Conservation through captive breeding.
By Henk Zwartepoorte, old president
Over the last few decades conservation through captive breeding has become a necessary instrument in order to save species from extinction. The speed in which species disappear from the wild is tremendous and causes for this and decline all over the world are various.
Growth of the worlds human population, loss of habitat, fragmentation of populations, pollution of water and air, climate change, human settlements and development of agriculture and industry, human consumption of wild species but also the international pet trade have a very large negative effect on wild populations of animals but also plants.
Keeping animals as pets is as old as the existence of the first men (homo sapiens) and also domestication of wild animals and cultivation of plants brought many advantages to men. However since western people got more and more alienated from wildlife, in particular those living in cities pets and certainly exotic pets became more and more popular. Over the last few decades this resulted in an increase of wildlife trade to a level that can no longer be considered as sustainable. With the growth of the human population in Asia, where human consumption of exotic animals next to pet trade reached unacceptable levels, this totally ran out of hand. Some species become so popular that even the last individual animals will be taken from the wild.
In the Netherlands in the early 90ties a group of people within the Dutch Turtle and Tortoise Society decided to change course. The idea was launched to combine the pleasure of keeping pet turtles with breeding tortoise and freshwater turtle species within a studbook / breeding programmes. As a basis the already existing zoo studbook programmes were used. The Dutch Turtle and Tortoise Society already had a long term good reputation funding in situ conservation programmes such as the Curieuse Island giant tortoise project in Australia and the Psammobates geometricus programmes in South Africa. Over the last decade were also funded : the Pancake tortoise project in Tanzania, the Brown tortoise programmes in Ecuador, the Cuc Phong turtle project in Vietnam and the Testudo kleinmanni project in Egypt. Next to these turtle projects also on Jamaica a project to protect and conserve the endangered Jamaican boa is funded and very recent the development of a software programme in order to proper individual identification of the endangered night gecko Nactus coindemirensis on Mauritius are funded. This last conservation programme is linking in situ to ex situ and is coordinated by the Durrell Conservation Trust and the Jersey Zoo.
The linking of keeping turtles in captivity to in situ conservation projects became more and more usual within this society. However the initiative to enter turtles and later on other reptile species and amphibians in breeding programmes was already started in 1991. What initially began with 5 turtles species quickly developed to the start of several dozens of studbook / breeding programmes making it necessary to establish an independent organization and the studbook foundation was founded. This phenomena got a growing emanation outside the Netherlands, resulting in breeding programmes in Germany, Austria, Switzerland for the endangered Chinese freshwater turtle species. Combining the Dutch and non Dutch programmes finally resulted in the birth of the European Studbook Foundation in 1998, becoming an offical registered foundation in 2003.
Next to several other aims mentioned on this webpage the most important aim is the establishment and management of European studbooks / breeding programmes in order to conserve reptiles and amphibians in captivity, with emphasis on endangered species. Genetically healthy captive assurance colonies 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. Although 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). However also the donation of EUR 3500 by the HSM/Steel company supporting the Testudo kleinmanni project is worth to note here. Projects within the ESF aims such as DNA research, research on nutrition, improvement of incubation and husbandry totally depend on donations.
Captive reproduction of species is an important instrument saving species from extinction.
Donations to support the ESF work and aims can be subscribed to :
European Studbook Foundation, treasurer in Schalkwijk, the Netherlands. ING bankaccount number 7231120, BIC (=SWIFT)code INGBNL2A, IBAN NL57INGB0007231120.