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biodiversity in zoos

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by turtle76, 29 Jul 2015.

  1. turtle76

    turtle76 New Member

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    hi all


    my friend is a veterinary nursing student who has been given a topic to research.

    "South America is considered to be one of the most biodiverse places in the world so why is their animals underrepresented in zoos.

    my question is is this statement true and if so why.

    many thanks in advance, any answers would be greatfully received.
     
  2. HJoe

    HJoe Member

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    My guess is the comparative lack of large, charismatic and recognizable fauna (esp. mammals) compared to Africa or Asia. You've got jaguars and to a lesser extent giant anteaters, spectacled bears, tapirs etc. but nothing to match the variety and fame of Africa and Asia's megafauna, at least not enough to typically devote large sectors of zoos to the region. New World monkeys, macaws, toucans and some herps like anacondas and poison dart frogs remain popular, though.

    Most of South America's biodiversity is in plants and smaller creatures - insects, herps, birds etc. For this reason most of a given zoo's Neotropical species tend to be placed in aviaries, rainforest buildings and reptile houses. I wouldn't necessarily say they're underrepresented in terms of numbers, just maybe in exposure and exhibit space. They're there and they're aplenty, just less conspicuous than elephants, tigers or great apes.
     
  3. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member

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    Most biodiverse? Compared to what? There are only 7 continents and one is covered in permafrost. South America has the largest single uninterrupted area of rainforest in the world, and tropical rainforests account for probably half of all animal species and well over half of the world's plant collection. So yeah, zoos are going to come up a little short trying to represent the hundreds of thousands (probably over a million) species that call SA home.

    That being said, I don't think that statement is true. African and Asian megafauna are indeed common in zoos, but so are species from the Americas. I'm not sure what the situation is in Europe, but North American zoos host an enormous number of South American animals, mostly small (due to the lack of megafauna there) but also some large. If South America is indeed underrepresented, it's probably because the Amazon is chock-full of species nobody even know exist, let alone want to use in a captive display.
     
  4. TheMightyOrca

    TheMightyOrca Well-Known Member

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    I was wondering this myself. Maybe SA animals only seem underrepresented because they don't really have as many megafauna that tend to be most prominently displayed, and get the most attention, in zoos. In zoos, large animals get the biggest exhibits for obvious reasons, and many guests focus more on the large animals than the small. These big animals also tend to be more prominently advertised.
     
  5. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    It's similar. Some Central / South American species are actually pretty much standard species in many collections here (like capybara, Greater mara, New World camelids, several species of marmosets/tamarins, macaws, both rhea species, green iguana etc.). Various freshwater fish species in particular from these regions are kept both in zoos and in private, making European airports such as Frankfurt to one of the most prominent trans-shipment centres of the commercial pet fish trade worldwide.
    As mentioned in the previous contributions, the lack of charismatic mammalian megafauna might convey the impression of underrepresentation of South American fauna in zoological collections (a problem it appears to share with European or Australian fauna). Given the quantity of kept species (of smaller creatures), this assumption, however, is incorrect.
     
  6. gentle lemur

    gentle lemur Well-Known Member

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    Unfortunately South America is rich in species groups which zoos do not have as much interest in as species from other regions. For example armadillos are usually not very good zoo exhibits, so a zoo may have one species but it won't have three or four. Likewise a public aquarium could display a hundred species of characins and related species, plus a dozen pike cichlids, a dozen knifefishes and several hundred catfishes, if they had enough space (not to mention the livebearers, freshwater stingrays etc) - and it would be fascinating for a fish fanatic - but the general public would want to see a wider range.
    In addition, some of the most interesting and spectacular South American species have proved to be difficult to keep and breed in captivity, for example hummingbirds, manakins and pygmy anteaters among the smaller species and freshwater dolphins, mountain tapirs and pacarana among the larger ones.
    Finally it may be difficult to obtain specimens. I am sure many zoos would like to display more species of small carnivores, but apart from bush dogs, coatis, giant otters, kinkajou and some of the small cats, the species seem to be hard to find. The same thing applies to the rodents and other groups.

