International Studbooks

The most important tool in scientifically managing ex situ populations of wild animals, ensuring in particular their sufficient size, demographic stability and high level of genetic diversity, is studbooks, wherein all data relevant to the captive population of a certain species are collected and continuously updated. The studbook keeper maintains the pedigree and demographic history of a specifically defined taxon such as genus, species, sub-species or other specific captive population. Studbooks contain the registration number of each animal of the particular species in captivity, its sex and birthdate, the identity (registration numbers) of its parents, where it was born and where (and when) it was transferred to, ownership information, as we as its house name and its identifiers (such as transponders, tattoos and tags). The update section of the studbook compiles any births, captures, transfers, deaths and releases during the reporting period. Other information important to the management of the species is also included such as rearing information or behavioural traits affecting the ability to be used in a breeding programme, and causes of death. A location glossary, including the names, addresses and contact information for all historic and current holders, allows communication between the various holders and the studbook keeper.


In considering the ownership of the studbook data and the subsequent availability of the studbook dataset, WAZA concluded that all studbooks managed under the auspices of, and on behalf of, a recognised studbook authority (whether WAZA or a WAZA member association) are to be developed for the collective benefit. The data in such studbooks are to be held under the stewardship of the studbook authority. The studbook keeper is the curator of the data and neither the studbook keeper nor the institution at which that person is employed owns the dataset. The studbook dataset should be made available to the zoo and aquarium community in the most useful and globally compatible format.


This information may then be used to manage the captive population on several levels; quantitative analyses of genetic and demographic data in particular are used to develop a management plan that is carried out through specific recommendations for each specimen in the population. In general, managers try to minimise inbreeding, grow populations to a level suitable for maintaining sufficient levels of genetic diversity and maintain these populations at a size that does not impact on the ability of programmes for other species to achieve their goals. Indeed, a study on various captive deer species suggested that individuals from those species managed by an international studbook had a higher relative life expectancy.


International studbooks for endangered and rare species are kept under the auspices of WAZA. They represent the highest level of global monitoring/management and are to provide a valuable service to the zoological community, offering the most complete and accurate global data on the ex situ population's pedigree and demography, where possible including husbandry and veterinary guidance, thus enhancing the management of the population through analysis of the studbook data. In most cases, staff of WAZA member institutions serves as studbook keepers. Within WAZA the international studbook programme is overseen by the Committee for Population Management and is coordinated by a nominated employee at the WAZA Executive Office, in collaboration with Species360 (formerly the International Species Information System). The Zoological Society of London regularly publishes the updated list of current international studbooks in the International Zoo Yearbook. Currently, there are 130 active international studbooks, including 159 species or sub-species. Species360 maintains a library of active Single Population Analysis & Records Keeping System (SPARKS) datasets for 156 species or sub-species, and archived SPARKS datasets for 49 species or sub-species.


Altogether, there are studbooks (international and regional) and/or breeding programmes for more than 1,000 different taxa, some taxa having studbooks in more than one region. Species360 regularly publishes and distributes the ISIS/WAZA Studbook Library DVD. The 2011 edition comprises 1,540 studbooks, including 1,350 regional and 190 international studbooks, plus 292 husbandry manuals and nearly 2,800 other documents. This is a significant fraction of the approximately 1,800 assigned studbooks and represents 99% of published studbooks. In total, 1,145 studbook keepers from 473 institutions in 66 countries have contributed their work.

  • Studbook_Deer
  • Studbook_Rhino
  • Studbook_Leopard
  • International Studbooks

    International Studbooks

    (1) © Gerhard Steinmetz, (2) © Basel Zoo, (3) © Jackie Thomas, (4) © Harald Schwammer