Zoos and aquariums save the world most endangered species
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.
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
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
"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
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