Collaborating for conservation in China

China is a vast, ‘megadiverse’ country that contains over 10% of global mammal species and a wide range of ecosystems, from tropical rainforests to marine and freshwater systems, and the Tibetan Plateau.  However, the country is experiencing overexploitation of resources, loss of natural habitats associated with high human-population density and rapid economic growth.

In recent years, a growing number of UK institutions have become involved with conservation in China and developed collaborative projects with Chinese partners with wide-ranging goals, tools and techniques.  These projects have faced numerous environmental, administrative, logistical, cultural and political challenges, and have achieved varied levels of success.

This event presented a first overview of the range and variety of conservation projects conducted in China by different UK institutions.  From academic organisations to international conservation NGOs, these projects vary from targeted species-specific conservation to a wider ecosystem level of coverage.  Each project has unique outputs and individually they have lessons to impart about effective strategies for international collaboration.  This is an opportunity to find out about the range of conservation projects being delivered in China to protect its unique biodiversity.


  • Dr Samuel Turvey, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Zoology, ZSL
    Dolphins, gibbons, and giant salamanders: is it possible to save China's threatened biodiversity?
    PDF icon Talk slides - Sam Turvey (2.52 MB)

Dr Sam Turvey has been at ZSL since 2004, and is currently a Senior Research Fellow in ZSL’s Institute of Zoology. He studied at the University of Oxford for his undergraduate degree and for his doctorate on Chinese palaeontology, and as of 2018 he has worked in China for 20 years. He is heavily involved with both conservation research and practical conservation project management in China. His research aims to investigate how we can use different lines of scientific evidence to conserve critically endangered species that are reduced to tiny remnant populations. He has been actively involved with conservation programmes for Yangtze cetaceans, giant salamanders and other threatened Chinese biodiversity, and he established and manages ZSL’s long-term conservation programme for the Hainan gibbon, the world’s rarest mammal.

Simon Dowell, as Science Director, leads the research, education and conservation outreach work at Chester Zoo.  After a DPhil at the University of Oxford Simon embarked upon a career in University teaching and management, first at Liverpool JMU then at Oxford Brookes University.  His research programme on the ecology and conservation of threatened birds in the broadleaf forests of Sichuan became a major part of the Chester Zoo’s conservation outreach programme in China which Simon helped to coordinate for a number of years.  He joined the zoo’s director team in 2016.

  • Dr Philip Riordan, Head of Conservation Biology, Marwell Wildlife and and Senior Research Fellow, Beijing Forestry University
    Snow Leopard Research and Conservation in the mountains of China
    PDF icon Talk slides - Philip Riordan (3.25 MB)

Phil Riordan has worked on snow leopard conservation and research since 2007. At University of Oxford, he co-initiated and directed a joint programme in China with Shi Kun at Beijing Forestry University, subsequently steering the programme to cover the snow leopard range across China. He also works with collaborators in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan on transboundary conservation. Phil is Head of Conservation Biology at Marwell Wildlife, Director of Wildlife Without Borders UK, and holds academic positions with Beijing Forestry University and University of Southampton. Phil is also Coordinating Lead Author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Asia-Pacific Regional Assessment.


Yifu Wang graduated from McGill University with a First-Class BSc in 2015. She then matriculated as a PhD student at University of Cambridge in the same year. As a Chinese national and conservationist, she cares deeply about biodiversity conservation in China. She has undertaken her fieldwork in two provinces in China, and has primarily used social science approaches to better understand the markets in pangolin products. Key products include pangolin scales and meat which are traded differently along different trading chains.

Nigel Clark undertook his PhD studies on Dunlin (Calidris alpina) at Edinburgh University before joining the British Trust for Ornithology in 1987 to work on the effect of the proposed Severn Tidal Power Barrage on birds. He built up a research team which specialised in understanding the effect of developments on birds and the effect of birds on man. Nigel then became Head of Projects developing new areas of work for the BTO. In 2008 he was asked to independently assess if the Spoon-billed Sandpiper was just rare or really declining rapidly towards extinction. Nigel has spent an increasing amount of time trying to save the species and is scientific advisor for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task force.

  • John Barker, Head of Programmes - India and China, WWF UK
    Experiences of WWF in  collaborating for conservation in China and opportunities for the future 
    PDF icon Talk slides - John Barker (1.89 MB)

John Barker started working life as a fisheries bailiff on the River Thames and was then drawn to fisheries work in Africa. He joined WWF to work on broad conservation across Africa, both in the field in the rain forests of Nigeria and based from UK, and later became Global Freshwater Programme leader. Taking a break from WWF John returned to Nigeria to lead a DFID governance programme and then re-joined WWF UK to lead conservation work in the India and China regions.  He currently works on species and site based conservation and sustainable and green development, as well as supporting offices in the region, such as assisting WWF China to move towards local legal ownership and development.

  • Chaired by John MacKinnon, Honorary Professor af the Durrell Institute of Conservation Ecology, University of Kent

John's career spans 53 years in Africa and Asia including pioneer studies of orangutans and other primates, serving as WWF Representative to Indonesia and developing continent-wide conservation reviews for Africa and Asia. John made news with discovery of the saola and new muntjak species in Vietnam and has been a central figure since 1986 in conservation projects in China. John developed the Masterplan to save the giant panda, completed the biodiversity review of China and served for 14 years as a high level advisor to the Chinese government on biodiversity issues. He was involved in several GEF projects, the large EU-China Biodiversity Programme and is author of 30 books. His 'Handbook on Chinese Birds' has helped stimulate a remarkable domestic growth of birding.


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