Given current extinction trends, the number of species requiring conservation breeding programs (CBPs) is likely to increase dramatically. To inform CBP policies for threatened terrestrial vertebrates, we evaluated the number and representation of threatened vertebrate species on the IUCN Red List held in the ISIS zoo network and estimated the complexity of their management as metapopulations. Our results show that 695 of the 3,955 (23%) terrestrial vertebrate species in ISIS zoos are threatened. Only two of the 59 taxonomic orders show a higher proportion of threatened species in ISIS zoos than would be expected if species were selected at random. In addition, for most taxa, the management of a zoo metapopulation of more than 250 individuals will require the coordination of a cluster of 11 to 24 ISIS zoos within a radius of 2,000 km. Thus, in the zoo network, the representation of species that may require CBPs is currently low and the spatial distribution of these zoo populations makes management difficult. Although the zoo community may have the will and the logistical potential to contribute to conservation actions, including CBPs, to do so will require greater collaboration between zoos and other institutions, alongside the development of international agreements that facilitate cross-border movement of zoo animals. To maximize the effectiveness of integrated conservation actions that include CBPs, it is fundamental that the non-zoo conservation community acknowledges and integrates the expertise and facilities of zoos where it can be helpful.
Conde, D. A., Colchero, F., Pearce-Kelly, P., Gusset, M., Byers, O., Flesness, N., Browne, R. K., & Jones, O. (2013). Zoos through the lens of the IUCN Red List: a global metapopulation approach to support conservation breeding programs. PLOS ONE, 8(12), [e80311]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0080311