14 August 2012

If only zoos had existed in the time of the dodo, it may not be extinct today.

Good zoos are powerful forces for conservation and some of the world’s most extraordinary and most threatened species would not be surviving without them.

The British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), which promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums, has compiled a list of the top ten species most reliant on zoos in the UK and Ireland.

And Chester Zoo is home to five of the top 10.

Animals on the very brink of extinction including a snail, an antelope and an oddly named frog have all made it onto the list, highlighting some of the best examples of how Chester Zoo is safeguarding the future of our planet’s wildlife and their habitats.

The zoo’s Conservation Officer, Scott Wilson, said:

“The dodo is the most famous example of how humans have contributed to wildlife extinction and if we had our time again I’d like to think that we could have saved it.

“BIAZA’s list highlights ten very real examples of how zoos are working to save these and many other species from extinction and we’re working directly with five of them. Without us doing this vital conservation and breeding work, many ‘at risk’ species such as these may be lost to extinction forever.

“We can’t and won’t stand by and let that happen.”

Mountain Chicken with Chester Zoo Keeper Ben Baker.

Dr Andrew Marshall, a member of BIAZA’s Field Programmes Committee, who co-ordinated the compilation of the list with input from conservation experts based at BIAZA zoos, added:

“Drawing up the shortlist was not straightforward because there were hundreds of zoo-funded conservation projects to choose from; however we put together strict criteria and we hope our final shortlist will draw attention to just how important the work of zoos is.”

The criteria for selecting the top ten included choosing species associated with ongoing field initiatives by zoos. Particular importance was given to initiatives which included a management role, rather than just providing funds.

Species chosen are currently listed as Endangered, Critically Endangered or Extinct in the Wild on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Priority was also given to species conservation projects that include habitat protection, education and/or livelihood development.

The top ten list of species most reliant on zoos underlines the importance of zoos not only in captive breeding for reserve populations and reintroductions, but in the role they play in conservation in the wild from fund-raising to research, education and support for local communities, as well as wildlife habitats.

The species at Chester Zoo making BIAZA’s top ten most reliant on zoos are:

Mountain chicken – one of the world’s largest species of frog and Critically Endangered. Blue-crowned laughingthrush – only 250 mature birds of this Chinese species left in the wild. Polynesian tree snail – 11 species of Polynesian tree snails are Extinct in the Wild. Ploughshare tortoise – one of the most threatened and sought after reptiles in the illegal pet trade. Scimitar-horned oryx – this antelope is Extinct in the Wild and dependent on captive breeding