Helping to protect endangered species around the world
To mark Endangered Species Day today we look at some of the key species that Bristol Zoological Society is working to protect, both in the wild and through its captive breeding programmes closer to home.
Endangered Species Day is an opportunity for people of all ages to learn about the importance of protecting Endangered species and everyday actions they can take to help protect them.
Many animal species are now totally reliant on zoos to survive, such as the Socorro dove which is extinct in the wild and now only 158 are recorded as existing in captivity. Others, such as the Lord Howe Island stick insect, are on the very brink of extinction in the wild. This is why the success of captive breeding programmes is so important. Bristol Zoological Society is a leader in zoo-based wildlife conservation and has been instrumental in working to protect many species under threat in the wild.
Here we look at a few such species:
1. Blue-eyed black lemurs
The blue-eyed black lemur from the Sahamalaza Peninsula of northwest Madagascar is considered the most charming of the lemur species, the males being jet-black and the females golden-orange, with both sexes having striking turquoise eyes.
We are home to a pair of blue-eyed black lemurs. The species is Critically Endangered in the wild due to hunting and habitat loss. It was listed as one of the world’s 25 most Endangered primates between 2008 and 2014, and numbers left in the wild are unknown.
Bristol Zoological Society is working to safeguard this species in a number of ways. As well as undertaking research both in Madagascar and in Bristol, the Society, along with like-minded organisations, has implemented development programmes to improve the livelihoods of rural poor Malagasy communities and contributes to maintaining a population of the species in human care. These actions have helped to secure the future of blue-eyed black lemurs in Madagascar, and, while still heavily conservation-dependent, the species was removed from the list of the world’s most endangered primates in 2014.
2. Lemur leaf frogs
The lemur leaf frog is a small, charismatic frog species, native to Central America.
The bright yellow-green frogs are Critically Endangered and their numbers in the wild have fallen by 80 per cent over the past 15 years due to a fungal disease, known as chytrid fungus, which has attacked amphibians across the world.
Lemur leaf frogs are now known to occur naturally only in a single site in Costa Rica, on the edge of the Veragua Rainforest Reserve in Limón province. This suggests that these tiny frogs have either undergone a significant range contraction or occur more sparsely than previously recorded. However, they have been introduced to new sites in the region, where they do seem to be thriving.
The chytrid fungus is widespread in Costa Rica and represents perhaps the greatest threat to amphibian persistence. Chytrid infection is shown to be an increased threat to tropical amphibians at higher elevations, where chytrid thrives in the cooler temperatures. We are trying to determine how much of a threat this fungus is for lemur leaf frogs and other species that share their forest habitat.
Bristol Zoological Society is working with a number of organisations on this project to determine the population size of these distinctive frogs and to discover more precisely where they are living.
The study has won praise from naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, who said: “I wholeheartedly support the campaign to save the lemur leaf frog. It is, after all, one of the world’s most unusual and rarest amphibians – and it is in real trouble.”
We are home to a breeding group of lemur leaf frogs, held in a sterile, climate-controlled ‘Amphipod’. We also manages the European captive breeding programme for the species.
3. Kordofan giraffe
As one of the world’s most beautiful and majestic animals, giraffe are instantly recognisable and loved the world over.
But this striking creature is quietly slipping towards extinction. Kordofan giraffe are one of nine giraffe subspecies and, despite being one of the most populous giraffe in zoos, the situation facing them in the wild is challenging. As such, the conservation of Kordofan giraffe is becoming a race against time.
It is estimated that as few as 2,000 individual Kordofan giraffe may be left in Africa, out of a total giraffe population of about 80,000. Poaching, bushmeat trade and habitat loss are the main threats to their future in the wild.
Bristol Zoological Society leads a vital conservation project for the species, which focuses on protecting one of the few remaining populations of Kordofan giraffe left in the wild, in Bénoué National Park, in the North Region of Cameroon.
Bristol, Clifton & West of England Zoological Society Ltd. Registered office: Bristol Zoo Gardens, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 3HA. Company registered in England, number 5154176. Charity registered number 1104986.