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The top ten mammals surviving because of zoos

Posted on 14 August 2013

A tiger, a West African primate and a large antelope are among species staving off extinction thanks to the help of zoos, according to a new report co-ordinated by Dr Andrew Marshall from the University of York and Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo.

Mangabey by Joanne Iredale

The report compiled for the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) - which promotes the value of good zoos and aquariums - lists the top ten mammals most reliant on zoos in the UK and Ireland for their survival.

The list includes the Sumatran tiger, the White-naped mangabey and the Scimitar-horned oryx, which are all found at Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo in North Yorkshire.

In the wild, the Sumatran tiger is found only in the forests of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where only 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 Lecturer in the University of York’s Environment Department.

Dr Marshall, Vice-Chairman of BIAZA’s Field Programmes Committee, said: “Last year, we published a report on the top ten species most reliant on zoos, which highlighted zoo work across a broad range of taxonomic groups to help safeguard their future. When compiling the first report, there were just so many examples left out, that this year, we have decided to repeat the process for mammals. The new list includes ten prevailing examples of mammals that zoos are working to save from extinction. 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. This work includes the Udzungwa Forest Project in Tanzania, a project almost entirely funded by Flamingo Land.

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.

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

Dr Andrew Marshall

Strict criteria were used to select the top ten list. All the mammals proposed had to be associated with current field initiatives by zoos and 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. 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 are:

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 2,700km² in northwest Madagascar and only a small total population remains.

Scimitar-horned oryx – the Scimitar-horned oryx is Extinct in the Wild, so completely dependent on captive breeding for survival.

Sumatran tiger – there are only 300-400 Sumatran tigers remaining 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 less 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% of their original habitat remains.

Western lowland gorilla – the Western lowland gorilla is 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.

To read the full report and for more information visit: http://www.biaza.org.uk/news/1148/98/Top-Ten-Mammals-Most-Reliant-on-Zoos/

Notes to editors:

  • To download photos of all top ten species please visit:
    https://picasaweb.google.com/118130971903693939934/TopTenMammalsMostReliantOnZoos2013?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCPvVmunU7OyuiAE&feat=directlink

    Video footage is available from BIAZA. Tel 020 74496599 or email  communications@biaza.org.uk
  • The CIRCLE institute (Centre for the Integration of Research, Conservation and Learning) was launched in October 2010 and is part of the University of York’s Environment Department based at Flamingo Land. For further information on the Environment Department visit www.york.ac.uk/environment
  • Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo was founded in 1961 and today houses over 130 species of animals and over 50 theme park rides, including the Guinness world record-breaking ‘Mumbo Jumbo’, ‘Dino-Stone Park’, and the new ‘Hero’ ride. Flamingo Land is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria, and plays an active role in conservation and education both in the zoo, and in Tanzania through the park’s Udzungwa Forest Project. Anyone interested in volunteering to help with education and conservation can contact circle@flamingoland.co.uk. Flamingo Land holds a David Bellamy Gold Award for conservation and the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums Award for the Best Field Conservation Programme. Visit www.flamingoland.co.uk/park/zoo-and-conservation.html
  • The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) is a conservation, education and wildlife charity (charity no. 248553). Founded in 1966, it represents over 100 member organisations including all the significant zoos and aquariums in Britain and Ireland. Visit www.biaza.org.uk

Contact details

Caron Lett
Press Officer

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