A GROUP of 13 young people has been appointed by Chester Zoo to help shape the future of conservation. 

The zoo Youth Board is made up of talented young professionals and students aged between 18 and 25, and represent a generation that has rightly highlighted conservation as one of its biggest priorities.

The new team will meet several times a year to challenge the zoo, which already engages hundreds of thousands of young people every year, and each member will have their own mentor from the zoo's senior management team who will help to develop their leadership skills.

Mark Pilgrim, Chester Zoo's chief executive, said: "The appointment of the first ever UK charity zoo Youth Board is a real step forward in engaging with the conservation leaders of tomorrow.

"Working with this age group is vital because they will be the ones who decide on the future of conservation, encouraging positive behaviour change among their peers and speaking up to protect the natural world.

"The new Youth Board will bring fresh ideas, challenge us to think differently, inspire us to engage with a younger audience and steer the future direction of the zoo to ensure we are tackling the most important issues.

"In return, we hope to support them in being a voice for change and help to develop their own leadership skills.

"At a time when global environmental pressures are at a tipping point, the importance of progressive, charity zoos being able to use their unique position to cultivate future conservationists cannot be stressed enough."

During the selection process, more than 100 hopefuls each submitted a 90-second video detailing why they wanted to be a part of the Chester Zoo Youth Board.

Of those, 24 were then invited to a selection day before the final 13 was chosen.

In the wake of the coronavirus lockdown, the group has been meeting virtually to discuss their vision for the zoo and to decide on which areas of the charity they will focus their efforts on.

One of their first actions will be to get the views of other young people to ensure they are representing a wide range of opinions.

Chair of the Youth Board Chelsie Jones, 24, said: "The mission of the zoo’s new Youth Board is to provide a voice for young people and places us right at the heart of its conservation mission.

"We'll be working to find new ways of empowering young people and representing the next generation who see that conserving animals, protecting natural habitats and improving the relationships between humans and animals is critical to the future of the planet.

"This is a truly wonderful opportunity to contribute to and support Chester Zoo’s mission of preventing extinction and we’re really excited about helping to make a positive impact on the environment, and for species globally."

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and its three months of forced closure, Chester Zoo is facing a well-documented struggle for survival, leading to the launch of its public Save Our Zoo campaign.

As part of the fundraising effort to keep the zoo afloat, the 13 members of the Youth Board have come together to use their different talents to raise more than £1,800 so far.

To support the team, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/chester-zoo-youth-board To find out more about Chester Zoo’s new Youth Board, head to www.chesterzoo.org/corporate-information/governance/chester-zoo-youth-board/.