News, announcements and updates from the EAZA Executive Office and the wider EAZA community. You can have new stories delivered directly to you by subscribing to the RSS feed for this blog. For information on upcoming events please visit the calendar.
Found in the Annamite Mountains in Laos and Vietnam, the saola is a two-horned beautiful bovine that resembles an African antelope and, given its rarity, has been called the Asian unicorn. Since its discovery, scientists have managed to take photos via camera trap of a wild saola (in 1999) and even briefly studied live specimens brought into villages in Laos before they died (in 1996 and again in 2010), however the constant fear of extinction loomed over efforts to save the species. But WWF has announced good news today: a camera trap has taken photos of a saola in an unnamed protected area in Vietnam, the first documentation of the animal in the country in 15 years.
"In Vietnam, the last sighting of a saola in the wild was in 1998," says Dang Dinh Nguyen, Deputy Head of Quang Nam Forest Protection Department and Director of Quang Nam's Saola Nature Reserve. "This is an historic moment in Vietnam's efforts to protect our extraordinary biodiversity, and provides powerful evidence of the effectiveness of conservation efforts in critical saola habitat."
In 2011, the Vietnamese government set up the Saola Nature Reserve even though scientists weren't certain how many individuals were left in the country, if any. Until September (when WWF took the camera trap photo) there had been no evidence of a living saola since the brief captive died in 2010.
In both Laos and Vietnam, the saola is most at risk from snares set out by local hunters for other species. Programs have been set up across both countries to combat the snare problem in saola-territory. Other threats include hunting with dogs and habitat loss, especially due to infrastructure projects like roads which open up impenetrable forests to new impacts. Scientists believe the species has at best only a few hundred animals left and maybe only a couple dozen. In fact, according to the IUCN Red List, "Saola numbers may be so low that no viable populations remain."
"Since 2011, forest guard patrols in [the area] have removed more than 30,000 snares from this critical saola habitat and destroyed more than 600 illegal hunters' camps. Confirmation of the presence of the saola in this area is a testament to the dedicated and tireless efforts of these forest guards," says Van Ngoc Thinh, WWF-Vietnam's Country Director.
Despite being known to science for over 20 years, researchers know next-to-nothing about the saola itself, including behavior, breeding, and even diet. Even with remote camera traps, monitoring the saola population has proven incredibly difficult if not impossible.
William Robichaud, who has spent over a decade working to save the species from extinction, told mongabay.com today that the newly released photo is "probably the most important photo of animal in the wild, at least in Asia, in a decade or more. The fact that it was taken in Vietnam, where both human population density and poaching intensity, are higher than in Laos, is very encouraging. We also know it to be in a protected area (although WWF is not saying which one, so as not tip off poachers), and one that has recently implemented a model of well-funded, well-managed 'forest guards,' recruited from local communities. This is evidence that such efforts can work. We now need to scale them up to other saola priority sites."
In 2011, Robichaud called the saola the most astounding zoological discovery of the 20th Century among vertebrates—so long as one included the okapi, which was discovered in 1900. Both the saola and the okapi are distinct enough to be the only members of their genus.
WWF's camera trap images not only confirms its survival in Vietnam but also adds new impetus for conservation programs there, which could benefit many other species, including the large-antlered muntjac (Muntiacus vuquangensis) and the Truong Son muntjac (Muntiacus truongsonensis), both discovered after the saola in the 1990s. The large-antlered is the world's biggest muntjac (though still smaller than the saola) and is listed as Endangered, while the Truong Son muntjac is considered Data Deficient.
"When our team first looked at the photos [of the saola] we couldn't believe our eyes. Saola are the holy grail for Southeast Asian conservationists so there was a lot of excitement," says Van Ngoc Thinh. "This is a breath-taking discovery and renews hope for the recovery of the species."
Read the full story on the WWF website
Saola conservation project of the EAZA IUCN SSC Southeast Asia campaign
Website of the Saola working group
On Tuesday November 12 at 2.00 PM Central Time Churchill, Manitoba (in West-Europe: 9:00 PM (UTC+01:00) Polar Bears International has scheduled a webcast titled 'From North to South: Exploring Our Polar Regions - From polar bears and arctic sea ice to the deep sea floor of Antarctica'. Join expert scientists and learn about the pole to pole impacts of our warming world and what you can do to take action.
