Sustainable Populations

A recent evaluation of the status of the world's vertebrates showed that one-fifth of species are classified as threatened. On average, 52 species of mammals, birds and amphibians move closer to extinction each year. However, the rate of deterioration would have been at least one-fifth more in the absence of conservation measures. Therefore, while current conservation efforts remain insufficient to offset the main drivers of biodiversity loss, this overall pattern conceals the impact of conservation successes. Notably, conservation breeding in zoos and aquariums has played a role in the recovery of 28% of the 68 species whose threat status was reduced.


To fulfil the full suite of conservation roles required of animal populations in human care, they must be demographically robust, genetically representative of wild counterparts and able to sustain these characteristics for the foreseeable future. In light of growing concerns about the long-term sustainability of captive populations, WAZA organised a two-day workshop in April 2011 on the sustainable management of zoo animal populations. This workshop, which was an integral part of a series of workshops on related topics summarised in the 2011 edition of the WAZA Magazine, tackled the issue of studbook-based global population management, which lies at the heart of successful conservation breeding programmes aimed at preserving biodiversity.


In the 2011 edition of the WAZA Magazine, the results of population sustainability assessments globally and in three major regions are presented. Two important biological factors impacting population sustainability are reviewed, namely genetics and mate choice. Overviews of how biodiversity is represented in zoological institutions, managed programmes and studbooks are provided, including a study on studbook-driven husbandry success. Finally, a vision for the future of population sustainability is outlined.


We hope that the 2011 edition of the WAZA Magazine will make a substantial contribution to the challenge of how animal populations in human care can be managed sustainably in the long term, and thereby further increase the contribution of the world zoo and aquarium community to global biodiversity conservation.


Please click on the following link to download the WAZA Magazine 12: Towards Sustainable Population Management (2.1 MB).

  • Cover WAZA Magazine 12
  • Sustainable Populations

    Sustainable Populations

    (1) © Harald Löffler (cover picture), (2) © Nicole Gusset-Burgener