Breeding programmes, such as the European Endangered Species Programmes (EEP), the European Studbooks (ESB) and the Regional Collection Plans (RCP), aim at conserving healthy populations of animals in captivity while safeguarding the genetic health of the animals under our care. These programmes act to provide a future for some of the world’s most vulnerable species, especially where education and in situ conservation work are able to stabilize natural habitats and change destructive behaviours. Indeed EAZA, through its campaigns and the efforts of its members, actively aids in the protection of natural habitats and promotes education to help local populations value their wild neighbours.
EAZA member institutions have established Taxon Advisory Groups for all the different species of animals that are kept in zoos and aquariums. One of the main tasks of the TAGs is to develop Regional Collection Plans that describe which species are recommended to be kept, why, and how these species should be managed. The Regional Collection Plans also identify which species need to be managed in European Endangered Species Programmes and European Studbooks.
The animals are the absolute key factor in each zoo or aquarium. Modern and well-managed zoos and aquariums select the species which they keep very carefully and for specific reasons. EAZA member institutions have established Taxon Advisory Groups for all the different species of animals that are kept in zoos and aquariums. One of the main tasks of the TAGs is to develop Regional Collection Plans that describe which species are recommended to be kept, why, and how these species should be managed. The Regional Collection Plans also identify which species need to be managed in European Endangered Species Programmes and European Studbooks.
Regional collection plans
To meet their aims zoos and aquariums rely on the animal populations that they keep. Since they wish to refrain from bringing in animals from the wild, it is important that they maintain healthy and self-sustaining populations of animals. This means that zoos and aquariums need to have populations of many species that are large enough to prevent inbreeding, for instance.
On the other hand, resources are always at a premium. Space for keeping species and people who are able to professionally manage populations are limited. Therefore, EAZA member institutions make very careful choices about which species to keep and which ones not to keep.
For all the animal groups that are kept in EAZA member institutions, so-called Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGs) have been established. Each TAG focuses on a specific group of animals, such as penguins, bears, hornbills, cats, antelope, etc. TAG members are professional zoo and aquarium people who work in EAZA member institutions and have specialist knowledge and a keen interest in the group of species covered by the specific TAG. People who work at universities or for international conservation organisations act as TAG advisors on issues such as nutrition, health and conservation.
EEPs and ESBs
EAZA presently has two different levels of breeding programme, the European Endangered species Programme (EEP) and the European Studbook (ESB).
The EEP is the most intensive type of population management for a species kept in EAZA zoos. Each EEP has a coordinator (someone with a special interest in and knowledge of the species concerned, who is working in an EAZA zoo or aquarium). He or she is assisted by a Species Committee. The coordinator has many tasks to fulfill, such as collecting information on the status of all the animals of the species for which he or she is responsible kept in EAZA zoos and aquariums, producing a studbook, carrying out demographic and genetic analyses, and producing a plan for the future management of the species. Together with the Species Committee, recommendations are made each year on which animals should breed or not breed, which individual animals should go from one zoo to another, and so on. This is much work, and EAZA is fortunate that so many people in so many EAZA zoos have taken on such a complicated task.
The ESB (European Studbook) is less intensive than the EEP programme. The studbook keeper who is responsible for a certain ESB collects all the data on births, deaths, transfers, etc., from all the EAZA zoos and aquariums that keep the species in question. These data are entered in special computer software programmes, which allow the studbook keeper to carry out analyses of the population of that species. EAZA zoos may ask the studbook keepers for recommendations on breeding or transfers. By collecting and analysing all the relevant information on the species, the studbook keeper can judge if it is doing well in EAZA zoos and aquariums, or if maybe a more rigid management is needed to maintain a healthy population over the long term. In that case, the studbook keeper may propose that the species be managed as an EEP programme.
EAZA Population Management Manual
EAZA has put together all relevant policies, guidelines, statements and rules regarding breeding programme management in one concise document: the EAZA Population Management Manual. This document is a strong tool for EAZA’s management of species and provides the breeding programme managers with all relevant background information as well as templates and forms to ensure high quality of breeding programme management. The EAZA Population Management Manual can be found on the Publications page under Governing documents.
EAZA Best Practice Guidelines are produced by the various TAGs to merge expert husbandry knowledge and make it widely available within and outside the borders of the EAZA community. The guidelines displayed below show best practice standards, which EAZA zoos aim at achieving. They have been compiled using a template and made user-friendly to facilitate reading and the finding of necessary information.
The guidelines are of particular interest when building new enclosures, when deciding upon the nutrition of animals or when seeking information on the biology of the species. EAZA members strive to house animals adequately to their needs and to give advice where needed to help further animal welfare. Please also view the EAZA Standards for the Accommodation and Care of Animals in Zoos and Aquaria.
EAZA Best Practice Guidelines are available for: