Where do zoos get their animals from?

Emu at Flamingo Land
Emu at Flamingo Land
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Have you ever wondered where zoos get all their animals from? Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of animals that you can see in zoos have not been taken from the wild. In the past, zoos did source most if not all of their animals directly from wild populations, but this has not been the case for many years now. Some British zoos do occasionally get animals from the wild if they are native British endangered species and the zoo is part of a captive breeding and release scheme to help that species. This means that animals can be brought in from the wild, encouraged to breed and then the offspring are released into the wild. Captive breeding and release programmes have been used to help British species such as hazel dormice, harvest mice and water voles. Flamingo Land doesn’t currently house any native British species so you won’t see any wild-caught animals here.

Of course, sometimes zoos need new animals for breeding to prevent groups from becoming inbred, or we might decide to keep a species that we haven’t had before. So where do we get these animals? From other zoos, either within the UK or from zoos in Europe. For instance, the red pandas which will soon be on display at Flamingo Land came from zoos in the Netherlands. If we do get animals from another zoo, there’s no money involved – zoos are not allowed to either buy or sell animals. Many of the animals that can be found in zoos are part of European endangered species programmes. A co-ordinator monitors the whole European zoo population of the species and makes recommendations about which animals should breed or not breed each year. The coordinator will ask different zoos to move animals to pair up with suitable members of their species for breeding. This is what will happen with our white rhinos, Zimba and Baloo, once they are old enough to breed.

Not every animal at Flamingo Land is part of an endangered species breeding programme and so we can move these animals to another zoo without involving a coordinator. For example, we are sending two of our male emus and three of our male western grey kangaroos to Twycross Zoo. We have plenty of male emus and kangaroos at Flamingo Land and so we didn’t need to keep them all here.