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YHA Tropical Butterfly House Help Safeguard Species: Top 10 Bird Species Benefitting from Zoos
    26/08/2015 09:10

Tropical Butterfly House Help Safeguard Species: Top 10 Bird Species Benefitting from Zoos

Tropical Butterfly House Help Safeguard Species:  Top 10 Bird Species Benefitting from Zoos

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), which promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums, has compiled a list of the top ten birds benefitting from the work of zoos and aquariums in the UK and Ireland.

The Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife & Falconry Centre plays a significant role in helping to protect one of the birds on the list, the northern bald ibis. The northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita) has a very distinctive appearance, with a bare red face, neck and throat, a wispy ruff on the bird's hind neck, and black plumage with bronze-green and violet iridescence.

The endangered bird was once widespread across the Middle East, northern Africa, southern and central Europe, with a fossil record dating back at least 1.8 million years. It disappeared from Europe over 300 years ago, and is now considered critically endangered. There are believed to be about 500 wild birds remaining in southern Morocco, and fewer than 10 in Syria, where it was rediscovered in 2002. To combat this ebb in numbers, recent reintroduction programs have been instituted internationally, with a semi-wild breeding colony in Turkey, as well as sites in Austria, Spain, and northern Morocco. The reasons for the species' long-term decline are unclear, but hunting, loss of foraging habitat, and pesticide poisoning have been implicated in the rapid loss of colonies in recent decades.

Andrew Reeve is the Centre Manager and Curator at the popular wildlife attraction “The BIAZA report highlights the importance of the conservation work taking place in zoo’s and wildlife centres such as ours. We are very fortunate to have a breeding pair of northern bald ibis as well as their juvenile at the centre, and we are hoping that the birds will continue to breed.”

Dr Kirsten Pullen, CEO of BIAZA, said: “This year’s Top Ten report is the fourth in a series which highlights the contribution of good zoos and aquariums to the conservation of the natural world. This time, the focus is on birds.

“Zoos and aquariums are an active part of the global conservation community. They can marry up active field conservation with the ‘Ark Concept’ of captive breeding programmes.

“The birds in our latest Top Ten report are all species that are reliant on captive breeding to complement field initiatives.”

Strict criteria were used to select the top ten. All the birds proposed had to be associated with current field initiatives by zoos and/or essential conservation breeding in zoos.

Particular importance was placed on initiatives which included a management role in the species’ conservation, rather than just providing funds. Priority was also given to species listed as threatened on the international IUCN Red List of threatened species.

The top ten list demonstrates the importance of zoos and aquariums not only for conservation breeding of safety-net populations, but also for their contribution to funding and management of conservation projects in the field, including research, education and support for local communities, as well as protection of crucial wildlife habitats.

BIAZA’s top ten bird species benefitting from zoos and aquariums are:

African penguin: Numbers are plummeting in the wild due to oil spills, overfishing, shifts in food availability and human disturbance.

Bali starling: These are seen as very desirable cage birds, and illegal trapping has brought them to virtual extinction in the wild.

Blue-crowned laughing thrush: The zoo population of this Chinese bird equates to 50% of the total global population.

Ecuadorian Amazon parrot: With fewer than 600 individuals left, its survival relies on the protection of remaining wild populations and their habitats.

Edwards’s pheasant: There is a small captive population, but it has never been seen or studied by a scientist in the wild.

Madagascar pochard: Just 20-25 Madagascar pochard now survive in the wild.

Northern bald ibis: Pesticide poisoning has had a devastating effect on their numbers. The BIAZA community is working together to ensure a genetically diverse bloodline within the captive population.

Oriental white-backed Vulture: Species restoration has been made possible by zoo-based expertise and funding.

Socorro dove: A classic island species, numbers have been devastated by man-introduced pests like rats, cats and goats. Captive breeding has saved it from total extinction.

Visayan tarictic hornbill: Two BIAZA zoos are actively supporting in-situ work to save and restore the wild habitat of this species. (This list is in alphabetical order)

To find more information about all of these species, read the full report here:

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