ESF and EAZA signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

ESF and EAZA sign a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU).

Henk Zwartepoorte, ESF President.

345 European zoos are organized since 1992 under the name of European Association for Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA). These zoos are based in 41 countries. The larger Dutch zoos are united in the Nederlandse Vereniging van Dierentuinen (NVD). Both organizations have their office in Artis Zoo, Amsterdam.
The European Studbook Foundation (ESF) was founded in 1998 and was officially registered in 2003. Keepers of reptiles and amphibians in the European countries may participate in the studbook/breeding programmes of the ESF.


Ever since the nineties, the Board of the European Studbook Foundation (ESF) is talking to the Board of the EAZA about some form of cooperation or participation in each others' studbook/breeding programmes. The EAZA has two types of programmes: a European Studbook (ESB) and a European Endangered species Program (EEP). In short, a ESB is a registration of animals kept in European zoos and a EEP is an active breeding programme based of course on studbook registration.

EAZAs mission is to facilitate cooperation within the European zoo and aquarium community towards the goals of education, research and conservation.

As this mission indicates, this only concerns goals within the EAZA community. Education and research are of course reserved for zoos where their field of activity is concerned. Conservation of species is mostly a task for zoos where large species are involved. But for smaller species, there is a task for the private keeper. Particularly with smaller species, private keepers, especially those organized in the ESF, provided a significant contribution for quite some time.

Cooperation in the field of reptilian and amphibian species.

Participation of zoos in the ESF studbook/breeding programmes has been established since the beginning. A number of ESF studbooks have a participating zoo since that time. Several species: Geochelone elegans, Malacochersus tornieri, Testudo kleinmanni, Geoclemys hamiltonii. Participation from private individuals in EAZA studbooks almost never took place, although the Testudo kleinmanni EEP has a number of private participants.

For a long time and maybe for too long, the ESF and EAZA has probed each other regularly. The possible reason for this was a lack of knowledge about each others' policy and a lack of credibility and trust. In the last years, the awareness has slowly grown mainly on the side of the EAZA, that regarding conservation there is certainly some common ground between the EAZA and the ESF. Increasing professionalism within the ESF has resulted in a constructive development of the talks with the EAZA.

During the year 2012 the talks developed rapidly. Confidence grew and they got thoroughly aquainted with each others' policy and vision. The goals of the ESF concerning conservation actually hook up nicely with those of the EAZA. In May of this year a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was finally signed between both parties. The MOU encourages both parties to participate in each others' studbook/breeding programmes and cooperate where possible to keep species and particuilarly threatened species for the future.

What does this actually mean in practice for ESF and EAZA?

When zoos coordinate studbooks/breeding programs in which animals kept by private individuals could be registered, these individuals may contact the EAZA studbooks concerned. The ESF Board will play an active role in this, to the extent that it will provide information about the EAZA studbooks/breeding programs.

When ESF studbook kepers notice that EAZA zoos keep species that could be registered in the ESF studbooks, they may contact the zoos concerned.

So, there is an active role in this for both private keepers, ESF studbook keepers and ESF Board.

Everything described above for the ESF, goes also for EAZA zoos and the EAZA ESB- and EEP-coordinators.
At the beginning of the cooperation, the ESF President will play an active communicative role as a mediator between the EAZA and the ESF in order to further deepen the content of the cooperation.
See the signed MOU Document below.



Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the European Studbook Foundation (ESF) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA)

Jointly working towards sustainable amphibian and reptile populations in human care
- on a non commercial basis -

Over the last few decades ex situ breeding has become an important tool in species conservation. Populations in captivity can function as safety net population or be used for conservation education purposes. The speed in which species disappear from the wild or populations decline is tremendous. Both the European Studbook Foundation (ESF) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) are concerned about these threats and feel responsible to ensure that species, and in the context of the MOU particularly amphibian and reptiles species, in their care are managed sustainably and contribute to conservation breeding, conservation education and/or other conservation initiatives where relevant and possible.

Mobilizing sufficient manpower, space and/or (financial) resources to manage amphibian and reptile populations in our collections sustainably has proven to be challenging. Given the fact that so many amphibian and reptile species are threatened in the wild (or are likely to be within the near future) more efforts should be done to manage current as well as future populations in our care sustainably. Especially with small reptile and amphibian species there is a high number of serious and high-quality private keepers and breeders which tremendously enlarge the capacities to keep such species under human care. To make proper use of these capacities and knowledge a cooperation of zoos and private keeper organized in serious organizations should be aimed for. Due to a lack of manpower, space and/or resources both organizations are currently struggling to manage the many threatened species already kept under their responsibility properly. By joining forces between the two organizations this generates more capacity to work on the relevant populations and will help maintaining more sustainable populations of endangered amphibian and reptile species for the future.

