Andrew Walmsley

Many of the species housed in zoos and aquariums, particularly those with in situ conservation partners and declining wild populations, are managed on a regional or international scale through breeding programmes. Conservation breeding programmes involve the genetic and demographic management of a species with the aim of maintaining genetic diversity and stability. Each studbook is managed by a studbook coordinator who is based in a regional zoo. Using specialist software, the genetics of the captive population (mean kinship [relatedness of one individual to all other animals in the population], inbreeding coefficients, genetic diversity etc.) and genetic benefits of pairings between specific individuals can be calculated, to help the coordinator devise breeding plans and determine which animals should be transferred between collections. Coordinators also write a best practice guideline document outlining recommended husbandry, health and enclosure information for collections to use to manage the species. Alongside the coordinator is a Species Committee, a team of keepers, vets and specialists who help to create a long-term plan for the genetic management of that species and advise and support on any issues or plans that the coordinator makes. The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) coordinate over 400 breeding programmes for a wide range of taxa and support conservation campaigns to help protect natural habitats and promote education programmes in native countries to help behaviour change.

The Sulawesi crested black macaque (Macaca nigra) is a Critically Endangered species of primate endemic to the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. The species is managed as a European Endangered species Programme (EEP) by the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, Paignton Zoo, Devon. There are approximately 200 M. nigra housed in almost 30 EAZA member institutions, with Europe being the only region in the world to actively manage this important species. Known by the local name of ‘yaki’, M. nigra is one of seven endemic macaque species on the island and while all of the species are threatened with extinction due to the loss of their forest habitat and hunting, the yaki is the most endangered. The largest population of M. nigra is found in Tangkoko Nature Reserve, in far northeast Sulawesi where M. nigra is a key species within the ecosystem.

The in situ partner to the M. nigra EEP is Selamatkan Yaki, an integrated conservation programme with the aim of fostering collaboration between the different stakeholders in yaki conservation and communities within Sulawesi to help conserve the species throughout its natural range. Partners include The Pacific Institute for Sustainable Development and Taronga Conservation Society Australia. The Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT) funds the core operating costs of Selamatkan Yaki, whose roles are to conduct research, liaise with local communities, government departments and conservation organisations to develop a Species Conservation Action Plan and implement an Education and Awareness Raising Strategy, engaging with local school children to help instil pride in their local habitat. It is highly beneficial for the EEP to work so closely with partners in the species’ native range and to provide EEP participants with information on conservation efforts and help to define the role of the captive population for the future.

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