    Alan
     
  7. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    I second gentle lemur's statement. A very good example combining several of the issues he mentioned are the New World leaf-nosed bats (Phyllostomidae). Ecological-wise the most diverse family of all bats (and diet-wise, pretty much of all mammals), including insectivores, carnivores, sanguivores, frugivores, piscivores, nectarivores etc. Yet only a selected few are kept in captivity,, and only one, Seba's short-tailed bat (Carollia perspicillata), is a more common species in zoos worldwide.
     
  8. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Depends on whether we're talking about globally or NZ in particular (where the OP is based), which has a fairly depapauperate South American fauna, but then again exotic fauna in NZ in general is fairly depauperate. South American diversity is limited to basically parrots, six primate species, two tapirs, two capybara, a couple of green iguanas and a handful of tarantulas (and domestic llama, alpaca, chinchilla and guinea pig). Four of these species have been imported to NZ in the last ~5 years, so the situation is improving. But still no mara, other rodent species, jags, small cats, giant anteaters, coati, armadillo, sloth, toucans, rhea, boas, poison dart frogs, or anything else to really illustrate the diversity present in South America. Basically whats present is easy to keep, hardy, and common. Probably diversity is roughly on par with African and Asian species, although not as many large or ABC species, and most species in very small numbers.
     
  9. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    @zooboy28:
    Actually, I was talking in reference to Europe, as a direct reply to Coelacanth18's remark. As for NZ (or New Zealad ;) ): the original question just states "zoos", not limiting them to NZ. So I guess it starts from a global pov.
     
    Last edited: 29 Jul 2015
  10. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Sorry, I shouldn't have quoted, my post was just a general topic reply, rather than one directed as a repsonse to your post.
     
  11. Dassie rat

    Dassie rat Well-Known Member

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    I think there has been a reduction in the variety of South American animals kept in zoos. I remember seeing pampas cats, tayras, grisons and olingos and Kilverstone Zoo and a variety of chacalacas, guans and curassows at Gatwick Zoo. I have only seen pacaranas, Amazon river dolphins and mountain pacas at one zoo. Tinamous seem to be relatively uncommon in zoos and there are far more South American dogs than maned wolves and bush dogs and many more bats than the Seba's short-tailed bat. I have only seen a few species of opossums in zoos. There also seems to bemany species of arrow poison frogs in zoos, but relatively few species of other frogs and toads.
     
  12. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    The South American cervids are really the biggest animals not represented in collections (except for Southern Pudu).
     
  13. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    Not just South America, but fauna from all over the world. Among others, due to tightened animal trade regulations and conservation issues. Bats are actually a good example, with several Central, South American and Carribean countries having tight capture permissions for only a few selected institutions. So Seba's short-tailed bats it is then.
     
  14. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member

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    North America also has large captive populations of Artibeus jamaicensis (Jamaican fruit bat) and Desmodus rotundus (common vampire bat), but you're right about the overall lack of diversity. Over 1,200 species of bat and only about 8 or 9 species well-represented in the States. The US probably has enough space for at least 15 genetically viable populations, but the demand for that just isn't there. Not only that, but husbandry and import laws play a large part as well.

    While I won't try to argue that species in South America aren't at risk, the looming threat of extinction seems more imminent for Africa and Asia, who are experiencing unprecedented population growth and industrialization. It seems like many species that are in need of immediate attention (and holding space) are those from the Old World Tropics, and I think many non-threatened or near-threatened SA species are being pushed out to make room for them.
     
