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Kowari in UK Zoos?

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by duffey, 28 Mar 2012.

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  1. duffey

    duffey New Member

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    It is interestuig to note tha absence of Kowari (Dasyuroides byrnei) from UK Zoos ( & European).

    The species was, at one time well represented in both public and private collections.

    It seems that the reason for the absence of the species is the result of a decision by someone involved in the running of the Studbook (presumably just out of University and with no knowledge, practical or theoretical, of the species decided to instruct all keepers subject to Stud Book rules to split the breeding pairs and not breed from the species for a year! It seems that the 'Zoo system' was unhappy at the number of the species in private hands!

    The problem with that 'brilliant' suggestion was that
    a) Kowari are not long-lived
    b) Aggressive to new partners

    End result - no Kowari in captivity in UK! And poorly represented in Europe.

    Could BEAZA/EAZA comment on:-
    a) Why was an individual with such limited knowledge allowed to make such a decision?
    b) Is that individual still employed within the Zoo system? If so, why?
    c) Confirm that the decision was based on a desire to restrict the surplus stock being made availabel to private sector keepers.
     
  2. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm not sure you're going to get an answer from "BEAZA/EAZA" on here -- perhaps direct your question to them directly? But for answer a) assuming you are correct, you have no idea at all of that individual's level of knowledge (you said as much at the start of the post!). For answer b) why wouldn't he/she be, and what business is it of yours? And for answer c) where do you get these ideas?
     
  3. duffey

    duffey New Member

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    Childonias,

    The info came from a one time owner/holder/breeder of Kowaris! I have no reason to doubt his veracity - he actually showed me the notification he received. Don't ask for his identity - not willing to divulge.

    The incident happened in the mid 1990's - but the results can be seen today.
     
  4. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    this person received a notification saying breeding in zoos was to be stopped because the "zoo system", as you phrased it, didn't like the number of kowari in private hands? You appear to know very little of how zoo breeding programmes work, but that aside why is it that there are (according to you -- I wouldn't have a clue myself) no kowari in private hands in the UK if it was the zoos that were incompetent, but private breeders had so many kowari to begin with that you can claim the "zoo system" was upset about it? Perhaps the reason there are no kowari is simply because short-lived marsupials are difficult to maintain long-term in captivity because of chance variance?

    Why are you so angry about kowari anyway? Get some hamsters instead.
     
  5. Theloderma

    Theloderma Active Member

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    Why are you so angry about kowari anyway? Get some hamsters instead

    Ha! I wasn't going to post on this but that comment made me spill my tea so felt I should chime in.

    As Chlidonias has said, you dont appear particularly well informed either about how zoo breeding programmes are managed or the historical background to European Kowari. Yes it's sad that the current European population has reduced to, I think, about 40 odd animals spread amongst 4 collections (none of which are in the UK) but that's par for the course for most small mammal species. To the best of my knowledge, all LEGAL kowari in European zoos descend from an import to Rotterdam in the 70s which originated from a captive colony in Adelaide. We therefore have a species whose entire captive population in the EAZA region is based on a very small founder population. Sure they bred well but they were not exactly genetically diverse so therefore not a great contender for a long term managed programme. Add to this the space requirements for maintaining them, the tendancy of males to kill their partners when being introduced and the fact that they have very little public appeal, it's easy to undrstand why most collections decided not to continue keeping them. At the end of the day, to most zoo visitors they're a small grey rat, albeit a marsupial one so i can easily see why a lot of collections lost interest in maintaining them. And at the end of the day, if you have nowhere to send your surplus, there is no point breeding them, hence the recomendation from the studbook keeper who i'm sure was actually VERY aware of how to do their job in a responsible and appropriate way. A managed population is only effective if you can house a minimum number (at least 250 in this case) of viable animals.Have a look at the list of EEPS / ESBs on the EAZA website - there aren't many for small brown jobs (as Gerald Durrell referred to them) and there are countless examples of species that I remember as a child but which you dont see now (Leadbetters possum at ZSL being one). I have no intention of engaging in a debate about why zoos dont send surplus to private hobbyists (from personal experience, there are many, very good reasons) although as Chlidonias has said, its very apparent that private hobbyists were also unsuccesful in maintaining a long term population of kowari. So yes, shed a tear at the loss of Kowari from mainstream zoological exhibition but dont read anything sinister into it, there is no vendetta to persecute private hobbyists and for the most part, studbook keepers do a very good job and make there decisions based on the long term viability of a captive population, something the kowari did not really have.

    If hamsters aren't your thing, try gerbils
     
  6. duffey

    duffey New Member

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    Kowari in UK Zoos

    Oh Dear!

    Childonias & Theloderma seem to be upset!

    Theloderma at least has some idea obout Kowari - but the question is why should any Stud Book allow a naive individual with no knowledge of the species (as Theloderma quite correctly pointed out, males are aggressive when introduced to a female - it seems that the person involved in the Stud Book did not have that knowledge!) to set the rules.

    Criticism doesn't warrant fatuous insults from either of you!
     
  7. IanRRobinson

    IanRRobinson Well-Known Member

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    There is a really serious point to be made here, regardless of the situation with Kowari. Many small, unglamorous animals exist which would be good candidates for private animal keepers to hold and breed, but only if these efforts are co-ordinated.

    If a gap does exist then it needs to be bridged.
     
