Remembering Hilda Tresz, A Champion for Chimpanzees

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April 27, 2019 

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the sudden and unexpected death of long-time colleague and friend, Hilda Tresz. Hilda was a very special part of ChimpanZoo, a program of the Jane Goodall Institute Global, which is dedicated to improving the welfare of captive chimpanzees through observational research, behavioral enrichment and environmental education. Hilda’s passing occurred while she was on assignment in Nepal. 

With the support of the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation Phoenix Zoo where Hilda served as behavioral enrichment and international animal welfare coordinator, and the generosity of a number of donors, Hilda traveled around the world to improve captive conditions for countless chimpanzees – and other animals – by enriching their zoo environments. Hilda’s work was documented in a short documentary titled, “One Week to Change” which can be viewed here. 

Dr Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace, writes in tribute to Hilda:  

Hilda was not afraid to go anywhere to help suffering animals. Her dedication and tireless commitment to helping animals was truly fantastic. Hilda leaves a gap in our network, diminishing our efforts to make this a better world for all living things. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to fill this gap with someone with similar skills and courage.  

She was well versed in animal behaviour, especially that of chimpanzees, which enabled her to improve the lives of those living in zoos lacking the funding or the know-how to build more suitable enclosures and employ better trained keepers.  

Her diplomatic approach to sometimes defensive zoo directors and her rapport with staff, along with her understanding of chimpanzee behaviour and uncanny ability to introduce individuals who had led miserable solitary lives – sometimes for years – has made a huge difference in the lives of many individuals. 

Hilda has been a longtime participant in ChimpanZoo and an official JGI volunteer since 2007 and has touched the lives of many people. We were all lucky to know her and send condolences to her family and co-workers at the Phoenix Zoo.  

We welcome any of Hilda’s family, friends and colleagues to share their remembrances of Hilda’s life, work and dedication below or on social media using the hashtag #RememberingHilda. 


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The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.

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About Author

Ashley Sullivan is the Associate Director of Communications & Partnerships at the Jane Goodall Institute USA, where she works to connect individuals with Dr. Jane Goodall's vision, and the JGI mission to create a better world for all by protecting the interconnections between people, other animals, and the environment. Ashley graduated Stony Brook University with a Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology and a minor in Biology, and is currently a Master's of Science Candidate for Environmental Science & Policy at Johns Hopkins University with a focus on Environmental Justice. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, now a D.C. resident, she has a varied background including nearly 10 years of expert communications and digital marketing in the social and environmental non-profit sector. Her intersectional approach to this work has been shaped by a holistic world-view, having traveled to Madagascar and Ecuador for conservation research projects, leading communications for youth social justice filmmaking programs, and as a part of several professional groups advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in environmental spaces. With skills ranging from conservation fieldwork, policy and advocacy campaigns, strategic communications, art, digital media, and design, Ashley believes in sharing information to empower and in the magic of storytelling to change hearts and minds. Through growing understanding, empathy, and justice, she is igniting positive change to create that better, more equitable world, every day.