A recent report from the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) entitled “Top Ten Mammal Species Reliant on Zoos,” highlights a festering issue with critics of the zoo industry.

Critically endangered San Martin titi monkey.

Specifically, BIAZA’s claim that were it not for the work of their member zoos, the listed animals “may be lost to extinction forever.”

Putting to the side the fact we will all be lost to extinction forever, conservationists from the NGO Neotropical Primate Conservation (NPC), which operates in the Peruvian Amazon, and works extensively with one of the species on the list, the critically endangered San Martin Titi Monkey, takes the position that zoos claiming to be the last bastion of hope for any species undermines local conservation efforts.

NPC’s Project Director, Dr. Noga Shanee, PhD, said “The San Martin titi monkey is protected in seven different conservation areas under different schemes. Most of these schemes have been initiated and run by local communities. The Regional Government of San Martin and the local grassroots movement, the Ronda Campesina, are both running successful projects to control hunting and deforestation.”

Liz Tyson, the Director of the Captive Animals’ Protection Society, called the report by the zoo industry body “disingenuous” and said that it had the potential to damage in situ conservation efforts. “Zoos,” she said, “have been trying to move away from the perception that they hold animals captive for entertainment for some years by attempting to establish their work as based in conservation. But the funding that is provided by zoos to true in situ conservation projects is a pittance in comparison to the industry’s income. A report published in 2010 showed that two individual NGOs give more financial support independently of one another than all of the 300 plus members of the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria combined.”

Chris Draper, Programmes Manager from the Born Free Foundation added: “It is high time that zoos were judged on their merits, rather than on their publicity and spin. I strongly suspect that when all the facts are in, it will become clear that zoos’ role in conservation is limited at best. This should point us to the inevitable conclusion that the battle against extinction will not be won in zoos.”

Source: Captive Animals’ Protection Society.