ABTWG Conference -‘Enriching and training in social groups’

16th – 17th September 2024
Conference: £70
Evening event: £25

This year the ABTWG conference is at Colchester Zoo in Essex.

The Zoo has over 155 species and around 75 staff in the animal care team for delegates to engage with. Many of them are involved in training and enrichment programmes some of which we hope to share with you at the conference. The theme for the conference is enrichment and training with social groups. The programme’s highlights include Annette Pedersen, talking about training social groups of animals, Mark Kingston Jones, challenging us on the balance between training and enrichment, and Jim Mackie, on training in mixed species exhibits, and Chris Hales on assessing if animals use weird and wonderful enrichment designs!

This conference will also provide invaluable chance to talk and share ideas with other professionals and learn about other opportunities like the training qualification.


The workshops will involve enrichment builds for Otters, Anteaters and a rotating browse feeder.

You’ll receive some basic training on evaluating enrichment and then go out and use that training on the installed enrichment at the conference! The ABTWG committee  will be delivering a workshop on how to get started with your training and how to develop it.


Enriching social groups

8:30amRegistration and refreshments
9:00amWelcome to Colchester Zoo
9:10amKeynote speaker – Annette Pederson
10:45amRefreshment break
11:00am‘Will they even use this’ – Chris Hales
11:25am‘Why training sucks’ – Mark Kingston Jones
12 noonFight of the green-winged macaw – Jess Fryer, ZSL
12:30pmTraining in mixed exhibit – Jorge Antolin Tomas
Practical build with Mark and team
Theory session with committee
4:20pmRefreshment break
4:40pmPrzewalski horse training – Training the last wild horse – Maddy Dunlop and Danielle Hearne, ZSL
4:50pmSpider monkey training – A case study in the difficulties of training around social dynamics
5:20pmQuestions and discussion
5:30pmEnd of day 1

Evening Event
During the hog roast evening event on the 16th there will be a quiz, raffle and a chance to see the Zoo. You will get food and a welcome drink and there is then a cash bar. Please do bring a raffle prize if you can and all proceeds from this will go to a Colchester Zoo conservation project.

Training social groups

9:00amRegistration and refreshments
9:30amMixed species training at ZSL and an introduction to Level 3 ABTC/BIAZA Zoo animal training course – Jim Mackie, ZSL
10:30amChimpanzee or sea lion training demos
10:35amOverview of training at Colchester Zoo
10:40amRefreshment break
11:00amWORKSHOP (Choice of only 1)
Mechanics or training
Myth busting or record keeping
1:15pmCold-blooded considerations – Meg Rostron, Colchester Zoo ABTWG, Reptile Liasion Officer
1:35pmVoluntary Corneal Debridement in male California sea lion – Pam Midwood, Coombe Martin
2:00pmThe importance of antecedent arrangement for enclosure usage for a troop of black and gold howler monkeys – Kim Wilkins, Manor Wildlife Park
2:40pmRefreshment break
3:00pmTour (50mins)
4:00pmHow do we prove our effort are working? – Dani Free and Lewis Rowden
4:20pmQuestions and discussion, and raffle
4:30pmSumming up conference – poster and best presentation winner
5:30pmEnd of day 2


London Road, Colchester, Essex, CO6 1DU
Prices from £45
Offering a 10% discount off the flexible rate at the time of booking for delegates.
Contact Hotel directly quoting attendance at the Colchester Zoo ABTWG conference 16-17 September.

Please ask about parking instructions at this hotel. You will need to enter your car registration details at reception whether you are parking for two minutes or two days. You will not be charged but can be fined if your car is not registered. If you are driving to the evening event, this will also be the case

Colchester Town Centre (Castle) Hotel
St Peters Street, Colchester, Essex CO1 1HY
Price from £60
At the heart of this historic Essex town, close to the castle, local shops and bars.

Colchester Cowdray Avenue (A133) Hotel
Cowdray Avenue, Colchester, Essex CO1 1UT
Price from £60

Holiday Inn – Eight Ash Green
Abbotts Lane, Eight Ash Green, Colchester, Essex, CO6 3QL
The exotic animals and birds of Colchester Zoo are less than 10 minutes’ drive from the hotel. Or spend a day on the beach at Mersea Island
Price from £74

Colchester (A12) hotel
Ipswich Road, Colchester, Essex CO4 9WP
Prices from £60
Less than 15 minutes from Colchester Zoo and Colchester Castle, the largest Norman keep in Europe.

If you are able to get a group together Air BnB is an option to consider.
Getting to the Zoo
How to get here by Car:
Set your Sat Nav for CO3 0SL
Colchester Zoo is located just south of Colchester. Take the A1124 exit (Junction 26) off the main A12 following the brown elephant signs and using the new Stanway Western Bypass.
From the M25: About 40 minutes from Junction 28 of the M25 to reach the A12
From Southend: About 1 hour’s journey, 40 miles using A127 and A130 to reach the A12
From Hertfordshire: About 1 hour’s journey – 50 miles using A414 or A120 to reach the A12
From Stansted Airport: About 50 minutes journey, 30 miles using A120 to reach the A12. For car hire from Stansted Airport www.budget-stansted.com
Colchester Zoo is situated on Maldon Road in Stanway.
Car parking is free and disabled car parking spaces are available close to the zoo entrance. NB Blue badges must be displayed to use the disabled parking area
If you need a lift or could provide one and would like to help the environment – why not share your car journey to the Zoo? Try these car share sites. www.essexcarshare.com and www.liftshare.org
Please note that there are cycle racks provided at the top of the coach park, close to the Zoo entrance.

How to get here by Train:
Colchester Main Train Station can be reached from Liverpool Street services from London within in an hour or is easily reached along the Lowestoft or Norwich networks to Ipswich and then on to Colchester. Colchester Zoo is just 10 minutes by taxi or can be reached by bus. See details below.

How to get here by Bus:
All bus services to Colchester Bus Station regularly connect with the Eastern National 75 for Maldon or Tiptree and Colchester Zoo. On arrival at Colchester Bus Station look for Stand number 9.
You should alight in Head Street and catch one of the services listed above to travel back to North Station lay by from the front bus stop in Head Street (near the traffic lights).
Please click here to visit the FirstGroup website to check ticket fares.

After alighting from the Train, leave via the exit on platform 4, turn left and walk to the main road at the bottom. On your right are some traffic lights, which you should use to cross to the lay by bus stop on the opposite side of the road. Use service numbers 61, 65, 66, 67, 67A, 78 or 78A and alight in the main bus station (approx 10 minute journey), ask the driver if you are unsure.

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