Zoos Saving Species

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn honour of Endangered Species Day on May 16th I thought I’d briefly touch on the efforts zoos are making to help save endangered species.

Many zoos take part in Species Survival Plans (SSPs), but few are able to take part in reintroduction projects. With so many animal species endangered and their numbers dropping, reintroduction projects, if successful, can really make a difference. Sadly one reason for endangerment is loss of habitat. That leads to the question, “where do you introduce new animals when those existing already inhabit the land that remains?”

golden-lion tamarin

golden-lion tamarin

At least for some wild lands there is space. So, researchers seek out these seemingly empty spaces and hope to repopulate them. Zoos, such as the Smithsonian National Zoo, in Washington, D.C., has been very successful. The National Zoo and others have been working at saving golden lion tamarins since the 1970s, when there were less than 200 in the wild. Now there are roughly 1,500 and more than a third of these were reintroduced by the breeding program the zoo participates in. In 2003, the golden lion tamarin was able to be downgraded from critically endangered to endangered, a monumental achievement.

California condor

California condor

The Calgary Zoo helped in efforts to reintroduce the swift fox, with the results showing this to be the most successful recovery of a nationally extinct carnivore in the world.  A few other notables are the San Diego Zoo with the Arabian oryx, the Los Angeles Zoo with the California condor, and the Toronto Zoo with the black-footed ferret.

With the help of zoos and other conservation agencies, all is not lost for the plight of the world’s endangered species.


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