At the Flamingo Land zoo, many of our animals face the threat of extinction in the wild.
Because of this, a number of them are part of national and international conservation programmes. As well as protecting wild animals and habitats, these programmes often include a captive breeding component.
Building up a stock of captive animals is vital for the success of reintroduction programmes, which can take place either in reserves or in the animal’s original habitat – once it has been restored to a suitable state, of course.
Conservation breeding programmes can take place on a number of levels – for example, UK-wide, EU-wide or worldwide. With captive populations often much smaller than their wild counterparts, the available gene pool is naturally reduced and so animals must be paired up carefully to prevent inbreeding and maximise genetic diversity in the population. All of this means that transfers of animals between zoos must happen frequently. These moves are usually coordinated by a studbook keeper, who keeps records of every animal in a given breeding programme, and do not involve payment. All of our animal moves are carried out completely freely!
You may be forgiven for thinking that the move itself would be the most complicated part, but this is not always the case! Many animals can be trained in advance using positive reinforcement to move into a transport container, and so this part often goes without a hitch. The issue usually comes with the paperwork that is required to accompany the animal on its journey! Regulations differ depending on the country of origin, destination country, species of animal and even the zoo itself.
Once we receive an animal, it may have to be kept under quarantine for a certain period of time. This depends on the species of the animal and the country it comes from, with birds, primates and carnivores subject to particular scrutiny, as well as animals from non-EC countries. The animal must be isolated from those already at the zoo. Once the required length of time has passed and the animal has been given a clean bill of health from our vet, they are ready to be moved into their enclosure for our visitors to meet!