Yorkshire zoo leads way in native wildlife conservation

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CONSERVATION experts at a Yorkshire zoo and a local university have drawn up a blueprint to help zoos plan strategies to conserve native wildlife.

Flamingo Land and York University have developed guidance for other zoos based on the experience of running six habitats within the 375-acre site at Malton.

Although they carry out important conservation work, few zoos have strategic zoo Biodiversity Action Plans, which set targets for biodiversity conservation based on priority species and habitats.

In 2011, Flamingo Land became the first zoo to produce a formal Zoo Biodiversity Action Plan.

The new guidance was produced by Dr Andrew Marshall and Natasha Hambly from CIRCLE (Collaboration for Integrated Research, Conservation and Learning), a joint initiative between the York University and Flamingo Land.

Dr Marshall, head of conservation science at Flamingo Land and a lecturer in the University’s environment department, said: “Structured and well-managed strategic plans are essential in order to achieve successful evidence-based conservation.

“We see huge potential for the development of Zoo Biodiversity Action Plans for the promotion of zoos as miniature ‘biosphere reserves’ where people and nature co-exist sustainably.

“With over 700m annual visitors, the world’s zoos provide an opportunity to conserve biodiversity in a human-dominated environment, while also promoting biodiversity conservation in a unique manner that is informal, educational and fun.”

At Flamingo Land, CIRCLE has planted 6,000 native trees, as well as cornfield flowers which are now rare or extinct in the wild, and installed nesting boxes throughout the site. It is also expanding its existing informal wildlife surveys to cover a range of measures of conservation success.

Experts say it is vital to select species and habitats that are locally relevant and either threatened or have high conservation value.