Andy Blue, currently Director of the San Diego Humane Society Escondido Campus, worked for the San Diego Zoo Global as an Associate Curator for over 30 years. He always made it a point to meet with the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) delegates whenever they were at the Zoo.
A delegation came to San Diego in July 2013 and visited the SD Zoo to meet with the global team to discuss their work in species recovery programs and education. There, Andy met with a delegate from the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Hana Ridha, who asked for his advice on how to help animals in zoos in Kurdistan.
After a couple years of keeping in touch, Andy learned that Hana had begun studying leopards in the mountains between Iran and Iraq. Hana introduced Andy to a veterinarian from the Kurdistan Organization for Animal Rights Protection (KOARP). In July 2017, Andy traveled to Erbil, Iraq, where he met with the veterinarian. Andy gave a presentation on animal welfare needs and enrichment to the zoo owners and staff in Duhok, and they discussed ways to improve living conditions for the animals as well as the visitor experience.
While traveling back to Erbil Andy also met with Peshmerga members to discuss animal welfare of livestock and he visited two refugee camps. Many displaced Iraqis and Syrians had left their animals and the KOARP visits these areas to distribute food and water to these animals.
Without the IVLP program, Andy would have never been able to travel to Kurdistan and connect with his professional peers. Andy was able to share his knowledge about wildlife protection, create a common understanding between cultures, and continue the collaboration on a global level.