Technical Expert (Bears), World Animal Protection
Victor Watkins has worked in the field of international animal welfare for over 35 years. After gaining a Zoology degree at Oxford, UK he joined the International Society for the Protection of Animals in 1981 as a Field Officer and then became Regional Director for the newly created World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). In this role he undertook investigations into issues including the farming of bears for their bile; the trade in dogs for human consumption; bullfighting; fur farming; and illegal wildlife trafficking.
Victor also worked on humane livestock slaughter in Africa and Asia and was part of a team providing emergency animal aid to farm livestock and domestic pets in earthquake stricken villages in central Italy. After helping to set up the WSPA office in Nairobi, Africa in the late 1980’s, he concentrated on wildlife issues, becoming the Director of Wildlife for WSPA during which time he led WSPA’s campaigns on a variety of wildlife issues including the protection of orang-utans, elephants, whales, turtles and seals.
In 1991 he set up the world’s first international campaign to protect bears from cruelty in the wild and in captivity, called Libearty. As part of that campaign, Victor initiated the concept of the bear sanctuary in 1992 to enable the Greek and Turkish governments to eradicate the use of dancing bears in their countries. Over the past 25 years Victor has worked with animal groups around the world to highlight the exploitation of bears and to gain public and government support to end cruel practices such as dancing bears in Europe and Asia, bear farming in Asia, bear-baiting in Pakistan and the use of captive bears for public entertainment. As a vital part of that work he has overseen the construction of bear sanctuaries in Romania, Greece, Turkey, Hungary, Thailand, Laos and India to allow for the rescue of bears from illegal or poor captive conditions.
Victor now works as aTechnical Expert for Bears in the Animals in the Wild team at World Animal Protection, based out of their London office. He has been involved in the making of a number of TV documentaries on wildlife protection, including a series of programmes featuring the Romanian bear sanctuary on the Animal Planet TV channel. He is author of the book “Bear Sanctuary”.