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First Haith's PRO Scholarship for Studies in Nutrition awarded

Tuesday, 29th October 2013

The first Haith's PRO Scholarship for Studies in Nutrition, instigated by John E Haith Ltd, the well-known bird food company, has been awarded to a student at a zoo in England.

It has gone to Mr Francis Cabana M.Sc., an intern specialising in zoo nutrition at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, in Devon, South West England. The Zoo is part of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust.

“Francis has taken great initiative and we’re proud to support the conservation of rare and endangered species of birds and mammals at Paignton Zoo. Congratulations, Francis,” – Simon King, Haith’s PRO.

The Scholarship will be made in the form of supplies of high-quality bird diets for Mr Cabana’s studies on the nutritional requirements of certain species, some of them Endangered or Vulnerable.  This work will be co-ordinated by Dr Amy Plowman, Director of Conservation, Research and Advocacy for the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust and Head of Conservation at Paignton Zoo.

Project Title: “Studies on a proprietary diet in selected insectivorous mammals and birds at Paignton Zoo”.

“Ever since I can remember I have had this un-rational empathy for animals that was always at the forefront of my conscience. When I was old enough to understand about endangered species and extinction, I immediately panicked. I refused to live in a world that couldn’t help its elephants and giraffes. I felt like it was up to me to change things.

Everybody wants to work with animals, for one reason or another. This field is very competitive and I wanted to be in it so much that I started volunteering at a pet shop at the age of 14 and halfway through that summer they hired me. This led me to a lot of self-learning and to eventually complete an Applied Zoology degree from McGill University in my home city of Montreal, Canada.

Francis’s first keeper job

By grasping the issues and seeing the bigger picture of conservation, I wanted to explore both the in-situ and  ex-situ projects. That summer I received my first zoo keeping job and I volunteered with Operation Wallacea in the Honduran cloud forests. I quickly learnt that in-situ wasn’t for me and much preferred the work I could do in a zoo. I was later hired by the province’s largest zoo, Granby Zoo, where I truly thrived and learned how zoos operate.

Francis doing biodiversity work in Honduras with Bats

I am an ambitious person and I knew I was capable of more. Keeping is amazing and I shall be doing it again in my life no-doubt, but I wanted to contribute directly to conservation, uncover facts and make a little difference. To truly learn what I needed I decided to undertake a Master’s Degree with the one most suited to me being at Plymouth University in England. I had many modules all tailored to increase my research and time management abilities. One module was Animal Nutrition and Metabolism. I did exceedingly well in this module and uncovered a facet of zoo conservation I have never truly seen before.

“Haith’s in turn will receive an in-depth idea of where they stand in the zoo nutrition world in terms of cost, quality of nutrition and have scientific evidence to back it up in the zoo world.”

One of my professors was Dr. Amy Plowman is the Director of Field Conservation, Research and Advocacy  at Paignton Zoo. I can only imagine she saw something in me since she offered me the Zoo Nutrition Intern position. I said yes and have been here since, learning and fine tuning my skills and knowledge every day.

Even if I have matured, I think I am still that little boy who just cannot accept letting species die out of extinction. My scope is now much larger than just elephants and lions and includes entire ecosystems! My irrational empathy has fuelled my passion for conservation and I can safely say that I have found my niche.

Francis Cabana M.S.c

Francis braving the weather – starting his research

Red-billed blue magpies

Red-billed blue magpies

The research grant I have been offered by Haith’s PRO is an amazing opportunity for me, Paignton Zoo and Haith’s. I get to conduct a nice nutrition research project that is of no cost to me or the zoo and  hopefully get a publication under my belt. Paignton Zoo receives significant monetary savings, as well as insights into the eating habits of some of their birds and mammals and perhaps what change is needed for higher welfare and expression of natural behaviours. Haith’s in turn will receive an in-depth idea of where they stand in the zoo nutrition world in terms of cost, quality of nutrition and have scientific evidence to back it up in the zoo world. I am very thankful for this opportunity and will give regular updates on the progress of my research!”

“We are concerned about the health, welfare and conservation of all birds and particularly the role nutrition plays in each of these, which is why we are eager to support Francis Cabana and Paignton Zoo’s nutritional research programme,” explains David Haith – Managing Director of John E Haith Ltd. “The Haith’s Nutritional Scholarship is our way of investing in the future of professional bird-keeping.”

Professor John Cooper – who will oversee the project with the help of his wife Mrs Margaret Cooper – confirms that “A correct diet is essential for all animals, vertebrate and invertebrate, if they are to survive in the wild and to thrive in captivity. However, relatively little is yet known about the nutritional requirements of most species. The introduction of the Haith’s Scholarships is, I believe, an important step towards rectifying the situation while, at the same time, providing much-needed support for research and training in this field”.

The Haith’s Nutritional Scholarships were introduced in 2012 to mark the 75th anniversary of the establishment of John E Haith Ltd and its subsequent contributions to the health, welfare and conservation of birds.

Areas of study in which grants are made are primarily:

  • Supplementary feeding of wild birds

  • The provision of appropriate diets to captive (caged, aviary, zoo) birds or other animals and mammals.

  • The role of nutrition in situ or ex situ conservation.

Further information about the Scholarships may be obtained from:

Simon King – Haith’s PRO, The Bird Food Centre, Europarc, Genesis Way, Grimsby, N E Lincolnshire, DN37 9TU, UK

Telephone: +44 (0) 1472 357 515

Email: simon.king@haiths.com or visit http://www.haiths.com for more information about Haith’s.

 

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