29/09/2020

National awards for Bristol Zoological Society

Keepers and vets here at Bristol Zoological Society have picked up a string of national awards for their work with threatened animals.

Vets were honoured for devising a new protocol for exporting pink pigeons as part of a European conservation breeding programme.

And keepers won two awards for helping save threatened species in the Philippines and breeding pygmy slow loris twins at the Zoo.

The awards were announced online as part of an annual celebration by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The vets’ team led by Head Vet Michelle Barrows, won a silver award in the Research Category for their work with pink pigeons.

Michelle supervised vet Sara Shopland to research and develop a procedure to ensure that pink pigeons bred in Europe and exported to Mauritius do not carry any infectious diseases that could be a threat to the wild pink pigeons.

This involved studying diseases in pink pigeons going back 50 years, testing live birds and establishing a quarantine protocol for them.

The birds are bred at a number of zoos including, Wild Place Project, and then flown to Mauritius where their offspring will be released to help bolster the native population.  Due to the collaborative work of the zoo community and in country partners, the species has improved in status from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable.

Michelle, who was Vet Advisor to the pink pigeon European Breeding Programme, said: “The exported birds carry genes which could be vital in helping the wild pink pigeon population to survive.

“It’s great that these birds are going to benefit those in the wild. We put a lot of work into this project and we are delighted to have won this award.”

Mammals’ keepers also won a silver award in the Behaviour and Welfare category for their work with native species on Negros Island in the Philippines.

Shani Ratnayake, Mammals Team Leader, spent a month at one of Bristol Zoological Society’s partner captive breeding centres on the island last November.

During her time there she helped establish better practices for looking after a range of native animals including the Critically Endangered Visayan warty pigs and Endangered Philippine spotted deer.

She said: “Our aim was to improve standards of care to the level that we have at the Zoo.”

Shani, who has been a keeper for 10 years, said it was great that Bristol Zoological Society’s work, which started in the Philippines in 2014, had been recognised.

She said: “There is still a lot do to but we hope by this time next year we will be closer to releasing some animals to help the wild population.”

Keepers involved in breeding our pygmy slow loris twins won a bronze award in the Animal Husbandry, Care and Breeding category.

It was the first time in almost a decade that twins had been bred successfully here at the Zoo.

Senior Mammals Keeper Paige Bwye said: “We had been trying for around six years to get their mum, Holly, to breed so we were really pleased.”

The twins, named JP and JD, are now a year old and they have almost reached sexual maturity and will now be moving to other zoos to continue to support the breeding programme for pygmy slow loris.

The breeding programme, in which we have been involved for 20 years, is crucial because pygmy slow loris are classified as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Bristol Zoo Gardens is owned and run by Bristol Zoological Society, which also operates Wild Place Project. It is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work at Bristol Zoo and Wild Place, but also its vital conservation and research projects across five continents.

In March we launched an appeal to ensure the future of our work ‘saving wildlife together’. We launched the BZS Appeal following the temporary closure of both our sites in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Click here to find out more, or to make a donation.

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