Conservationists’ anger at list of animals “reliant for survival on zoos”

Conservationists who have dedicated their lives to ensure a safe future for endangered species of primates and their habitat have today hit out at a report published by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA). The report entitled “Top Ten Mammal Species Reliant on Zoos” names ten animals which, BIAZA claims, “may be lost to extinction forever” if it were not for the work of their member zoos.

San Martin Titi Monkey (c) N.Allgas-NPC

The critically endangered San Martin Titi Monkey (c) N.Allgas-NPC

Conservationists from Neotropical Primate Conservation (NPC), an NGO which operates in the Peruvian Amazon, were surprised to see one of the species which BIAZA claims rely on zoos for survival was the critically endangered San Martin Titi Monkey (Callicebus oenanthe). The report states that “BIAZA zoos are vital partners in the only conservation initiative working to protect this species”.

Dr Noga Shanee PhD, Project Director for NPC, said:

“The San Martin titi monkey is protected in seven different conservation areas under different schemes. Most of these schemes have been initiated and run by local communities. The Regional Government of San Martin and the local grassroots movement, the Ronda Campesina, are both running successful projects to control hunting and deforestation”.

She said that the report by the zoo industry body was “disingenuous” and had the potential to damage in situ conservation efforts. She continued:

“Most projects out here operate on extremely little funding and rely almost entirely on the voluntary efforts of dedicated local people, with very little help from outside sources. Zoos may offer partial funding some of these projects, but claiming that this species’ very survival is reliant on zoos undermines local conservation efforts”.

The report lists nine other species of mammal in addition to the small Peruvian primate but critics say that it is little more than a PR stunt.

Liz Tyson, the Director of the Captive Animals’ Protection Society, said:

“Zoos have been trying to move away from the perception that they hold animals captive for entertainment for some years by attempting to establish their work as based in conservation. But the funding that is provided by zoos to true in situ conservation projects is a pittance in comparison to the industry’s income. A report published in 2010 showed that two individual NGOs give more financial support independently of one another than all of the 300 plus members of the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA) combined. We would encourage anyone that is genuinely concerned about the survival of species and their habitat to make contact with groups working in the field and support them directly”.

Biologist, Ian Redmond OBE, who is well-known for his work in gorilla conservation, voiced his views on claims that gorillas were protected from extinction by zoos:

“Whilst it is true that some zoos employ very dedicated field conservationists, the proportion of the worldwide zoo industry’s multi-billion dollar budget that goes to in-situ conservation is tiny.   To the wardens and rangers who put their lives on the line to protect gorillas in Africa, this must seem like the crumbs from a rich man’s table.   If they compare their national park’s operating budget, to protect numerous gorilla families in a biodiverse forest, with the money spent on new gorilla exhibit to house one or two groups, they would surely question whether we are getting our priorities right in conservation spending and challenge the claim that western lowland gorilla conservation depends on zoos”.

Chris Draper, Programmes Manager from the Born Free Foundation, added:

“It is high time that zoos were judged on their merits, rather than on their publicity and spin. I strongly suspect that when all the facts are in, it will become clear that zoos’ role in conservation is limited at best. This should point us to the inevitable conclusion that the battle against extinction will not be won in zoos.”

Please consider supporting CAPS ongoing campaigns to end the exploitation of captive animals by becoming a member today! Click HERE for more details.

Web Design, Web Development, Graphic Design by Papertank