On March 31, senior staff of 100 zoos across 25 countries will arrive at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo (so-named because all its animals are mentioned in the Hebrew Bible) for the annual European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) directors' day and council meeting.
"The decision to hold the event here reflects the fact that Israel is today a big player in wildlife conservation," said the Biblical Zoo's director-general Shai Doron. "Though we are a small country we are involved in some of the most exciting projects in our field."
He gave the example of his zoo's elephant Gabi, one of the first elephants ever born as a result of artificial insemination, adding: "If you think of the size and strength of an elephant and the fact it can't be put to sleep, you get a sense of the achievement."
EAZA changed its bylaws five years ago in order to give Israel full membership. Up until then, only European countries could join.
British delegates in Jerusalem will include EAZA's chairman Simon Tongue, executive director of Paignton Zoo Environmental Park in Devon. There will also be representatives of London Zoo and Chester Zoo.
Ties between Israeli and foreign zoos are flourishing. In October, when friction between Israel and Turkey was high, Gabi the elephant was transferred to a Turkish zoo.