Project started
13 June 1991
Project status

Partula snails are a part of Polynesian culture, as the shells of each species represent the cultural identity of each island. So when species were wiped out by a carnivorous snail species, the damage went beyond harming fragile ecosystems, it was a loss of Polynesian heritage. We saved the remaining Polynesian snails back in 1990's before they could be wiped out forever, and we have been breeding them ever since to restore their precious ecosystem and place in history. 

Why did the partula snail nearly go extinct?  

The carnivorous rosy-wolf snail was introduced to the islands to control another non-native species, the Africa giant land snail. Predictably, this had disastrous consequences. The rosy-wolf snail devastated the native partula snail population, these specialist hunters can chase down the scent of their prey’s slime trails at three times the speed of a normal snail.  

Carnivorous rosy wolf snail on a person's finger
Partula snail habitat in Moorea
Carnivorous rosy wolf snail left, partula habitat right.

Saving partula snails  

Together with the international zoo community, we have reintroduced over 15,000 snails. Our zookeeper Dave Clarke led a team to save the last 9 individuals of one species back in 1991, and after over 30 years of careful breeding, we were able to return this species to the wild. Our work is helping restore a part of Polynesia's cultural heritage and strengthen their ecosystems. 

  • 11
    Previously extinct in the wild species reintroduced to the wild.
  • 15,000
    Snails reintroduced to the islands.
  • 9
    We saved the last 9 individuals of a species, which have now been reintroduced to the wild.
  • Reintroducing partula snails

    Partula snail conservation achievements  

    We're working closely with the French Polynesian government and the international Zoo community, leading an ambitious reintroduction programme which includes: 

    • Actively breeding, releasing and monitoring snails on four islands. Together we have reintroduced 11 previously extinct in the wild species. 

    • Pioneering the world's first predator-proof snail reserves on the Society islands.

    Richard Allen Partula snails painting showing different species and a drawing of a snail shell bracelet.

    Together we've saved many partula snail species from extinction. Let’s drive forward a journey of recovery for the planet, to restore the wonder and diversity of wildlife everywhere. Become a ZSL supporter and join the fight for wildlife.

    You can also visit our partula snails lab to see our cutting edge science-led conservation in action at London Zoo's Tiny Giants.


    Partula snail species

    People involved 

    We’re collaborating with Zoo’s internationally, French Polynesian Government agencies, universities and museums are involved with this international conservation initiative. We coordinate the International and European Programme for these species while the St Louis Zoo Coordinates the American Programme. 

    Partners & Sponsors 


    Our main French Polynesian Government partner is La service direction de l’environnement de la polynesie francaise.  Our zoo community partners are AZA member associations and EAZA member associations, under the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The programme is also associated with IUCN’s Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, Mollusc Specialist Group and Reintroduction Specialist Group. 


    Construction of the Tahitian reserve was funded by a Conservation International’s Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and its maintenance was supported with a grant by the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund. Long term field conservation support is provided by a collaboration of the French Polynesian Government and all zoo’s participating in the breeding programme.  

    Restoring ecosystems

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      Bringing hihi back from the brink of extinction

      Hihi conservation

      How this tiny bird is helping reframe wildlife conservation translocation programmes globally.

    • Birds flying mangrove forest island
      Restoring ecosystems


      Our projects in the Philippines have restored and protected over 900 hectares of abandoned fishpond mangroves - around the size of 1,260 football pitches.

    • Olive white-eye bird
      Saving the rarest bird in Mauritius

      Olive white-eye conservation

      With less than 150 pairs now remaining, our work is saving a species on the brink of extinction.

    • Spurdog shark in the Thames

      The Greater Thames Shark Project

      Working together with anglers to better understand the importance of the Thames estuary to these animals and to ensure their long-term survival in the wild.  

    • Mauritius kestrel in tree
      One of the most successful bird recoveries in the world

      Mauritius kestrel conservation

      The Mauritius Kestrel once looked destined for extinction, with just 4 remaining individuals. But we are building an exciting route to recovery.

    • ZSL anti-poaching patrol in Dja reserve Cameroon
      Protecting a UNESCO World Heritage Site

      Dja conservation complex

      Empowering local people to protect their home and the wildlife they live alongside.

    • Restoring ecosystems
    Saving wildlife together

    Now, more than ever, life needs our support. Through cutting-edge research helping people and wildlife live better together. Stay up to date with our fight for wildlife.