Zoos are always a hotly debated topic, regardless of your personal opinion, theres no doubt that facilities across the world are doing amazing work in keeping certain endangered species safe and away from extinction.
Wildlife as a whole is in a constant fight for survival. The WWF found that there’s been a 58 per cent decline in populations of vertebrates between 1970 and 2012. Despite these shocking statistics, some endangered species are making a comeback thanks to the conservation work of zoos worldwide.
Meet 10 amazing species that might not have been around today if it wasn’t for zoo conservation efforts:
The Arabian Oryx was hunted all the way to extinction in the wild. However, the species was brought back from the brink with just a handful of animals in captivity thanks to the conservation efforts of Phoenix Zoo and others.
Thanks to this incredible initiative, there are now over 1,000 Arabian Oryx thriving in the wild and thousands more looked after by zoos across the world.
Przewalski’s Horse is the only true wild horse species left in the world. They once graced the grasslands of Central Asia, but was driven to complete extinction in the wild.
However Przewalski’s Horse has made an incredible comeback. Zoos have been working together to create a stable population across the world and now the Przewalski’s Horse is being slowly reintroduced to its natural habitat.
Today there are hundreds of these magnificent birds flying in the Californian skies thanks to the dedicated conservation efforts of San Diego Wild Animal Park along with the Los Angeles Zoo.
Over the past few years, Australian zoos like Taronga Zoo in Sydney have been breeding a population of Corroboree Frogs which are now being returned to the wild in specially designed disease-free habitats. Australia has seen the extinction of six different frog species in recent decades. Thanks to these zoos, the Corroboree Frog will not be one of them.
The Eastern Bongo is a large species of antelope that lives in dense, remote regions of Kenya. They are an elusive creature, which meant that they were one of the last large mammal species to be discovered.
The Bongo has become even harder to find as poaching and habitat loss have reduced the wild population to frighteningly low numbers. There are now perhaps more Eastern Bongos in captivity than in the wild. Across the world, zoos are working together on a Bongo breeding program to maintain a viable population that will act as a safety net for the survival of this species.
The brightly coloured Regent Honeyeater from Australia relies on the nectar of a particular species of eucalyptus tree for food. Deforestation has meant the loss of this important food source and has resulted in an estimation of fewer than 1,500 Regent Honeyeaters in Australia today.
Thanks to dedicated breeding programs in Australian zoos and tree-planting initiatives, the future of the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater is looking more secure.
Panamanian Golden Frog
The eye-catching Panamanian Golden Frog is thought to have been extinct in the wild since 2007. The poisonous amphibian was devastated by a fungal disease outbreak.
Prior to extinction, a population was taken into captivity for safekeeping and a number of zoos have collaborated on a conservation project to keep the species away from extinction.
Bellinger River Turtle
The Bellinger River Snapping Turtle is a unique looking species found along the Bellinger River in Australia. In 2015, disease swept through the area and wiped out around 90 per cent of the species.
An emergency response team from Taronga Zoo rescued 16 healthy turtles and initiated a breeding program. In 2017, the first hatchlings arrived.
Golden Lion Tamarin
In its native Brazil, the striking Golden Lion Tamarin has been facing serious trouble due to loss of habitat caused by logging and mining.
Since the early 1980’s, there’s been concerted effort from conservation organisations and zoos worldwide to protect the Golden Lion Tamarin. Today, about a third of wild Golden Lion Tamarins came from those raised in human care.
At present there are only a few dozen Amur Leopard left alive in the wild. Like most endangered species, they have been pushed close to extinction by loss of habitat, poaching and human development.
Breeding programs started in the 1960s means 200 Amur Leopards now exist in zoos across the globe, ensuring a future for the species. Reintroduction into the wild is difficult but conservation organisations and governments are working together to bring the leopard back to its North-East Asian habitat.
Originally published at taronga.org.au on May 19, 2017.
Taronga Conservation Society Australia (Taronga) is a not-for-profit conservation organisation that leads in wildlife conservation, science and research; animal welfare and rehabilitation; environmental education; and tourism and guest experiences.
Taronga’s vision is to secure a shared future for wildlife and people.
Find out more at taronga.org.au.