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. 2018 Jun 28;8(1):9789.
doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-27806-2.

Evaluating the Contribution of North American Zoos and Aquariums to Endangered Species Recovery

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Free PMC article

Evaluating the Contribution of North American Zoos and Aquariums to Endangered Species Recovery

Judy P Che-Castaldo et al. Sci Rep. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

The challenge of recovering threatened species necessitates collaboration among diverse conservation partners. Zoos and aquariums have long partnered with other conservation organizations and government agencies to help recover species through a range of in situ and ex situ conservation projects. These efforts tend to be conducted by individual facilities and for individual species, and thus the scope and magnitude of these actions at the national level are not well understood. Here we evaluate the means and extent to which North American zoos and aquariums contribute to the recovery of species listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), by synthesizing data from federal recovery plans for listed species and from annual surveys conducted by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. We found that in addition to managing ex situ assurance populations, zoos frequently conduct conservation research and field-based population monitoring and assessments. Cooperatively managed populations in zoos tend to focus on species that are not listed on the ESA or on foreign listings, and thus it may be beneficial for zoos to manage more native threatened species. Our results highlight the existing contributions, but also identify additional opportunities for the zoo community to help recover threatened species.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no competing interests.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Conservation activities carried out by North American zoos and aquariums for species listed under the Endangered Species Act, sorted by type using 11 keywords. The number of instances of each keyword is shown at the base of the bars. (A) Distribution of the 468 recovery actions for which zoos and aquariums are the responsible party as described in recovery plans; a total of 606 keywords were assigned. (B) Distribution of the 644 field conservation and research project submissions by zoos to the 2013–2015 Annual Report on Conservation and Science (ARCS) survey; a total of 786 keywords were assigned.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Conservation activities carried out by North American zoos and aquariums for species listed under the Endangered Species Act, by taxonomic group. Activities were aggregated into three categories based on the activity type keywords: conservation knowledge or capacity (research, education/outreach, management/planning, fundraising), ex situ (assurance population, husbandry/veterinary care, rescue/rehab/sanctuary), and in situ (population augmentation, monitoring/assessments, threat mitigation, and habitat creation/restoration/protection). The total instances of keywords for each taxonomic group are shown in parentheses. (A) Distribution of the 468 recovery actions for which zoos and aquariums are the responsible party from recovery plans; a total of 606 keywords were assigned. (B) Distribution of the 644 field conservation and research project submissions by zoos to the 2013–2015 Annual Report on Conservation and Science (ARCS) survey; a total of 786 keywords were assigned.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Spending by North American zoos and aquariums on conservation projects for species listed under the Endangered Species Act, as reported in the 2013–2015 Annual Report on Conservation and Science (ARCS) survey. The proportional spending (out of the total $28.9 M spent across 3 years) is shown by (A) project keyword and (B) taxonomic group.
Figure 4
Figure 4
The proportion of terrestrial and avian animal species listed under the Endangered Species Act that have cooperatively managed populations in AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, by taxonomic group and listing status (T = Threatened, E = Endangered). (A) The proportion of U.S. listings with managed programs for the listed species. (B) The proportion of U.S. and foreign listings with managed programs for the listed species. (C) The proportion of U.S. listings with managed programs for a congener of the listed species. (D) The proportion of U.S. and foreign listings with managed programs for a congener of the listed species.

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