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Breeding programmes

Monkey holding babyBelfast Zoo takes part in a range of European and international breeding programmes.

They are:

The programmes are essential because there are limits to how many animals can be cared for in zoos.

Zoos also need to make sure their animals remain genetically similar to those in the wild.

Many of our animals are so rare, they have been loaned to us from governments around the world.

For example, our pied and lion tamarins are on loan from Brazil, our crowned sifaka come from Madagascar and our Rodrigues fruit bats are on loan from Mauritius.

European Endangered Species Programme (EEP)

This is the most intensive type of population management programme. It applies to species living in zoos which are registered with the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA).

Each EEP has a co-ordinator who has a special interest in and knowledge of the species they deal with.

They are responsible for:

  • collecting information about the status of a species
  • producing a studbook or register
  • carrying out demographical and genetic analysis
  • producing a plan which outlines how the species will be managed in the future.

The co-ordinator is assisted by a species committee when making decisions about which animals should breed and which should be transferred from one zoo to another.

Belfast Zoo is a member of more than 40 EEPs.

European Studbook (ESB)

ESBs are less intensive than EEPs. They are managed by a studbook keeper who collects data about a particular species and records information about births, deaths and transfers between EAZA-registered zoos.

The data is entered into a special software programme which allows the keeper to carry out an analysis of the species.

This helps to establish whether animals are thriving in EAZA zoos or need more management to make sure their population remains healthy in the long-term, perhaps through an EEP.

Keepers also provide advice and recommendations to zoos about breeding or transfers.

Belfast Zoo is a member of more than 25 ESBs. Our staff are responsible for co-ordinating the ESB for the François langur, marbled polecat and black and white Colobus monkey.

Taxon Advisory Group (TAG)

Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGs) have been set up for all animal groups living in EAZA-registered zoos.

Each TAG focuses on a specific group of animals, for example, penguins, bears or antelopes.

These groups are made up of staff from EAZA-registered zoos and aquaria with specialist knowledge of and a keen interest in a particular species.

University staff or international conservation groups also act as advisors to the TAGs, helping with issues such as nutrition, health and conservation.

TAGs are responsible for:

  • developing regional collection plans which decide which species zoos want to house in the future
  • encouraging and co-ordinating current conservation projects
  • projects exchanging information about how best to take care of animals
  • ordering research into areas of husbandry which have not yet been explored.

Global programmes

Some of our animals are so rare they are looked after by a global breeding programme.

The programme is supported by an international studbook, which is managed by a studbook keeper. This register records details of species held in zoos around the world.

Belfast Zoo is home to 35 species which are managed by an international studbook.

For some animals, we work together with breeding programmes which are run by organisations dedicated to the conservation of specific creatures.

For example, the zoo works closely with the World Pheasant Association and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust who include species of pheasant and domestic rare breeds as part of their breeding programmes.

We are also a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria (BIAZA).

BIAZA has set up breeding programmes within the British Isles and more than 20 species in the zoo are maintained as part of these programmes.

Collection plan

We have developed a collection plan to make sure our resources are put to the best possible use.

The plan:

  • analyses the animals we keep and plan to keep in the future
  • reviews the enclosures we have available for these species
  • looks at our history, expertise and future plans
  • considers the status of our species in the wild
  • uses International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria to assess how endangered each species is
  • assigns species to categories using Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) criteria.

Our zoo planners use these categories, as well as assessments from TAGs and their knowledge of local, European and international breeding programmes, to decide which species are most relevant to the zoo and our resources.