  8. Theloderma

    Theloderma Active Member

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    Not upset, just bemused that you assume a decision to withold breeding to be something sinister initiated by incompetent individuals within the 'zoo system'. Many studbook coordinators recommend a suspension to breeding if there is nowhere for animals to go - it's common practice and something that is done by people far more experienced than you or I. The kowari programme was always going to have long term limitations based on the restricted gene pool on which the EAZA population was based and its limited appeal to the majority of zoos and their visitors. I've worked with the species, I know the issues faced by trying to maintain them and the decision to stop breeding was a sensible one. Yes, animals fight when you put them together but all pairs have to be introduced at some point so to all intents and purposes its unavoidable. Had animals been allowed to continue breeding, euthanasia would have been the only management tool left - would that have been preferable?
    Ian raises a very valid point - there are a whole host of species that could be maintained by a coordinated band of private hobbyists but i'd struggle to find any evidence historically where that has worked (and it has been tried several times). Zoos can't 'save' more than a select handful of species and the kowari, for various reasons, was a species that zoos were not prepared to allocate resources to in sufficient quantities. Sad but unavoidable. Limited space, time and money mean you have to make choices. So, not upset, just confused by your insistence that a sensible decision must have been made by someone poorly qualified because it deprived private hobbyists of some new pets.
     
  9. pinkback

    pinkback Well-Known Member

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    I agree that Kowari,s in zoo,s have petered out through lack of interest. They require quite intensive management, they are not rare or a particularly good exhibit.
    They would do well in private hands, with knowledgable owners that understand there husbandry, but the UK lacks a strong private keepers association for mammals. Unless a species is co-ordinated, in zoos or anywhere else they tend to decline.
    Bird keepers seem much more organised, for example the lovebird society, australian finch society, pheasant association etc.
    Dutch and German groups for private mammal keepers are well supported with regular newsletters and meetings.
    ABWAK fails to attract many private keepers although it was set up to include them. Other groups over the years have come and gone without attracting a strong organised membership.
    Zoo,s cannot sustainably manage a vast list of interesting species just because zoo chatters like to see them.
     
  10. IanRRobinson

    IanRRobinson Well-Known Member

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    I wonder if this may be something that zoos could develop in the long run through applied use of their education departments? Getting together enthusiastic youngsters, getting keepers to train them in animal husbandry, getting curators to discuss studbook management, and as said youngsters develop letting them have selected smaller animals to trend.

    I accept this may well be wishful thinking, but small mammals do need more UK holders. There is at least one thread elsewhere on the forum bemoaning the paucity of interesting small carnivores within the UK'S zoos. Unless private individuals can be found to assist in the management of (say) Marbled Polecats, I would bet very long odds on them having a viable captive population in another 30 years.
     
  11. DDcorvus

    DDcorvus Well-Known Member

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    There are some but they are rare. An European avicultural organisation called Aviornis has some good examples with b.e. Cabot's Tragopan or pure Golden Pheasants to name 2 species. At the moment they are also working actively on some Ibis species, laysan-teals and on Gallus, but they are a postive exception. Another one is the Ploceidae working group which is working on sustaining weaver-bird, widah and exotic sparrow populations in aviculture. The knowledge build up in that group is impressive. Both this working-group and Aviornis do have good relations with the Zoo community.

    Most other avicultural associations don't have the will or organisational capacity to pull these things off. Which is unfortunate, but true (and I am writing this as an aviculturist). Where there are cooperation projects it is between zoos and some dedicated individuals.

    And to come back on topic: There were Kowaris in private hands in continental Europe as well (there were some left at least 2 years ago in Netherlands but just with one or maybe two breeders). That they aren't there anymore has nothing to do with a breeding stop, but with the nature of the species. Maintaining a healthy population of a short-lived marsupial with so few founders (all animals in private hands in Netherlands came from Blijdorp as well) is extremely difficult. Plus studbookkeepers make recommendations. If their advice would make no sense most zoos would ignore them. If the recommendation was to stop breeding zoos would only follow it because they could not get rid of any offspring anyway.
     
  12. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    it would indeed be a great thing if small mammal populations could be maintained by private holders on a stud-book system, but as others have pointed out it would be very difficult in practice. Why? Because humans are inherently greedy. MRJ gave some examples in duffey's other thread of what can and does happen when private holders are part of stud-books. Unlike zoos, the cost to private people keeping animals comes from their own pockets (i.e. not from donations or entry fees, etc). For a lot of people, probably the majority it must be admitted, this makes it difficult to accept what needs to be done to keep the stud-book managed correctly (i.e. free and ready transfer between holders). Sure private holders can keep and breed animals for profit, but this just means that the majority would be even less willing to adhere to standard stud-book techniques. It can be done, as DDCorvus mentioned above with a few bird species, but the logistics are immense and the difficulties quite plain. With regards to both of duffey's threads, it is clear he has no interest in private breeders maintaining or being part of stud-books because in both cases he is bemoaning zoos not off-loading surplus animals onto private breeders -- that is, animals that are genetically useless to the stud-books in question! And as I pointed out originally and others with direct experience of kowari have agreed with, short-lived marsupials are difficult to maintain in viable populations over long time periods. That's the same reason there are no longer any Tasmanian devils outside Australia (apart for the recent Denmark ones), and it will be the same with Leipzig's quolls.
     
  13. tetrapod

    tetrapod Well-Known Member

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    Just sticking my two cents worth in - there isn't really a conservation need for kowaris to be kept in Europe, let alone the UK. Australian zoos have kept them from time to time, but there has been peaks/troughs in keeping them. I'm not sure what the current status of captive animals is, but most Australian zoos have a focus on more endangered dasyurid species - dibblers, tassie devils, quolls etc.
    There are probably more ideal species to be kept in the private animal trade then kowaris.