Zoos can lead the way with ex situ conservation
WAZA magazine, 12, 26-29 (2011)
Zoos can play a key role in the management of threatened species that require the support of captive breeding for their survival. In this sense, it is important to have an accounting of how many at-risk species are already represented in zoos, which can inform future prioritisation efforts. We used data from ISIS and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species to assess the conservation status and population size of terrestrial vertebrates in ISIS member institutions. Our results show that 15% of described species classified as threatened are represented in ISIS zoos. Zoos already hold important populations for certain threatened species, especially for mammals. However, the number of threatened birds and their population sizes are much lower, which is even more dramatic for amphibians, although almost one-quarter of their populations are above 250 individuals. The implementation of cooperative captive breeding programmes across large numbers of institutions is one of the more demanding actions where zoos as a global network could play a key role to support the conservation of some of the most threatened species.