What is the ESF and what are its goals
The European Studbook Foundation is a non-profit organization, registered in the foundation registry of the Dutch chamber of commerce under nr. 41136106. Its goals are the following:

1. Conservation of reptiles and amphibians in human care, with an emphasis on endangered species, building and maintaining genetically viable populations in human care for the future.
2. Management of European studbooks
3. Management of genetically sound breeding programmes
4. Cooperation with reintroduction programmes
5. Collection, compiling and publication of knowledge about maintenance, feeding and breeding (programmes) of reptiles and amphibians.

The most important aim of the European Studbook Foundation is the establishment and management of European studbooks / breeding programmes in order to conserve reptiles and amphibians in human care, with emphasis on endangered species.
Genetically healthy ex situ safety net populations can form the basis of a gene pool from which animals can be used for reintroduction purposes in the future.

Between 1991 and 2010 the total number of studbooks increased from 5 to 90 managed by 60 studbook keepers in 10 European countries. In 5 EU countries ESF representatives are active. Within these 90 studbooks approximately 8000 animals are registered. The European Studbook Foundation is an independent organization; it has no financial income other than donations by the Dutch and Belgium Turtle and Tortoise Society (NBSV) and the Dutch Herpetological Society (Lacerta). Projects within the ESF aims such as DNA research, research on nutrition, improvement of incubation and husbandry totally depend on donations.

What is EAZA and what are its goals
EAZA the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, represents and links more than 300 member institutions in 35 countries. Formed in 1992, EAZA's mission is to facilitate cooperation within the European zoo and aquarium community towards the goals of education, research and conservation.

The animals are of course the absolute key factor in each zoo or aquarium. Modern and well-managed zoos and aquariums select the species which they keep very carefully and for specific reasons. EAZA member institutions have established Taxon Advisory Groups, for all animal taxa that are kept in zoos and aquariums, such as the EAZA Amphibian TAG and the EAZA Reptile TAG. One of the main tasks of the TAGs is to develop Regional Collection Plans that describe which species are recommended to be held, why, and how these species should be managed. The Regional Collection Plans also identify which species need to be managed in European Endangered Species Programmes (EEPs) and European Studbooks (ESBs). Under the umbrella of the EAZA Reptile TAG 25 reptile species are managed in an EAZA breeding programme.


A.  Via a clear prioritization process, both within ESF and EAZA, the relevant species should be selected and based on the outcome of that process it can be decided for which species to cooperate and how as there are different scenario's possible. The scenarios of the different levels of cooperation and exchanges have been outlined clearly in Appendix 1. 

B.  We have to make sure that we do not duplicate our efforts, but use them as effectively as possible and also use this synergy to create enthusiasm and recruit new people under both our members. All studbook data should be kept in SPARKS. 

C.  This MOU is agreed upon for a period of five years with an annual evaluation report for both organizations. After this period the MOU should be evaluated and depending on the outcome decided how to continue in the future. 

D.  The rules of both organizations should be respected by the other party.

It is hoped that a fruitful cooperation between EAZA and ESF can be achieved for the benefit of the endangered reptile and amphibian species in need of ex situ management. The ESF enables EAZA not to cooperate with a larger number of different single private keepers individually, but to cooperate with a whole society, which can be taken as serious partner. Also EAZA institutions that do not have the possibilities to have contact with single individual private keepers can approach a studbook keeper, who has an overview of the population in private collections and can function as link between EAZA institutions and ESF members.

Appendix 1 Scenarios
1. In cases where for a single species both organizations keep a studbook, the two respective studbook keepers/programme coordinators are encouraged to cooperate and exchange (husbandry) information and/or animals if beneficial for the combined captive populations.
2. In cases, where there is only an ESF studbook in place and no EAZA breeding programme, EAZA members are strongly encouraged to register their animals in the ESF studbooks and benefit from the available (husbandry) knowledge.
3. In cases, where there is only an EAZA studbook (ESB) and no ESF breeding programme, ESF participants are strongly encouraged to register their animals in the ESB studbook and benefit from the available (husbandry) knowledge.
4. In cases, where there is only an EAZA studbook (EEP) and no ESF breeding programme, ESF participants are strongly encouraged to register their animals in the EEP studbook. However to be part of the managed EEP population private breeders needs to be officially approved by the EEP committee on a case to case basis.



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Last Updated on Thursday, February 19 2015