  15. temp

    temp Well-Known Member

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    I wish it was true that South American fauna was comparably safer than African and Asian, but unfortunately that isn't the case. This is also evident if looking at IUCN ratings. Birds are the only class of animals that overall have received comprehensive evaluations (the number of data deficients or entirely unrated species is far higher in other classes such as mammals or reptiles). The Neotropics have more threatened birds than any other ecozone, including the worst category: Critically Endangered. The most recent seemingly confirmed extinctions among birds are both in the Atlantic rainforest, and it is probable that the next to join them is the Pernambuco pygmy owl. The Neotropics have also been hit harder by the worldwide decline in amphibians than any other region, with only Australia showing rates that are comparable (amphibians of both the African and Asian mainland show much higher immunity to Chytridiomycosis). Larger terrestrial mammals is the only animal group where the Neotropics have significantly fewer threatened species than both the Afrotropics and Indomalya. This is essentially due to the relatively few larger terrestrial mammals in the Neotropics rather than them being any safer.
    Although there are other Neotropical regions with serious conservation problems, Brazil is the biggest red dot today. Especially the northeastern Atlantic forest and the southeastern Amazon are disappearing at alarming rates, and both have very high rates of endemism. The cerrado and Gran Chaco are also on the way out, as is much of the Chocó rainforest and the few remaining inter-Andean forest patches in Colombia (viz, Magdalena and Cauca valleys). The situation for aquatic fauna is comparable. Pollution does cause problems in some rivers, mainly among non-Amazonian systems. However, the major crisis is due to quite a few dams that are under contruction. The most famous is Belo Monte on the Xingu River, which likely will cause the extinction of several fish species (incl. some undescribed) when it opens.

    Anyway, earlier posters already commented on why it may seem that South American fauana is relatively poorly covered in zoos. There are relatively few larger terrestrial mammals in South America and these are the ones many zoo visitors notice. When it comes to most other groups (monkeys, fish, herps, birds, inverts, etc), the South America-Asian-African coverage seems pretty equal to me.
     
  16. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    The population of Common Vampire bats in European collections is dwindling and will probably go the way of the Jamaican fruit bat, i.e. cease to exist.
    As for North America, the majority of bat species kept in zoos are Megabats, not Phyllostomidae, and that thanks to a few dedicated breeders (such as the Lubee Bat conservancy). Correct me if I'm wrong, but other species of Phyllostomidae kept in American and Canadian institutions are Phylostomus hastatus (maybe discolor?), Glossophaga soricina (and maybe one or two occasional other Glossophaginae representatives) and Noctilio leporinus. That's at least a bit better than the situation in European zoos.
     
  17. temp

    temp Well-Known Member

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    In addition to Seba's short-tailed, both Pallas' long-tongued and pale spear-nosed have colonies that are sufficiently established in European zoos. Not as many as Seba's, but enough to keep them going. Does anyone have data on the scientific research colonies of common vampires kept at various universities? I was under the impression that at least the one at Bonn still is doing ok and might represent a chance of boosting the dwindling population in European zoos. Although the common vampire seems better established in North American zoos, I was under the impression that the greater bulldog also may be on the way out in North American zoos.

    However, in relations to the question of the first post (South American coverage vs. coverage of other regions) that still means Phyllostomidae is far better represented in zoos than any of the other microbat families, e.g. Asian or African species. Indeed, despite having visited a lot of zoos, I don't remember ever seeing a microbat from Africa or Asia, except the occasional local European species that incidentally also are found in those continents.

    I also doubt that'll change. Most people simply don't care about small bats and once they've seen one, they feel like they've seen them all. The vampire and greater bulldog are quite possibly the only exceptions because of their unusual lifestyles. There is just not a lot of incentive for a zoo to increase the diversity of "standard" microbats.
     
  18. TheMightyOrca

    TheMightyOrca Well-Known Member

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    Small bats are also a little harder to display. The exhibits are dark and they move around a lot, so it's hard to get a good look. (or take good photos)
     
  19. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member

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    @Batto: The Lubee Bat Conservancy has done a lot of work for NA's captive bat population, but zoos all across the country have regular births. Maybe in the beginning they relied on a few zoos to boost the population, but I'd say that's true of the majority of exotic animals in zoos. The three species you listed are indeed kept in NA zoos, but they are not kept in large numbers. Whether that's because of a decline or if they were never common to begin with, I don't know.