Four panellists debate and are prepared to take questions!
• Richard Aronson (studied Antarctica, coral reefs and effects of climate change):
• Thea Bechshoft (studies the arctic, polar bears & pollutants)
• Jennifer Kay (studies the global impact of climate change through atmosphere & clouds):
• Moderator - Michael Furdyk (Director of TakingITGlobal -- Global Education Organization)
Click here to watch the webcast at the appropriate time
You can pre-register for the web-cast here. EAZA members are invited to ask questions to the panel experts. Send your questions to email@example.com or put questions up in the chat window during the webcast
EAZA will be present at the 2013 Arctic Futures Symposium taking place in Brussels on 16 and 17 October. EAZA's attendance is a direct result of the new Pole to Pole Campaign, which was launched only a few weeks ago, and will help the organization fulfill its campaign objectives. The Arctic Futures Symposium was established in 2010 to raise public awareness of important developments in the Arctic region and has become an essential venue for promoting ongoing dialogue between Arctic stakeholders, and the empowerment of inhabitants of the Circumpolar North.
Arctic Futures also provides members of the European Institutions and the wider international community in Brussels with the opportunity to engage with Arctic stakeholders on issues such as marine transport and infrastructure, search and rescue capabilities, concerns of Arctic indigenous communities, scientific research and monitoring, ecosystem stewardship, and the sustainable development of the Arctic's natural resources and economic potential.
Held over two days the comprehensive agenda of this year's Arctic Futures Symposium will focus on responsible Arctic resource development, safe Arctic shipping, sustainable circumpolar communities, and research to inform policymaking. These themes reflect Canada's 'Development for the People of the North' priorities during its chairmanship of the Arctic Council from 2013 to 2015.The first day the symposium will welcome decision-makers from Arctic nations and the EU to discuss current and future issues facing the Arctic.
In the afternoon, natural and social science experts along with representatives from indigenous Arctic communities will discuss natural and social science research that aims to help decision-makers be well-informed in their policymaking. On the second day the symposium will look at sustainable development of the Arctic's natural resources, with a keynote speech by Jens Johan Hjort, Mayor of Tromsø, Norway. The remainder of the day will look at future shipping scenarios in the Arctic. The shipping scenarios workshop will be organized in conjunction with the Arctic NGO Forum, an initiative funded by the European Commission Directorate General for the Environment.
TRAFFIC (the wildlife trade monitoring network) highlighted the risk of wild-caught echidnas in trade being fraudulently claimed to be captive-bred TRAFFIC shared first-hand knowledge on the threats posed by illegal and or unsustainable trade in wild species to more than 750 participants from 57 countries who met last week in Edinburgh at the annual conference of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) hosted by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.
Short-beaked echidna (© KeresH / Wikimedia Creative Commons)
TRAFFIC spoke about the trade in serows (goat antelopes) across South-East Asia, with a focus on Myanmar, and the need for better enforcement and efforts needed to reduce the demand for these threatened species for wild meat and medicine. Every market surveyed by TRAFFIC in Myanmar in 2006 had serow for sale, with the bulk of the parts observed being horns and heads. Many of these markets are situated on the Myanmar-Thailand border with dealers claiming that buyers came from Thailand, indicating a blatant disregard for both national legislation and CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
TRAFFIC also provided its specialist knowledge on the trade in bear bile across East and South-East Asia and the impact it is having on wild bear populations, with participants brought fully up-to-date with the latest developments in Malaysia following the publication of TRAFFIC's investigation into the Asian bear bile trade in 2011. Once again, the need for long-term efforts to reduce demand for bear bile and increase enforcement action were highlighted as well as a call to support an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Resolution calling for the closure of all bear farms in South-East Asia.
A case study on the trade in echidnas (spiny anteaters) was used by TRAFFIC to highlight the issue of wild-caught animals being fraudulently declared as captive-bred to allow their illegal export. TRAFFIC underscored the need for due diligence on the part of zoos in acquiring specimens declared as being captive bred and commended the actions taken by zoo associations in Australia, North America and Europe as well as by World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) to address this issue after the echidna trade was first highlighted in the TRAFFIC Bulletin earlier this year.
