN Red List. Some of the most well-known frogs in Madagascar are the Malagasy poison frogs of the genus Mantella. Their attractive aposematic coloration and diurnal behavior have made them popular amphibians to display at zoological institutions, but also targets of the international pet trade. The harlequin mantella frog (Mantella cowanii) was heavily collected for the pet trade until 2004 when its CITES export quota was set to 0. Intense commercial collection during the 1990s and early 2000s combined with severe habitat degradation is thought to have caused population declines. The species is only known from four isolated sites in Madagascar’s central highlands where almost no forested habitat remains. In response to this situation, a conservation strategy for M. cowanii was developed during a workshop held in late 2018 in Ambositra (Madagascar) and launched in the fall of 2021. Known as the Mantella cowanii Action Plan, the McAP has five themes including habitat protection, scientific research, local development, raising awareness, and coordination. Within each theme is a set of conservation actions to take to ensure the species survival, including the stakeholder or institution responsible for implementing the action, indicators of success, and a timeline for completion. We report here on the development of the McAP, the status of M. cowanii, and share preliminary results on abundance from 2020 and 2021 field seasons.

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