The 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 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 ( ) 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)