Jan Dams

Research themes

Optimising the care of the bird and mammal collections


As animal care coordinator, I work together with a group of twenty keeper staff to optimise our animals’ welfare and to encourage them to breed, following specific breeding programs where desirable. We also ensure that their habitats are both stimulating for the animals and attractive for our visitors. By exchanging experience with colleagues in the zoo community, we aim to achieve the highest standard of animal care.

Extra activities

  • Chair of the EAZA Galliformes (gallinaceous birds) EAZA Taxon Advisory Group (TAG). The TAG supervises the studbooks and breeding programs under its responsibility and develops Regional Collection Plans (RCPs). An RCP is an instrument that helps zoos make careful choices about which species to keep in EAZA zoos and which ones not to keep. During the development of an RCP the species are evaluated and recommended, on the basis of various criteria or otherwise.
  • Member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Galliformes Specialist Group. The IUCN-SSC is a science-based network of more than 8,000 experts from almost all countries around the globe. We work together to minimise the decline of biodiversity around the globe. 

Research interests

As animal care coordinator I aim, together with my keeper staff, to further improve our animal care. My key focus areas include nutrition, training and encouraging breeding success. I am strongly convinced that zoos play a very important part in saving endangered species, as part of a comprehensive protection plan. By building up reserve populations, researching the species in a protected environment and supporting conservation measures in the countries of origin, we can contribute to the survival of endangered species. As a member of the Galliformes TAG I am actively involved in such a project that is working to reintroduce the Edwards pheasant, extinct in the wild, to its natural habitat. I also endeavour to apply the latest technologies in the field of lighting to further improve the welfare of our animals. 

Brief biography

I am a biologist. I obtained my Bachelor's degree at the Hasselt University and my Master's degree at the University of Antwerp. My thesis was on the effect of zoo visitor numbers on the behaviour of Congo peafowl at Antwerp Zoo. After graduating, I taught animal care at Sint Jozef secondary school in Geel for six months. I then worked at Weltvogelpark Walsrode bird park as a biologist for nearly six years. I joined Antwerp ZOO as assistant curator in 2017 and was soon able to move up to the position of animal care coordinator. I have had a great affinity with animals ever since I was a child and my brother and I used to keep a very diverse range of birds in my parents’ garden.

Key publications

Book chapter: Schreiber, A., Montadert, M.; Westliches Haselhuhn, Biologie, Starus und Perspektiven Für eine Erhaltungszucht.; (2018) Bruslund S., Dams J.; Wie die EAZA Galliformes Tag ein Artenschutzprojekt Für das Westliche Haselhuhn unterstützen kann. 

Dams J.; EAZA Galliformes TAG, Regional Collection Plan (Version 3); (2015)