Report names top ten mammals surviving thanks to zoos

Sumatran tiger and cub. Photograph: Ralph Dickinson
14 Aug 2013 @ 8.59 am
| News


These are some of the animals whose species are being save from extinction by zoos, according to new research from a York academic.

Sumatran tigers, western lowland gorillas and fruit bats are surviving thanks to zoos, according to a new report report compiled for the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) by Dr Andrew Marshall from the University of York.

His report lists the top ten mammals most reliant on zoos in the UK and Ireland for their survival. Three on the list – the Sumatran tiger, the White-naped mangabey and the Scimitar-horned oryx – are at Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo near Pickering.

In the wild, the Sumatran tiger is found only in the forests of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where about 300-400 remain. The white-naped mangabey is critically endangered due to habitat loss and hunting, while the scimitar-horned oryx is extinct in the wild, so completely dependent on captive breeding at zoos like Flamingo Land for its survival.

Developed with input from conservation experts based at BIAZA zoos, the report was co-ordinated by Dr Marshall, the director of conservation science at Flamingo Land and a York University lecturer in the environment department.

Last year he published a report on the top ten species most reliant on zoos for BIAZA, an organisation which promotes the value of good zoos and aquariums.

“The new list includes ten prevailing examples of mammals that zoos are working to save from extinction,” Dr Marshall said. “Once again it was a really tough choice this year, as there were so many likely contenders, but we have some incredible species with amazing conservation stories.”

Dr Marshall leads the CIRCLE institute – Centre for the Integration of Research, Conservation and Learning – based at Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo. Jointly funded by the University of York and Flamingo Land, the institute plays an important role in researching and protecting habitats and species both locally and internationally.

Flamingo Land is home to a male and female Sumatran tiger, a group of seven Scimitar-horned oryx and three White-naped mangabeys. It was the first zoo in the country to hand-rear a mangabey and reintroduce it to its mother, and has run a successful breeding programme for oryx. CIRCLE institute researchers are carrying out behavioural projects and looking at enclosure usage for all three mammals.

Particular importance was given to initiatives which included a management role in the species’ conservation, rather than simply providing funds, and priority was given to species conservation projects that include habitat protection, education and/or livelihood development.

Dr Marshall said: “Without the indispensable conservation and breeding work of many BIAZA member zoos and aquariums, many threatened species such as these may be lost to extinction forever.

“Modern zoos are evolving and improving rapidly and increasingly are acting as the driving forces behind major conservation, research and education initiatives. We want our visitors to know that in visiting their zoo they are not simply enjoying a great day out, but are contributing to an ever-increasing conservation effort.”

BIAZA’s top ten mammals most reliant on zoos

Amur leopard – one of the most endangered large cats in the world with fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild.

Blue-eyed black lemur – this critically endangered mammal is restricted to a very small area of around 1,042 square miles in northwest Madagascar and only a small total population remains.

Scimitar-horned oryx – extinct in the wild, so completely dependent on captive breeding for survival.

Sumatran tiger – only 300-400 remain in the wild.

San Martin titi monkey – this critically endangered primate is not kept in zoos, but BIAZA zoos are important partners in the only conservation initiative working to protect this species.

Grevy’s zebra – this endangered equid has experienced one of the largest reductions of range and numbers of any African mammal.

Livingstone’s fruit bat – one of the largest bat species in the world with fewer than 1,100 individuals remaining in the wild.

Pied tamarin – the most endangered Amazonian primate found in a very small region of the Brazilian rainforest.

White-naped mangabey – listed as one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world. Only 15 per cent of their original habitat remains.

Western lowland gorilla – under threat of extinction from specialist hunting and habitat loss.

Next year’s report will focus on the top ten reptiles and amphibians most reliant on zoos.