    @Temp: The bulldog bat is extremely rare in NA collections, perhaps due to decline. I don't know if it was ever well-established or not. Microbats in general are not well-represented compared to megabats because megabats are easier to care for. In zoos, bats primarily serve for educational purposes (the exception being Rodriguez flying foxes, which are part of a global captive breeding program), and a zoo can use hardier fruit-eating bats to educate the public just as well as small, hard-to-manage insect-eating bats, which usually only live a fraction of their normal lifespan when kept in captivity. What MightyOrca said is also true and I'm sure that plays a part in those decisions.
     
  20. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    Objection, your hono(u)r!;) This depends a lot on the species in question. If you look at the larger picture of Megabat species variety, only few megabat species managed to establish themselves in sufficent numbers in captivity (Rousettus aegyptiacus and Pteropus rodricensis, in particular, come to mind), and without LBC's constant coordination, breeding success of these species might not be where it's today (not being that regular in all these species, btw.).
    It's good to see US zoos like Columbus or Animal Kingdom investing time and effort in showcasing megabats in educative shows; this still has to develop in Europe (Noctalis, Gelsenkirchen, Chester, Jersey), where they either serve as "decorations" for the upper levels of rainforest exhibits or as fluttering "scary" black shadows in nocturnal houses. As for conservation bat breeding programs, don't forget Jersey's Livingstone's fruit bat (Pteropus livingstonii) project.
    Insectivorous microbats can live for longer periods of time in captivity if professionally cared for; I happen to know several specimens of European species kept in captivity due to not being fit for release and used for educational purposes. The labour input, however, and diet requirements as well as legal issues makes keeping such microbats unattractive for zoos.
    The Noctalis House in Germany actually solved the presentation problem TMO mentioned quite nicely by showing closeup videos of their Seba's on large video screens. And allowing random visitors in to 200+ bats like done under supervision at the Grzimek House in Frankfurt also leaves quite an impression on the visitors.

    @temp: I wouldn't say that pale spear-nosed bats are well established in European zoos; take a look at ZTL to see what I mean. Few institutions have larger colonies. Glossophaga soricina are more common, but their population can dwindle quickly if not well kept for. There are indeed some bat species kept at European universities, including pale spear nosed bats, mustached bats, a single ancient Megaderma lyra and Common vampire bats, established by Prof. Uwe Schmidt in Bonn. But since the latter retired several years ago, I haven't heard much more in regard to that colony, and have even seen some specimens advertised for sale. The groups at Berlin and Poznan aren't vividly reproducing, as far as I know, but as Szeged brought in some fresh ones from the USA (where they breed well), this might not be the end of vampires in Europe. ;)

    There are several reasons why you won't see many if any African or Asian microbats in European zoos. For once, unlike the Phyllostomidae, the majority are insectivorous, leading to the mentioned issue of labour intensive feeding etc.. Secondly, some species are just not fit for captivity due to their hunting/flight behaviour; in Europe the Great Noctule is a good example for this. Thirdly, lots of red tape and the fear to bring in lyssavirus, coronavirus etc. into the collection. Megaderma lyra, for example, would be an excellent addition to collections due to being a carnivorous ambush predator that spends most of its time at a vantage point looking for prey (such as mice or froglets). However, India and Sri Lanka forbid its export, and the specimens existing at European collections failed to reproduce sufficiently (maybe temporary seperation of the sexes might have been useful). Australia's Ghost bats might be another highly interesting species, but Australia (rightfully so) is more interested in establishing a local breeding population. And given that the species is allegedly (haven't worked with them yet) easily stressed, it's maybe not fit for long-distance travelling.
    And finally: yes, microbats aren't too spectacular for the majority of visitors. However, institutions like Bat World Sanctuary, Noctalis, Fledermauskeller Zitadelle Spandau or LBC do show that people are genuinely interested in bats; you just need to know how to present them.