More species are facing extinction than ever before. Zoos around the world have a responsibility to ensure the survival of species under threat by playing an active role in conservation.
Belfast Zoo is an active member of national, European and international zoo industry bodies:
Zoos work collaboratively on breeding programmes, education and research to help conservation efforts.
Protecting habitats is important as they support wildlife by providing food, shelter and safety. The biggest threat to habitats is from humans and comes in many forms such as:
- Farming - the increasing human population requires more food to be grown, particularly in Third World countries. Unfortunately, it’s still common to see forest fires as a way of quickly clearing land for crops, or wetlands being drained to make space for farmland. Rainforests are often depleted due to demand for certain timber. Overfishing has also affected ocean-based ecosystems.
- Pollution – the use of herbicides and pesticides has poisoned large numbers of wildlife and removed essential plants from food chains.
- Hunting – many species are still hunted and killed by humans for meat, body parts and trophy hunting. Although most of the trade of animal fur and bird feathers is illegal, a substantial black market still exists.
- Traditions – in some cultures, myths exist where people believe certain animals possess magical or medicinal properties, leading to animals being captured and killed illegally.
- Competition – some animals are persecuted by humans when there is competition for food or space. This typically happens when their natural habitat has been reduced and animals turn to crops and livestock as a food source.
One of our roles is to create a link between zoo-managed populations of endangered species and wild populations being managed in situ. Your donations to the zoo directly contribute to our selected in situ conservation programmes, which are listed below.
Tenkile Conservation Alliance
This charity aims to save tree kangaroos and the Torricelli Mountain Range in Papua New Guinea. It has worked with local people to introduce alternative protein sources and farming to reduce hunting of this species, along with many other community and cultural initiatives.
Belfast Zoo was the first zoo in the UK and Ireland to breed Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo and has seen continued breeding success.
The Lemur Conservation Association (AEECL)
This conservation organisation aims to conserve lemur species in Sahamalaza-Iles Radama National Park in Madagascar, through research, protection and restoration of ecosystems and working with local communities and authorities.
Belfast Zoo is home to several lemur species including:
Wildlife Conservation Society Nigeria
The Cross River gorilla was hunted almost to extinction and is the most threatened ape in Africa; listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List,it’s estimated that less than 100 are found in the wild. WCS has helped create new protected areas for the species and works tirelessly with local communities to reduce levels of hunting and habitat loss.
Belfast Zoo is home to western lowland gorillas, another critically endangered ape whose numbers have declined by over 60 per cent in the last 25 years.
Bird Watch Ireland barn owl project
This is the largest independent conservation organisation in Ireland, with a primary aim of protecting wild birds and their habitats in Ireland. Belfast Zoo is home to barn owls, a species native to Northern Ireland. They are red-listed due to a significant population decline of around 50 per cent in the past 25 years.
Lion tamarins of Brazil Fund
LTBF supports research, public education, reforestation and reintroduction activities in support of lion tamarin conservation. Golden lion tamarins are classed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, with over 3,000 living wild.
We are home to golden lion tamarins on loan from the government of Brazil. Golden lion tamarins born at Belfast Zoo have been released into the wild in Brazil.
Sifaka Conservation Trust
The Sifaka Conservation Trust conserves newly discovered populations of sifaka and their habitat by creating new community-based protected areas and connecting the most isolated populations by exchanging individuals between sites. The trust also rescues individuals living in non-viable forest fragments and organises their transfer to protected sites. Belfast Zoo is home to a family of crowned sifakas, which are critically endangered in the wild.
Visayan warty pig Conservation Programme
The Visayan Warty Pig Conservation Programme was established in 1991 with the aim of re-introducing the species on the islands in the Philippines where there are as few as 200 left in the wild. Captive breeding and rescue centres have been established on Negros, with zoos worldwide. Habitat destruction, hunting, reprisals for feeding on crops and inadequate protection have resulted in the dramatic decline and likely extinction of the warty pig in the wild.
Belfast Zoo is home to a breeding pair of critically endangered Visayan warty pigs and their offspring.
The Red Panda Network
The Red Panda Network has been leading red panda conservation since 2007 and established the world’s first protected area dedicated to red panda in Nepal. Their approach is built on the support and participation of local communities in adopting sustainable forest management. We are home to a pair of red pandas who have had considerable breeding success.
Silvery Gibbon Project
The Silvery Gibbon Project was established in 1991 and raises funds for the conservation of the endangered Silvery or Moloch gibbon, a primate found only in the jungles of Indonesia. There are less than 4,000 in the wild and they are faced with an ever-diminishing forest to live in. Threats to their forest habitat include illegal logging, burning of forests for palm oil plantations and encroachment from human population. In addition to this many gibbons are sold into the illegal pet trade. The project supports education, habitat preservation, rehabilitation and reintroduction of this species.
We have participated in a range of native species projects to help protect local wildlife, such as:
- Funded Chough research in partnership with Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park.
- Funded Barn owl research for BirdWatch Ireland and have provided a sanctuary for two rescued barn owls. Visitors can see the barn owls in the zoo’s farm.
- Participated in native species events for a range of organisations.
- Installed swift next boxes and a swift sound box in the zoo.
- Provided a sanctuary for rescued or injured hedgehogs.
- Hosted regular events for the Northern Ireland Bat Group.
- Play an active role in the red squirrel breeding programme.
- Develop on-site wildflower meadows.