2020 Reflections with Giles Clark

It has been one of the most challenging and uncertain years our generation has known. It is more important than ever to reflect on the positives this year has given us and look forward to a new year with new opportunities.


Anna Tank, our PR Officer interviews Giles Clark, Environmental Specialist and Director of Cats and Conservation at The Big Cat Sanctuary to share his thoughts on the last year:


What has 2020 meant for The Big Cat Sanctuary?

“2020 has been beyond challenging for everyone. Not just those in our industry, but charities, businesses, project organisations, everyone has been terribly impacted by the pandemic. However, despite this, it has shown just how resilient we are. For us, the resilience of The Big Cat Sanctuary’s staff, volunteers, keepers and supporters has got us where we are today. Although we are perhaps not as strong as we have previously hoped back at the start of 2020, the fact that we have survived is a true testament to everyone who has supported the Sanctuary in one form or another. Our cats have still led a good quality of life; we are still active in all the breeding programmes and we have learnt to adapt to remote working and remote engagement. The majority of events have been online so that we can engage and educate our supporters as much as we can. My thoughts are with those that have been negatively impacted and affected by the pandemic. I know how terrible this year has been to many and I hope the Sanctuary was able to act as a symbol of hope and positivity to some.


What has been your highlight for 2020?

“Oh well, my highlight for 2020 is just seeing how happy and healthy the cats have remained despite what has been going on outside the Sanctuary for them. I am so pleased that again, despite the circumstances, the Sanctuary has been able to continue to support up to 20 national and international wildlife organisation projects and charities that depend on us. Seeing the new Jaguar Breeding Programme be opened by The Royal Highness Princess Eugenie is also a memory I won’t be forgetting in a hurry, that’s for sure.”


What has 2020 taught you professionally and personally?

“It all comes back to resilience. It shows how resilient the human race is. I hope that we can take this resilience and take this united stance we have taken against COVID-19 and apply it to saving the natural world. Sadly, these types of diseases are a product of the way we treat our animals and natural environment and I hope people learn from this and learn to change the way in which we are currently treating our planet. It is staggering how quickly we have brought around a vaccine, which shows just how incredible, intelligent and impactful we are as a species. Now I hope we can bring these qualities and apply them to saving our planet.”


What will your Christmas Day look like for you this year?

“Ah, Christmas Day will look very different for our family this year. I will be staying in my small, but cosy bubble for Christmas Day and enjoy some quality family time. It will also probably centre around my dog Seymour and his Christmas Day walk!”


What are you looking forward to for 2021?

“As I am normally overseas for work or filming a wildlife documentary or helping out on a conservation project, I have started to get itchy feet to get back into the field. Although I have enjoyed being in one spot for more than 2 months at a time, I really want to get back in the project work. I have plans to revisit my work with Free the Bears in Cambodia and also continue supporting the conservation partners we have in Kenya and other parts of Africa. I just hope we can travel safely by then!”


What would you like to say to The Big Cat Sanctuary supporters?

“I just cannot thank you all enough for your continued support. I would like to say a special thank you to our members as without your commitment to the Sanctuary we definitely would not have made it through this year. Members and our supporters have been the Sanctuary’s lifeline. I know my fellow Directors and the Trustees of the Sanctuary would agree with me that we cannot wait to welcome you back next year, where we can hopefully continue with our 2021 open days.”


We are so excited to see what a fresh year brings to The Big Cat Sanctuary. Please do come and see us in the new year if it is safe to do so. We always do our best to keep all our visitors safe on site.