Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Conservation Participation

The Directive requires all zoos in the European Community to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity in accordance with the Community’s obligation to adopt measures for ex situ conservation under Article 9 of the Convention of Biological Diversity (1992). All zoos in the Community are required to participate:

“….in research from which conservation benefits accrue to the species, and/or training in relevant conservation skills, and/or the exchange of information relating to species conservation and/or where appropriate, captive breeding, repopulation or reintroduction of species into the wild,”

(Art. 3. European Council Directive 1999/22/EC)

Preliminary investigations revealed , many Member State Competent Authorities did not appear to keep a record of the ex situ conservation programmes undertaken by zoos.   

1. Investigators evaluated of the level of commitment by the zoo to conserve biodiversity by assessing: the proportion of global and European “Threatened species”¹ within the zoo’s collection in relation to those species listed as Near Threatened, Least Concern and Data Deficient (using IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM) or 'Not Listed'² species. The level of commitment by the zoo to conserve national biodiversity was assessed using country protected species lists of “Red Lists” if available.

2. The zoo’s possible participation in co-ordinated European captive breeding programmes. Species in each zoo for which a European Studbook (ESB) or European Endangered Species Breeding Programme (EEP)³ exist were recorded. This identifies the potential for the zoo to participate in such organised and co-ordinated conservation activities. However, as this does not necessarily mean that the zoo is actively participating in either Programme. Additional information was collected from zoo signage, zoo literature and via the Standard Zoo Questionnaire to try to confirm active participation.

3. Participation in or support for in situ conservation would also be ways of demonstrating a commitment to the conservation of biodiversity, as mentioned in the UK Zoos Forum Handbook, DEFRA. Therefore, where available, information relating to the zoo’s participation in species reintroduction programmes and in situ conservation projects and activities was recorded, and additional information was collected from zoo signage, zoo literature and via the Standard Zoo Questionnaire to try to confirm their active participation.

4. Participation in the following conservation activities was assessed from information collected from the zoo’s website, zoo signage, zoo literature and via the Standard Zoo Questionnaire:

  • Scientific research that brings benefits to the species’ conservation in the wild.
  • Training in relevant conservation skills.
  • Exchange of information relating to the conservation of wild species
  • Support (including financial donations) of conservation programmes run by external organisations.


¹ A species that is categorised by the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM as either Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered

² Species of animal that are 'Not Listed' on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM, including domesticated animals and species that have yet to be evaluated by IUCN and included on the Red List.

³ EAZA website



Species identification and analysis

All animals in each zoo were identified to species level (and subspecies where appropriate) from the recorded footage and categorised by their status under the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM).

Not Evaluated’ species – consisted of wild species not yet evaluated by the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM (See list in Government Circular 02/2003, DEFRA).

'Not Listed' species – consisted of domesticated species (or truly domesticated forms of wild species) and hybrids of wild species, which are not covered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM (See list in Government Circular 02/2003, DEFRA).

In this study, only Chordates, Molluscs and Arthropods were identified, recorded and included in the analysis. Other animals such as Cnidarians (e.g. corals, sea anemones), Annelids (e.g. fan worms, earthworms) and Echinoderms (e.g. sea urchins, sea cucumbers) were not identified and analysed, as described in Section D and E of the Zoo Assessment Protocol. These species, however, were noted and included in Section C of the evaluation. 

In situations where there was no signage available to help identify species, identification relied on online resources, reference materials and photographs. This was not ideal, particularly if the animal recorded at the zoo could not be easily distinguishable. Equally, if a species has a similar domesticated form (i.e. the rock pigeon, Columba livia and Columba livia domestica), it is sometimes difficult to differentiate from the wild form which, may cause inaccuracies in the analysis.

If individual animals could not be identified, they were not included in Section B in the analysis.

Conservation section of the Zoo Assessment Protocol

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