I’m Victor Watkins – Wildlife Advisor for the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), who I’ve worked for since the charity was set up 29 years ago.
I have a degree in Zoology from Oxford Brookes University and after completing this, I went straight to work for the International Society for the Protection of Animals (ISPA) which later merged with World Federation for the Protection of Animals (WFPA) to become WSPA in 1981.
I started as a field officer for the Eastern Hemisphere, later becoming the Regional Director. During this time I undertook investigations into a number of animal welfare issues including fur farming in Scandinavia, dog eating in Asia, bullfighting in Europe, humane slaughter in Africa. I also assisted with WSPA’s disaster relief operations to help the animal victims of natural or man-made catastrophes and in 1990 opened a WSPA regional office in Kenya to oversee additional work in Africa.
After witnessing the suffering of bears around the world, I set up WSPA’s Libearty campaign in 1991. The campaign, to protect bears from cruelty in the wild and in captivity, saw us join forces with other groups to lobby governments on the issues facing the world’s bears – bear farming, bear baiting, bears in poor zoo conditions and dancing bears.
Bear protection and conservation projects have been an important part of my work, taking me around the world, to a diverse range of countries including USA, Japan, China, Canada, Ecuador, Colombia, Bulgaria, Borneo, Pakistan and India.
I’ve worked on many bear projects; helping with the resuce of dancing bears, building sanctuaries in Greece and Turkey, undercover investigations into the trade in bear parts in China and Korea and into overcrowded bear parks in Japan and advised on the building of nine bear sanctuaries across the world.