Vikings, bicycles and sugary pastries are things that usually come to mind when we think of the Danes. But for the sixty attendees to the second annual ECNM in Eskildstrup, Denmark, something entirely different was on their mind.
ECNM is the acronym for The European Crocodile Networking Meeting. And if you just started wondering where this gathering of European crocodiles can be seen, you’re very very mistaken. The ECNM is a gathering, not of crocs, but of people interested in crocs. It’s a place where professionals, academics, hobbyists and students can get together to network, establish relations and get answers to questions they might have lingering.
It all started as a way for European crocodile professionals to get together and socialize as well as an arena to attract fresh blood to the realm of crocodile research and husbandry. The IUCN Crocodile Specialist Group arranges a huge conference every two year’s, attracting crocodile specialists from all over the planet. This conference however might be a bit expensive and intimidating for hobbyists and fresh students to attend, hence the creation of the casual European meeting.
If you’re now thinking that this is some sort of amateur group of enthusiasts, you’re way off. Thanks to this conference I actually managed to find my master’s project AND my supervisor. So, this is a legit meeting that can open a lot of doors if you choose to participate.
This year’s venue
After the success of last year’s meeting, the pressure was on for the organizers. And boy did they come through!
The ECNM had their first ever meeting at Crocodiles of the World in Brize Norton last year (you can read about that meeting here). This year the meeting moved to Krokodille Zoo in Denmark. The zoo is run by IUCN Crocodile Specialist Group member René Hedegaard, a man with over 30 years of experience in anything crocodile related. This man has through passion and mad work ethic managed to acquire 23 species of crocodile! In his care, succeeded in getting some of the rarest crocodiles in the world to produce offspring in captivity, and he is constantly involved with conservation projects around the world.
Krokodille zoo itself is a set of low laying buildings, some of which used to belong to an old farm. Most of the exhibit has been constructed during the early 2000s by René, his family and his friends. The first thing that strikes you as you step inside the doors is the intense heat and humidity, optimized to keep tropical reptiles. As you walk around on narrow bridges staring at rows and rows of scales and teeth, atleast a few times you could be forgiven for maybe forgetting that you’re in Denmark. The heat, low roof and sound of chirping birds and bellowing crocs whipped the outside world from my mind and took me to the tropics. As we were walking around looking at the crocs a few people made comments about the pens seeming small for such large animals, but René quickly explained that all the crocs enclosures have off-stage areas two to three times larger than what we can see. This was done purposefully to give the crocs the option of not being in the public eye if they chose to.
The conference kicked off on Friday 6th of October with us arriving at the zoo where we got a quick meet and greet with free goodiebags while we observed the animals. Later that afternoon we all met at a conference center a few hundred meters away from the zoo itself for a mingling session.
The main part of the conference however went down the following day with an amazing set of speakers who covered a host of crocodilian related topics. Everything was covered, from zoo work, to conservation to research. The day was kicked off by an introduction and welcoming by the organizers Ashley Pearcy and Agata Staniewicz, and an introduction to Krokodille Zoos history and future by René Hedegaard himself. The set list continued with names such as James Hennessey, Rob Gandola, Iri Gill, Tobias Wang, Colleen Farmer, Jon Hutton and more croc savvy speakers. In total the organizers managed to put together a set list of 11 speakers, all of which covered a detailed and wide range of crocodilian topics.
After the speakers all had finished we returned to Krokodille Zoo for a private tour of the facilities where the keepers and René answered anything we might wonder about. One of the highlights was to see Sobek, the five meter and 600kg Nile crocodile! The rest of the night was spent eating dinner, mingling and relaxing in the company of likeminded people.
Sunday morning came and we were all getting ready to go back to our respective countries when Ashley and Agata told us they had another surprise, the location for next year’s meeting was already arranged!
So if you’re into crocs, wine and baguettes, you can meet us all in PLANÈTE DES CROCODILES in France for the third annual ECNM 2018!
I promise you won’t be disappointed.
See you all there!
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