The need for long-term strategic market monitoring of the bird trade in Indonesia was also highlighted by TRAFFIC during the meeting. Over-harvesting is pushing several species, including the Black-winged Starling Sturnus melanopterus and Sumatran Laughingthrush Garrulax bicolour towards the brink of extirpation or extinction. Such monitoring would help guide further research and conservation efforts, including longer-term demand-reduction strategies.
"The combination of large visitor numbers, immense commitment from EAZA institutions to addressing wildlife conservation issues, and TRAFFIC's expertise in understanding international wildlife trade, creates many exciting opportunities for future collaboration between EAZA and TRAFFIC to achieve significant conservation impacts," said Dr Chris R. Shepherd, Regional Director for TRAFFIC in South-East Asia.
Source: TRAFFIC website
In the wake of the widely reported release of the new United Nations IPCC report on climate change, the leading zoos and aquariums in Europe and North America have united to launch a campaign to influence the energy consumption of their nearly 300 million visitors. The campaign, called Pole to Pole, was unveiled to the 700 delegates of the annual conference of EAZA, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, and highlights the effectiveness of collective action in reducing energy use and protecting biodiversity in the Polar Regions and beyond. An initiative of EAZA and its North American counterpart AZA, the campaign underlines the role of zoos and aquaria in holistic conservation that reinforces efforts on the ground with captive breeding programmes.
From left to right: Dr. Ian Stirling (University of Alberta), José Kok (Campaign Chair), Debborah Luke (AZA Vice President) and Robert Buchanan (Arctic Action Teams)
Robert Buchanan, founder of Arctic Action Teams, a leading activism group and a key partner in the campaign, underlined the findings of the IPCC report and demonstrated the potential effects of collective action. "We can be the heroes of future generations," he said in an impassioned speech to the delegates. "We have inherited an amazing world and it's up to us to keep it pristine for the generations to come. Our actions now will determine the future of the planet, and everything that lives in it."
"The poles are an indicator of the health of the planet," explains Dr. Ian Stirling, one of the world's leading experts on polar wildlife. "When we see the huge reductions in the ice covering the poles, and the effect that that has on species that live there, we can get an insight into the danger facing the whole world."
Arctic Action Teams' Robert Buchanan appeals to delegates to be "heroes for future generations"
The campaign calls on zoo and aquarium visitors and the wider public to take small individual steps that can make a huge collective difference to endangered species and ecosystems both at the poles and everywhere in between. Pole to Pole research estimates that if all of the 140 million visitors to EAZA zoos with a mobile phone were to disconnect their phone charger after charging, this would save up to 29 million KW of energy equalling 422.149 oil barrels or 119.032 football fields of forest.
The campaign will run for 2 years and will encompass efforts on social media and on site at EAZA and AZA institutions to raise awareness of the issues and how small actions by everyone can help to save species including the polar bear and the king penguin. You can find out more, and take the pledge to reduce your energy use in specific ways by visiting the official campaign website www.poletopolecampaign.org. Now that there is no real doubt about climate change caused by humans, the sooner we can get started on reducing emissions, the better.
Organizations within the international conservation community are joining forces to minimize impending extinctions in Southeast Asia, where habitat loss, trade and hunting have contributed to a dramatic decline in wildlife. The coalition is aptly named ASAP, or the Asian Species Action Partnership, which has also received financial support from the EAZA IUCN SSC Southeast Asia Campaign.
"ASAP began as a response to alarming results revealed in a 2008 comprehensive assessment for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species," says the network coordination officer of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) Rachel Roberts. The assessment revealed a heavy concentration of threatened mammals in Southeast Asia with similar trends observed for other animals. In response, interested conservation organizations came together in a joint call for action. The emerging program is coordinated by the IUCN SSC on behalf of its member organizations. ASAP will not implement activities directly, but will work to support conservation agencies with programs focused on Southeast Asia's freshwater and land vertebrates categorized as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
ASAP will propel action by matching the conservation needs of these species with improved access to funding and better species-specific information, ultimately gaining high-level political leverage to influence policy and shape interventions. Many of the species listed are not presently the subject of direct conservation action despite their high risk of extinction. However, there are a few high-profile species with organizations currently concentrating on them, including the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis), Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis), the Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas), and several birds.
