Belfast Zoo

Cross border zoos & aquarium unite to call for international agreement between UK and EU

Posted: 5th July, 2022
  • Zoos and aquariums across Ireland and Northern Ireland have come together in a letter to Taoiseach, Micheál Martin and Prime Minister Boris Johnson  
  • The letter calls for co-operation to overcome bureaucratic hurdles and unlock the conservation work of zoos and aquariums through international breeding programs.  
  • Conservation breeding programs of endangered animals now face incredible challenges owing to a lack of alignment between the EU and the UK 
  • The issue is significantly impacting zoos and aquariums across Ireland and Northern Ireland.  

Zoos and aquariums across Ireland and Northern Ireland have come together to urge the Irish and UK Governments to act to unlock the conservation work of zoos and aquariums. International conservation programs are reliant on transferring endangered species across international borders to cooperating zoos and aquariums, however this has been significantly challenged by excessive and prohibitive regulations.  

The zoos and aquariums, including Dublin, Fota and Belfast zoos, are all members of BIAZA. Together they call for UK and Irish Governments to work together to deliver an EU-UK sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) agreement. The agreement could enable the transfer of endangered zoo animals to return to levels seen prior to Brexit: 

  • In 2019 BIAZA members saw around 1,400 animals transferred between homes in UK and EU zoos and aquariums.  
  • In 2021 just 48 animal transfers were made. 

CEO of Dublin Zoo, Christoph Schwitzer said: “It is imperative that the UK and European Commission find a solution so that good zoos and aquariums can continue their work saving species from extinction. I’m proud to join BIAZA colleagues across Ireland and Northern Ireland as an issue that affects all of us fighting for a wilder natural world.” 

Nicky Needham, Senior Manager at BIAZA, explained the extent of the issue: “It is hugely frustrating that the transfer of animals, from langur monkeys to cheetahs has been made so much more difficult following Brexit. Our zoos now face impossible hurdles and delays to partaking in international breeding programs. We urge Irish and UK Government to move to protect the world-leading conservation efforts of our zoos and aquariums. Let’s work together for a brighter future for wildlife.” 

Conservation breeding programs are an important part of the conservation work of zoos and aquariums, along with world-leading research, education and fundraising. Conservation breeding programs exist for many animals including orangutans, lemurs and parrots.  

Zoos and aquariums in Ireland and Northern Ireland are also taking a leading role in coordinating some of these programs. Breeding programs managed from Ireland include: 

  • Critically Endangered citron crested cockatoo and the Geoldi’s monkey. These breeding programmes are coordinated from Dublin Zoo. 
  • Colobus monkeys and Francois Langurs coordinated from Belfast Zoo. 
  • Cheetah and lechwe, coordinated from Fota Wildlife Park. 

Aside from these programs, the group of zoos across Ireland and Northern Ireland are continuing with other forms of important conservation work in order to save species from extinction. In Ireland this includes work with the NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Service) to reintroduce species such as natterjack toads back into the wild, care and rehabilitation of seals, and inspiring thousands of visitors to care for the natural world through award-winning education projects.  

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