ZSL working to conserve IUCN Red List Endangered Species
Wednesday 3 May 2006
In response to the press release from the IUCN, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is delighted to be closely involved in the work to assist with the production of the 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which classifies the world’s species according to their extinction risk. Key contributor, Professor Georgina Mace, Director of ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, said “The updated Red List clearly demonstrates that our world’s species are still declining. It has become more important than ever that both active conservation and relevant research are undertaken to stay the decline.”
ZSL’s actively participates in relevant global conservation work, by undertaking scientific research and practical in-situ field work and by holding living collections of endangered species at London Zoo and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park. Some of ZSL’s recent key work and successes include:
- Conservation management of the Dominican mountain chicken (one of the world’s largest and most threatened frogs) which has declined dramatically in the past 5 years as a result of infection with chytridiomycosis, a recently-emerged fungal disease of amphibians. ZSL undertakes laboratory research on the fungus in London and has established a genetic laboratory to monitor the disease in Dominica. Field surveys and captive-breeding, both in Dominica and at London Zoo, are also part of the conservation action plan for this unique species.
- Recommendation to reclassify the world’s only wild horse, the Mongolian Przewalski’s horse, as a result of a successful captive breeding and reintroduction programme. The species was previously classified as “extinct in the wild”, but ZSL and Mongolian scientists recently applied the IUCN Categories and Criteria and discovered that the species now qualifies as “endangered”. It is a major success story to have such a large mammals successfully reintroduced to the wild. An official recommendation to change the threat classification of this species has now been made to IUCN. Of the horses reintroduced into the wild, one, named Priscilla, was from Whipsnade Wild Animal Park’s successful captive breeding programme.
- Management of the Vulture Recovery Programme, a DEFRA Darwin Initiative funded scheme in partnership with the Bombay Natural History Society and the RSPB, in India. Three of the most common vulture species have declined dramatically as a result of secondary poisoning by diclofenac, a drug used to treat the cattle whose carcasses the vultures regularly feed on. The vultures breed slowly, so the captive breeding programmes that have been set up are vital to ensure that there will be a viable population in the future. Additionally, lobbying by the partnership has resulted in a complete ban in the use of the drug in India by the Indian Government, and ZSL has provided key veterinary staff to treat injured and sick vultures and to train local veterinary staff.
- The international conservation effort for the highly endangered Partulid tree snails of French Polynesia, involving a managed breeding programme for 20 species and extensive field work with the French Polynesian Government. Throughout most of the 20th Century, there were over 120 different species of these tree snails spread over many Pacific islands. They provided invaluable insights into the mechanisms of evolution, but as a result of the introduction of a predatory snail (Euglandina rosea) in a misguided biological control attempt in the 1970s to eradicate the African land snail, many of the endemic snails became extinct and by the end of the century only a fraction of the original number of Partulid species remained. The International conservation programme, coordinated by ZSL and involving zoos throughout Europe and North America, has rescued many Partulid species from extinction and is working to re-establish the species back onto their natural range area. The world's largest breeding group of Partulids can be seen at London Zoo.
- Conservation of the Amur leopard by supporting anti-poaching teams, scientific studies and local educational initiatives. There are currently just 30 Amur leopards left in the wild and a captive population of around 100 that are part of a captive breeding programme coordinated by ZSL and Moscow Zoo.
Professor Mace added “This publication is of fundamental importance to the world as a clear indication that our global environment and its inhabitants are still facing extensive and extremely serious threats. ZSL is dedicated to working, both as a key individual organisation, and in partnership, to conserve our astonishing but dwindling biodiversity.”
Additionally, the 2006 Red List contains the first comprehensive regional assessment of selected marine groups and highlights dramatic declines in freshwater species. This unambiguously demonstrates the importance of ZSL’s current development in Silvertown Quays, east London, of a new visitor attraction, Biota!, which features aquatic environments and will act as a centre for aquatic conservation.
The full 2006 IUCN Red List will be released on Thursday, 4th May 2006.
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Notes to editors
High resolution photographs available.
Species currently available for filming -
Featured in recent ZSL conservation projects:
- Mongolian Przewalski’s horse (Whipsnade Wild Animal Park)
- Partula snails (London Zoo)
Featured in changes to the IUCN Red List:
- Pygmy hippopotamus (London Zoo and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park)
- Common hippopotamus (Whipsnade Wild Animal Park)
Featured as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List 2006:
- Sumatran tiger (London Zoo)
- Asiatic lion (London Zoo)
- Waldrapp Ibis (London Zoo)
- Socorro Dove (London Zoo)
- Chinese Alligator (London Zoo)
- Annam Leaf Turtle (London Zoo)
- Amur tiger (Whipsnade Wild Animal Park)
- Black rhinoceros (Whipsnade Wild Animal Park)
- Père David’s Deer (Whipsnade Wild Animal Park)
- Scimitar-horned Orynx (Whipsnade Wild Animal Park)
- Aruba Island Rattlesnake (Whipsnade Wild Animal Park)
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL runs London Zoo and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, carries out scientific research in the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in other countries worldwide. www.zsl.org
Further information about conservation projects featured:
The Mongolian Przewalski’s horse – In 1945 there were only 31 horses in captivity but by the early 1990's there were more than 1,500 and reintroductions began into their harsh, native environment of Mongolia. Nick Lindsay, Head of International Zoo Programmes at ZSL said: “There were concerns that having been bred for 13 generations in captivity the animals would not be able to survive in the wild. However, there are now 248 free ranging Przewalski’s horses in the wild, a factor among others which has resulted in their remarkable status reclassification.” One of the horses released back to the wild in Mongolia in 2001 was Priscilla, a Mongolian Przewalski’s horse from the successful breeding programme at ZSL’s Whipsnade Wild Animal Park.
The Vulture Recovery Programme – The programme involves three of India’s most common griffon vulture species, Oriental white-backed Gyps bengalensis, long-billed G. indicus and slender-billed G. tenuirostris. All three species have declined in the last decade as a result of secondary poisoning with diclofenac, a drug used to treat cattle to which they are extremely sensitive and which will kill the vultures within a matter of days. The Vulture Recovery Programme aims to establish sufficient numbers from each of three species in a number of breeding centres, some of which have already been established and some of which are planned within India, Pakistan and Nepal. ZSL veterinary surgeon, Andrew Routh, has travelled to Gujarat on several occasions to provide first aid care and surgery for the vultures and to share his knowledge of avian medicine, anaesthesia and surgery with veterinary teams working in the programme.
The International Partula Snail Programme – The predatory snail, Euglandina rosea, was introduced to the islands in the 1970s to combat an earlier introduction of the African giant land snail, Achatina fulica, which had become an agricultural pest. However, the predatory snail unfortunately turned to feeding on the smaller, native snails in preference to the African snail and rapidly decimated the populations.
The Amur leopard – The world’s most endangered cat, with just thirty animals thought to be left in the wild, the Amur leopard has suffered huge declines as a result of loss of habitat and prey species and conflict with humans. Additionally, as the wild population is so small, it is particularly vulnerable to “catastrophes”, including disease, inbreeding depression and fire. The former habitat of the species, predominantly in China, has now been lost and the species is only found in the north-eastern corner of its former range.
Alice Henchley - 0207 449 6361