Coordinator: Kerstin Ternes
Institution: Zoo Duisburg
Vice coordinator: Volker Grün
Institution: Wilhelma, Zoologisch-botanischer Garten Stuttgart
|• Conservation Education (outside of range)/advocacy
Keeping marsupial species ex situ in attractive exhibits, where the animals are able to display their natural behaviour, provides an opportunity to engage the public in conservation education messages about their habitat, their unique and “primitive” reproductive system (i.e. the pouch, different placentas, and the offspring being born in a very early embryonal state), the threats that marsupials are facing in situ (e.g. hunting by humans and introduced predators, road mortality, trade, diseases, habitat loss, degradation, fragmentation and conversion, climate change, drought and bushfires), and what the public can do to help reverse these threats. For koalas in particular, as a highly popular but vulnerable species, that is heavily impacted by habitat destruction and the recent bushfires, educating the zoo visitors on climate change (and other threats) and the species biology, may positively impact on its conservation. Given their high profile, Koalas under human care also act as effective conservation ambassadors for the species and its ecosystem.
The Koala Retro Virus (KoRV) represents an important issue occurring in the current ex situ (and in situ) koala population. The Monotreme and Marsupial TAG encourages all koala holders to participate in ongoing cooperative research on the role, effects and impacts of KoRV on the koalas. This will benefit the establishment of a healthy captive koala population and will provide the basis for the best possible management of the ex situ koala population in the future.
The Monotreme and Marsupial TAG wants to work towards building an effective and sustainable ex situ insurance population in EAZA, as the Koala is listed as Vulnerable, according to the IUCN Red List. In situ, the Koala is heavily impacted by habitat destruction, climate change (and derived extreme events like drought and bushfires), and the Koala Retro Virus (KoRV), and therefore could benefit from having an insurance population in the future. Currently, the EAZA population is still small, fragile, and impacted by KoRV. The ongoing research (see research role) will hopefully lead to a clear strategy for decision making on how KoRV is managed in EAZA. The TAG continues to study the long-term management of KoRV. Nevertheless, the success (or even continuity) of this insurance role may depend on the outcomes of the KoRV research. If successful, the EAZA population could also act as a backup for the Australian ex situ population (within ZAA).
When keeping a marsupial species, it is recommended by the Monotreme and Marsupial TAG to carry out fundraising activities for the in situ projects that are endorsed by the TAG, ideally in combination with sharing educational messages about the species with the public. For koalas, it is encouraged that koala holders financially support the San Diego Zoo Koala Program.
In December 2023, the Koala EEP had 73 animals in 20 institutions.