"Nearly all 154 ASAP species need immediate action now on a much increased scale. While ASAP would like to tackle all 154 species on the list, the program may need to prioritize to prevent resources being spread too thinly, resulting in little or no positive impact on a species conservation status" Roberts explains.
The high level of threats across so many species is of particular concern because Southeast Asia is considered an important region for wildlife due to an abundance of biodiversity hotspots. If current trends continue, many Southeast Asian species will become extinct during the next human generation. Hopefully ASAP will help decrease extinctions over the next 10 to 40 years. A strengthened specialist group network or an increased commitment to conservation by donors or governments in the region for example are much-needed tools to achieve the goal of fewer extinctions.
The Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) is an international conservation network dedicated to saving threatened species. CBSG provides the link between zoos and aquariums and the broader conservation world through its position as an exceptionally active part of the IUCN's Species Survival Commission. More than 40 EAZA member institutions financially support the work of the CBSG.
In March staff from CBSG and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland facilitated the first Brown Howler Monkey Conservation Workshop Population Viability Assessment (PVA) in Iguazú, Misiones, Argentina, to establish conservation priorities for this species and its habitat. In Argentina, the brown howler monkey (Alouatta guariba ssp. clamitans) has been re-classified from "endangered" to "critically endangered" and included in the national list of the most threatened mammal species. This situation calls for urgent conservation action. During the workshop eleven specialists, including primatologists, epidemiologists, and mosquito ecologists, examined the current knowledge and situation of brown howlers in Argentina and nearby areas of Brazil. Yellow fever, which decimated the howler population throughout its southern distribution during an outbreak in 2008-2009, was confirmed as the most urgent threat. When the workshop was finished, participants gathered to present results of the workshop to governmental authorities involved in conservation in Misiones province and elsewhere in Argentina, as well as other NGOs, local stakeholders, the local media, and others interested in conservation.
In mid-May CBSG participated in a joint inaugural meeting of the newly established WAZA Amur Tiger Global Species Management Plan (GSMP) and Amur Leopard GSMP, hosted by the Moscow Zoo. Participants from four regional zoo associations (EAZA, EARAZA (Eurasia), JAZA (Japan), and AZA (United States)) along with field researchers and veterinarians discussed options for beneficial inter-regional transfers and collaborative efforts in ex situ management, research, and support of in situ conservation activities for the Amur Tiger and Amur Leopard.
From 10-13 October you can join the 2013 CBSG Annual Meeting, hosted by Disney and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, in Orlando, Florida. The CBSG Annual Meeting is a working meeting; open to anyone interested in attending, in which issues of conservation concern are addressed in an interactive, participatory forum. Our meeting is designed to cover a broad range of relevant conservation topics through working groups, presentations, and plenary sessions.
To learn more about CBSG, their work and partnerships please visit www.cbsg.org.
Marine Nutrition, the largest supplier of animal feeds to UK public aquariums and one of EAZA's much appreciated corporate members, has received Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification to supply certified sustainable seafood to all of its clients around Europe. Specializing in supplying frozen seafood to European Zoos and Aquariums, the UK firm are delighted to have received MSC certification.
Although based in Grimsby, a famous old fishing town on the North East coast of England, a significant amount of new sales growth – almost 60% – is coming from Europe. Paul Bird commented that European curators are very interested in the origin of their seafood products and given a chance will actively seek out products from sustainable sources.
MSC's UK Foodservice Manager, Ruth Westcott, welcomed the announcement: "It is great news that Marine Nutrition has achieved certification for their herring. This opens the doors for many top zoos and aquaria to give their animals sustainable feed, something we would love to see more of. It really is great work by all involved."
With a philosophy to source only products from sustainable and responsible fisheries, getting MSC certification was an obvious step for Marine Nutrition. Paul Bird, Director, explained: "It was natural for us to go down the MSC route, as the main driving force of our business is that we source products from well-managed, sustainable fisheries."
We are aiming to sell 50,000kg of MSC certified herring per year and our target is for half of our sales by volume to be from MSC certified products by the end of 2016.
"Despite operating for only two and a half years, the company has already built a large client base, supplying several notable zoos and aquariums in Europe, including Copenhagen Zoo, the Ozeanum in Stralsund Germany, The Deep in the UK, Bristol Zoo and Chester Zoo in the UK, and is looking forward to continued growth in these sectors.
For more information on the work of the MSC, please visit http://www.msc.org
To date, SANCCOB has admitted 31 penguins and 98 Cape gannets for rehabilitation to their facility in Cape St. Francis in the Eastern Cape following the Kiani Satu oil spill. The Kiani Satu, a stricken bulk carrier, ran aground two weeks between Buffels Bay and Sedgefield in the Goukamma Marine Protected Area.
A turn of events earlier this month resulted in the rescue of 97 oiled Cape gannets from Bird Island, west of Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape. SANParks Rangers stationed on the island discovered oiled birds on the island two days ago and capture and rescue teams from SANParks and SANCCOB were dispatched yesterday.
Key personnel from the Marine Rangers Section from SANParks and SANCCOB were flown to the island by a helicopter at 08h00 on Thursday morning. The team proceeded to carefully move through the colony of Cape gannets to identify and capture oiled individuals. The Cape gannet colony on Bird Island is estimated to consist of 110 000 breeding pairs and is the largest Cape gannet rookery in South Africa. The birds are currently preparing for their annual breeding season; as such it is normal for them to fly great distances to optimal foraging areas. At this point, it is assumed that these gannets foraged in the oil polluted region and flew back to the island.
The birds were packed in SANCCOB's specially designed transport boxes to ensure that they are not injured during transportation. The birds were flown from the island to Paardevlei, Woody Cape section of Addo Elephant National Park, where they received electrolyte fluids before they were transported by road to SANCCOB's rehabilitation facility in Cape St. Francis.
A team of 22 SANCCOB staff, SANParks Rangers, Tenikwa staff and local volunteers admitted the birds until late at night before they were sectioned into groups according to their strength and the percentage of oiling. Around 9pm the birds finally quietly settled down for the night under the warm infrared lights.
The additional 17 African penguins were admitted from the Garden Route over the past two days. The majority of the birds are juveniles and tend to travel far distances from their natal colonies to forage. Most of these penguins are heavily oiled and fairly weak and require intensive care before they will be ready for washing.
Wednesday 24 July 2013 will be remembered as an historical day, not just for EAZA, but also, and primarily for the global zoo community. On this day the Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research (JZAR) published its first issue online. A significant advance for EAZA, the launch of this journal in itself is not the most noteworthy aspect. JZAR is the first and - so far - the only scientific journal that focuses on zoo-based research AND is fully Open Access with NO author contributions. The journal is freely available to anyone interested in zoos and zoo research in particular, and anyone can contribute research papers free of charge. Of course "aught for naught, and a penny change". Most of the work is done by research staff of EAZA member zoos, and everything that has to be paid for is covered by EAZA.
Now what was JZAR again? JZAR provides a forum for rapid publication of conservation-related research, with a focus on novel, peer-reviewed research papers, review papers, technical reports and evidence-based case studies. Research categories covered by JZAR include studies in pure and applied biological sciences (e.g. behaviour, genetics, medicine, nutrition, population management and reproduction), in-situ conservation research (e.g. socio-economic and field surveys) and research aimed at developing other roles of zoos and aquariums (e.g. visitor learning and marketing surveys). A section of the Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research will be devoted to submissions of original, previously unpublished, case studies documenting the effects of husbandry interventions. Evidence-based husbandry for living collections aims to apply the best available evidence gained from the scientific method to decision making. Sharing knowledge about the effects of management and/or husbandry interventions will improve global management of living collections. The vision is that the assessment and dissemination of the effectiveness of husbandry actions will become a routine part of zoological management practice.
The first issue of JZAR was produced by members of the EAZA Research Committee and the BIAZA Research Committee who made up the interim editorial board. As of the second issue JZAR will be published under the expert guidance of our new Managing Editor, Eluned Price from Jersey Zoo. The majority of the interim editorial board will stay on as section editors and the Editorial Board will be expanded during the second half of 2013.
JZAR will be published quarterly. If you are interested in learning about the wonderful world of zoo science or you have the urge to submit a research article, please visit the journal website www.jzar.org