A conservation conference

Experts in ex situ species conservation meet in Budapest

How can zoos be even more effective when it comes to species conservation? What contribution can zoos make to protect which species? How can reserve populations in human care be better managed in the future? How can in situ and ex situ conservation efforts be better integrated? Three of our curators are currently among those addressing these and similar questions at the third Joint TAG Chairs Meeting in Budapest. Joining them at the conference are curators from zoo associations around the world, as well as representatives of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

TAGs: staying out of the limelight

Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGs) are groups of experts on a particular type of animal, e.g. antelopes, whose role is to manage and advise regional breeding programmes set up for individual species and subspecies within that group. In Europe, these breeding programmes are known as European Endangered Species Programmes, or EEPs. But unlike the EEPs, the work of TAGs is largely conducted out of the public eye. This biennial conference brings TAG heads together to develop action plans for the coming years. It also aims to strengthen international cooperation and create closer ties between the ex situ and in situ conservation communities.

All in a day’s work for curators

Zoological conferences such as this take place on a regular basis and are an integral part of our curators’ work. To ensure they maintain their expertise in their field, curators must keep up to date with the latest research and conservation efforts happening around the world. But for those not working in conservation, the content and purpose of such events can be something of a mystery.

We caught up with Christian Kern, Deputy Zoological Director at Tierpark Berlin, to gain insight into his work and find out what happens at this expert conference.
Mr Kern, where exactly are you and your colleagues right now?
Mr Kern: I am currently in Budapest with two other curators from Zoo and Tierpark Berlin, attending the Joint TAG Chairs Meeting and the TAG Midyear Meetings that are being held here from 30 April to 4 May 2018. Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGs) organise and supervise the management of the various EEPs within their regional zoo associations. This conference, which takes place every two years and alternates between Europe and the United States, brings together TAG heads from the two regional associations EAZA and AZA. This year, fellow experts from Japan, South Africa and South East Asia are also present.
What is discussed at this conference?
Mr Kern: At this particular conference, the main focus is on the implementation of the so-called “One Plan” approach over the coming years. This involves developing joint strategies on the direction that certain Regional Collection Plans should take in the future. Regional Collection Plans provide recommendations on which species we should keep and breed in our zoos and why. They therefore form a very important basis for the keeping of animals in conservation-oriented zoos.
What are the important focal points for these zoos in the future?
Mr Kern: An important focus in the future will be to consider the interests of in situ conservation within ex situ activities, and vice versa. That is why experts from the IUCN are also in attendance. The IUCN’s various specialist groups will be much more involved in helping to plan and revise these Regional Collection Plans in the future. In this way, we aim to ensure that ex situ and in situ efforts become better integrated and more closely coordinated. In the end, it’s about using our animals and reserve populations to contribute towards the conservation of a species. The distinction between ex situ and in situ will be of very little importance for certain species in the future.
What role are Zoo and Tierpark Berlin playing when it comes to saving endangered species?
Mr Kern: Reserve populations of endangered species living in human care are playing an increasingly important role in global species conservation. In fact, they are already vital to the survival of certain species. At Tierpark Berlin, we mainly work within the EAZA’s Deer TAG and Antelope and Giraffe TAG, but we’re also involved in lemur conservation. These animal groups include a wide variety of species that face varying degrees of threat. Zoo Berlin, meanwhile, is mainly committed to protecting Asian songbirds, but is also active in other bird TAGs.
Thank you for your time, and keep up the good work!

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