AboutZoos, Since 2008


The role of zoos and aquaria in ani­mal rein­tro­duc­tions to the wild

pub­lished 28 June 2017 | mod­i­fied 28 June 2017

Scimitar horned oryx smithsoninanThe world faces a bio­di­ver­sity cri­sis and more and more species are dri­ven towards extinc­tion. Increas­ingly, species are becom­ing more depen­dent of con­ser­va­tion efforts, devel­oped by var­i­ous organ­i­sa­tions includ­ing zoos and aquaria. In other words their con­tin­ued sur­vival relies on human inter­ven­tion such as con­ser­va­tion translo­ca­tion. This could genet­i­cally or demo­graph­i­cally rein­force wild pop­u­la­tions of threat­ened species by re-​establishing pop­u­la­tions in the species’ indige­nous range (rein­tro­duc­tion) or estab­lish­ing new pop­u­la­tions in nat­ural habi­tat out­side the indige­nous range of the species. Rein­tro­duc­tions sourced from ex-​situ pop­u­la­tions in zoos and aquaria offer an oppor­tu­nity to re-​establish species in the wild fol­low­ing extinc­tion or sub­stan­tial reduc­tions in pop­u­la­tion size. How­ever, there has been lit­tle eval­u­a­tion of the role that zoos and aquaria play in rein­tro­duc­ing ani­mals to the wild.

Scimitar-​horned oryx mak­ing a come­back:
With its long, curved horns, the scimitar-​horned oryx is one of the most inter­est­ing of the cow rel­a­tives. After years of declin­ing num­bers, sci­en­tists have suc­cess­fully bred the African ani­mal in cap­tiv­ity, giv­ing hope for the species’ long-​term sur­vival in the wild.

(Source: National Geo­graphic YouTube channel)

With this in mind, Rachel Gard­ner, one of the stu­dents of the Mas­ters course within a col­lab­o­ra­tive pro­gramme on Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion of Mar­well Wildlife and the Uni­ver­sity of Southamp­ton, designed her research project to assess the cur­rent role played by zoos and aquaria with rein­tro­duc­tions, and pro­vide insights to aid fur­ther improvements.

Ini­tial results from this research are pub­lished online on 14 May in the Inter­na­tional Zoo Year­book in a paper eval­u­at­ing his­tor­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions to this area of con­ser­va­tion. Though zoos and aquaria do not nec­es­sar­ily main­tain glob­ally rare species, they do pro­vide ani­mals for rein­tro­duc­tion to the wild. Nev­er­the­less, until now their great­est con­tri­bu­tions con­sisted of pro­vid­ing funds, staff, exper­tise, equip­ment and project coor­di­na­tion for con­ser­va­tion projects. Zoos and aquaria have an impor­tant role to play in rein­tro­duc­tions espe­cially as empha­sis shifts away from the tra­di­tional zoos (ex-​situ) ver­sus wild (in-​situ) dichotomy and towards the inte­grated con­ser­va­tion man­age­ment of species.

(Source: Mar­well Wildlife news release, May 2017; Inter­na­tional Zoo Year­book, Edi­to­r­ial: The Role of Zoos and Aquar­i­ums in Rein­tro­duc­tions and Other Con­ser­va­tion Translo­ca­tions, 26.06.2017)

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Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

about zoos and their mis­sion regard­ing breed­ing endan­gered species, nature con­ser­va­tion, bio­di­ver­sity and edu­ca­tion, which of course relates to the evo­lu­tion of species.
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