Release the snails.
Monday 30 September 2013
Near extinct snails bred at ZSL London Zoo to be released back into the wild
Hundreds of tiny endangered tree-snails will be reintroduced to their former Polynesian home following the incredible success of an international breeding programme led by ZSL London Zoo.
Three species of Partula snail, Partula affinis, Partula nodosa, and Partula hyalina, which were bred at ZSL London Zoo and other partner zoos around the world, will be released on to the island of Tahiti in October after a nearly 30 year absence.
ZSL London Zoo invertebrate keeper and coordinator of the international Partula studbook, Don McFarlane, along with staff from Bristol and Edinburgh Zoos, will be escorting the precious cargo of snails to Tahiti, where they will be released into a protected reserve in their native forest habitat.
McFarlane said: “We’re incredibly proud of the role ZSL London Zoo has played in bringing these snails back from the brink of extinction and reintroducing them to their native Tahiti.
“There used to be more than 70 species of Partula tree snails across the Pacific French Polynesian islands, but due to man’s influence, most of these species are now endangered or extinct in the wild.
“This project is the result of almost 30 years of collaborative work between zoos around the world, and the French Polynesian Government. We’re really hopeful that the hard work will pay off and we’ll see Partula snails thriving in the wild once again.”
Originating from the steep volcanic forested islands of French Polynesia, Partula snails provide valuable insights into the mechanisms of evolution. Populations of the snails were decimated after the predatory rosy wolf snail (Euglandina rosea) was introduced from Florida in the 1970s to rid the islands of a previously-introduced alien species – the African giant land snail – but the rapacious predator devoured the tiny native snails instead.
The Partula Global Species Management Programme is coordinated by ZSL London Zoo with St Louis Zoo, and combines the breeding programme for 16 species in 16 different zoos around the world with field conservation work in the Polynesian islands.
Partula snails are a genus of small Polynesian tree snails, which grow to a maximum size of approximately 2cm and feed on decaying plants. Originating from the Polynesian Islands of the South Pacific, Partula snails provide revealing insights into evolutionary genetics due to their varied habitat-specific adaptations.
International Partula Studbook
Each species that is part of a breeding programme is managed by a studbook, and it works much like an online dating profile for each individual within a species. The studbook holder is responsible for managing the breeding programme for a species, tracking information on genetics and parentage to ensure a healthy and genetically-diverse population of animals in the breeding programme.
The Global Species Management Programme for Partula snails began in 1986, and is jointly coordinated by ZSL London Zoo and St Louis Zoo. The programme cares for 16 species across 16 zoological institutions in Europe and North America. The programme is in collaboration with the French Polynesian Government - La Service Direction de l'Environnement de la Polynésie Française.
International Partula Conservation Project
Polynesian tree snails were spread across islands of the west, central and south Pacific but the animals were decimated by the introduction of the carnivorous rosy wolf snail Euglandina rosea – which was intended to remove a previously-introduced species – the African giant land snail. Of an original 70 species of Polynesian tree snails in French Polynesia 45 species are now listed as extinct and a further 11 are classed as extinct in the wild by the IUCN.