Integrated Species Conservation

In the WAZA Vision and Corporate Strategy Towards 2020, published in 2009, the very first operational objective includes "...the demonstration of links between ex situ and in situ conservation work...". In line with this objective, we postulate the dawning of the era of integrated species conservation. Under this new paradigm, conservation holistically refers to activities aimed at sustaining biodiversity (i.e. genetic, species and ecosystem diversity), whether conducted in or out of the natural habitat, integrated across the conservation community. Integrated conservation works along a continuum of management intensity, including hardly any human intervention in wild populations all the way to intensively managed populations in human care.


Many wild populations are like populations in human care – small in size, fragmented and with limited gene flow between them. For example, African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) have been reintroduced into small, fenced reserves in South Africa, which necessitates periodic translocation of animals to mimic natural dispersal and maintain gene flow [1]. This model is referred to as a managed metapopulation, as natural metapopulation processes such as dispersal are subject to human intervention. Metapopulation management involves managing a set of interacting populations under a common conservation goal. Its components may include multiple regional populations managed in human care (including in-country breeding programmes), multiple wild populations (including reintroduced populations) and even genome resource banks.


Intensive population management serving conservation goals thus requires transfers of animals. Traditionally, this includes the exchange of animals between holders of the population in human care, import of animals from the wild to either bolster existing or establish new populations in human care, and export of animals from populations in human care to the wild. These transfers can be combined under one umbrella of interactive exchanges of animals (or gametes) between populations in the wild and in human care for mutual reinforcement. The role of populations in human care can vary from little interaction with wild populations all the way to populations with extensive gene flow in both directions. This will greatly enhance our capacity to sustain viable populations both in human care and in the wild.


The science of small population management, developed primarily for managing populations in human care, is therefore of direct relevance to field conservation. For example, fencing is highly effective for conserving lions (Panthera leo) in Africa [2], but fenced lion populations require human intervention to be viable in the long term. Similarly, subpopulations of the rarest of Africa's carnivores, the Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis), are fragmented to the extent that translocation of animals among the few remaining sites is recommended to restore gene flow [3]. As habitat fragmentation progresses and climate change shifts the boundaries of species' distribution ranges, translocation is likely to become an increasingly important conservation tool. The skills and knowledge of experienced zoo and aquarium professionals are needed to guide such translocation work.


In the 2013 edition of the WAZA Magazine, we have compiled various conceptual approaches to integrated species conservation, collectively declaring the end of the ex situ and in situ conservation dichotomy. Moreover, several case studies of integrated species conservation in practice are presented. We hope that the 2013 edition of the WAZA Magazine will demonstrate links between conservationists working at any point along the continuum of management intensity, 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 14: Towards Integrated Species Conservation (4.5 MB).  



[1] Davies-Mostert, H. T. & Gusset, M. (2013) WAZA Magazine 14: 41–44.

[2] Packer, C. et al. (2013) Ecology Letters 16: 635–641.

[3] Gottelli, D. et al. (2013) Animal Conservation 16: 234–247.

  • Cover WAZA Magazine 14
  • Integrated Conservation_1
  • Integrated Conservation_2
  • Integrated Species Conservation

    Integrated Species Conservation

    (1) © Rob Till (cover picture), (2) © Cheryl-Samantha Owen, (3) © Meghan Murphy/Smithsonian National Zoo, (4) © Nicole Gusset-Burgener