The current global declines and extinctions of vast numbers of animal species mean that action must be taken to prevent further loss of our planet’s biodiversity. Fortunately, in the 21st century, zoos throughout the world have risen to the challenge and are becoming a powerful force for conservation. Zoos do not act in isolation, and instead are part of a global conservation network guided by the World Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Strategies and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
BIAZA believes that the best place to conserve wildlife is in the wild and so encourages its members in their efforts to carry out and support field conservation work. Many of its members also partner conservation charities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), that specialize in field based conservation activities both nationally and internationally.
BIAZA members make significant contributions to field conservation. Together they support over 500 field conservation projects contributing over £14 million per year. Members supply skills, staff and equipment for wildlife conservation, and essential materials for education and awareness programmes in developing countries. They also play an important role in conservation awareness-raising in the UK, support conservation campaigns and facilitate career development of young conservationists.
Much of our knowledge and expertise in management, reintroduction and translocation of these small, and often isolated, wild populations comes from the experience gained in managing zoo populations. The science of small population management has evolved through cooperative zoo breeding programmes and an increase in our knowledge of the health care and welfare of wild animals.
Conservation activities can generally be grouped under two main headings; in situ conservation refers to conservation work that is carried out in the animal’s natural habitat (see field conservation) and ex situ conservation refers to work that is carried out of the animal’s home range, which usually consists of breeding animals in captivity (see conservation breeding).