The Role of Zoos in Conservation

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The roles of Zoos in conservation

The main aim of zoos is to protect and conserve global biodiversity and wildlife. To do this they have four roles to play which are; research, conservation, education and welfare.

Research is the careful search or inquiry for new facts by scientific study of a subject, through a course of critical investigation. By studying animals we can learn new things about their behaviour and lifestyle. The Secretary of State’s Standards of Modern Zoo Practice (SSSMZP) encourage zoos to carry out research. Research can be carried out ex situ or in situ. In situ conservation is defined as:

The conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats and the
maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in their natural surroundings and, in the case of some domesticated or cultivated species, in the surroundings where they have developed their distinctive properties.

Ex situ conservation is defined as:

The conservation of components of biological diversity outside their natural habitat.

Conservation is an action that effectively enhances the survival of species and habitats. Zoos can participate in conservation activities of benefit to species in a number of ways. One way in which zoos help conserve animals is by participating in breeding programmes.

The main organisation for breeding programmes is the European Endangered species breeding Programmes (EEP). Each EEP is managed by a species co-ordinator who can recommend that individual animals move to other collections, breed with particular individuals or stop breeding altogether. These decisions are made using information recorded in studbooks for the species held in European breeding programmes .

The ESB stands for the European Stud Book. Studbooks record the name, location and ancestry of every animal within the population and computer software such as SPARKS (Single Population Analysis and Record Keeping System) can be used to calculate how related different individuals are to each other. This is used to decide which animals are suited to breed together to ensure inbreeding is reduced and genetic diversity is maximised.

Many zoos make their major contribution by collaborating with conservation organisations to support ex situ conservation through species management programmes. These usually involve captive breeding, which is the breeding of species in a captive environment, and this can be within or outside the species’ natural habitat Zoos also work together to maintain healthy captive populations of endangered species.

Another crucial component in zoo conservation are reintroduction programmes. Zoos help endangered species by reintroducing animals back into the wild. Reintroduction is An attempt to establish a species in an area which was once part of its historical range, but from which it has disappeared. After reintroduction the movements and behaviour of wild individuals or populations from part of their range to another must be supervised in order to assess their progress. This is known as translocation. Releases can either be HARD, where the animal is left on its own, or SOFT, where the animal is helped for a while. If the reintroduction has been successful, reinforcement may occur, where zoos attempt to add individuals to an existing wild population of the same species.

Education and Welfare:
Education is an important role of zoos because they aim to:
·excite, enthuse and interest people in the natural world
·encourage public understanding of conservation issues
·develop public support and action to address conservation concerns ·provide experiences for visitors to enable them to make choices about their impact upon the environment (both positive and negative)

Animal welfare can be determined by an animals capacity to avoid suffering and maintain fitness. It refers to the protection of an animals health and well being. High standards of animal welfare facilitate the...
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