Meet the amazing animals being saved from extinction by British zoos

Updated: August 14, 2012

RARE animals like this beautiful Amur leopard cub owe their existence to modern zoos. 

In fact, if only zoos had existed in the time of the dodo, the bird may not be extinct today.

Good zoos are powerful forces for conservation and some of the world’s most extraordinary and most threatened species would not be surviving without them.

The British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), which promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums, has compiled a list of the top ten species most reliant on zoos in the UK and Ireland.

Animals on the very brink of extinction including a leopard, a lemur, an oddly named frog and even a tree have all made it into the top ten, highlighting some of the best examples of how zoos are safeguarding the future of our planet’s wildlife and their habitats.

Dr Andrew Marshall, a member of BIAZA’s Field Programmes Committee, who co-ordinated the compilation of the list with input from conservation experts based at BIAZA zoos, said: “This list highlights ten prevailing examples of how zoos are working to save these and many other species from extinction. Without the valuable conservation and breeding work of many of our member zoos and aquariums, many ‘at risk’ species such as these may be lost to extinction forever.”

Dr Marshall who works for Flamingo Land and the University of York, added: “Drawing up the shortlist was not straightforward because there were hundreds of zoo-funded conservation projects to choose from; however we put together strict criteria and we hope our final shortlist will draw attention to just how important the work of zoos is.”

The criteria for selecting the top ten included choosing species associated with ongoing field initiatives by zoos. Particular importance was given to initiatives which included a management role, rather than just providing funds. Species chosen are currently 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. Priority was also given to species conservation projects that include habitat protection, education and/or livelihood development.

The top ten list of species most reliant on zoos underlines the importance of zoos not only in captive breeding for reserve populations and reintroductions, but in the role they play in conservation in the wild from fund-raising to research, education and support for local communities, as well as for wildlife habitats.

BIAZA’s top ten species most reliant on zoos are:

Mountain chicken frog – one of the world’s largest species of frog and Critically Endangered.

White-clawed crayfish – around 95% of the population of Britain’s only native freshwater crayfish have been lost.

Blue-crowned laughing thrush – only 250 mature birds of this Chinese species left in the wild.

Amur leopard – fewer than 45 of these big cats left in the wild.

Potosi pupfish – this freshwater fish is Extinct in the Wild.

Polynesian tree snail – 11 species of Polynesian tree snails are Extinct in the Wild.

Verdcourt’s polyalthia tree – this Critically Endangered species has only been found in three locations in the Kilombero valley in Tanzania.

Blue-eyed black lemur – this lemur is Critically Endangered due to large scale habitat loss and hunting.

Ploughshare tortoise – one of the most threatened and sought after reptiles in the illegal pet trade.

Scimitar-horned oryx – this antelope is Extinct in the Wild and dependent on captive breeding

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