Zoos and aquariums save the world most endangered species

Date: 2011/06/01

 

At the occasion of the World Environment Day WAZA publishes a press release on the role of zoos and aquariums in species conservation.

 

34 animal species classified as Extinct in the Wild

Zoos and aquariums save the world most endangered species

 

 

Gland, Switzerland, Thursday 2 June 2011, (WAZA): "The role of  zoos and aquariums is often misunderstood as being only entertainment menageries; however, they actually play a vital role in species conservation", says Dr. Gerald Dick, Executive Director of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).

 

Apart from field conservation and environmental education work, many zoos have taken on the additional role of breeding a growing number of species that only exist in those facilities.

29 of the 34 animal species currently classified as Extinct in the Wild are actively bred in zoos, aquariums and other animal propagation facilities.

 

Several species that are extinct in the wild due to habitat destruction, poaching, wildlife trade or climate change are now solely represented by animals in zoos and aquariums.

At the occasion of the World Environment Day, on 5 June 2011, WAZA wants to emphasise the crucial role played by zoos and aquariums in species conservation around the world.

 

One important aspect of the work of zoos and aquariums is the establishment of viable populations of species that went extinct in the wild. Through coordinated breeding programmes, reintroduction projects are one important option for many of those species and zoos and aquariums help to bridge the gap. Conservation breeding programmes are in place for numerous species.

 

There are 34 animal species currently classified as Extinct in the Wild on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (see Appendices 1 and 2). 29 of these species are actively bred in zoos, aquariums and other animal propagation facilities. Recovery efforts using captive-bred animals are being implemented for 22 species (65%) classified as Extinct in the Wild.

 

A recent evaluation of the impact of conservation on the status of the world's vertebrates, published in the journal Science, showed that conservation breeding in zoos and aquariums played a role in the recovery of 19 of the 68 species (28%) whose threat status was reduced according to the IUCN Red List. In this evaluation, species previously classified as Extinct in the Wild that have improved in status thanks to the reintroduction of captive-bred animals include the Przewalski's horse (Equus ferus przewalskii), black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) and California condor (Gymnogyps californianus).

 

"On average, 52 species of mammals, birds and amphibians move closer to extinction each year. If it was not for the breeding efforts in zoological institutions, the rate of deterioration would be even worse," says Dr Markus Gusset, Conservation Officer & International Studbook Coordinator of WAZA.

The Takhi (Fig 1) also called the Przewalski's horse is one of the flagship species of zoo-related conservation success.

It is the only living representative of wild horses, which ranged from Germany and Russian steppes east to Kazakhstan, Mongolia and northern China until the late 18th century. After this time, the species went into catastrophic decline and the last confirmed sighting in the wild was made in 1969. Under the aegis of WAZA, an international studbook forms the backbone of a global conservation breeding programme, containing records of animals as far back as 1899. Several WAZA member institutions keep takhi, including Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Zoos South Australia and Prague Zoo. Following the successful reintroduction of captive-bred animals in Mongolia and elsewhere since the 1990s, takhi once again range freely in the wild. The International Takhi Group, whose conservation project for the takhi has been endorsed and supported by WAZA, is one of the organisations strongly involved in the conservation of this species.

Takhi - previously classified as Extinct in the Wild - once again range freely in the wild thanks to breeding efforts in zoos: download picture © Petra Kaczensky/International Takhi Group

 

 


Fig. 1. Takhi (© Petra Kaczesky/International Takhi Group).

 

To download the Appendix please click here.

 

Contact:

Carole Lecointre

WAZA Communication,

 +41 22 999 07 93,

carole.lecointre@waza.org

 

 

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  • Notes to Editors

    The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is a global organisation that harmonises the principles, policies, practices and strategy of over 1,300 leading zoos and aquariums.  WAZA is the unifying representative of the global zoo and aquarium community and works in partnership with IUCN, national governments and non-governmental organisations to ensure high standards of animal welfare and to achieve conservation in zoos and aquariums (ex situ) and in nature (in situ).

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