Keeping stud books, genetically decoding plants and preserving natural habitats - the tasks of a modern zoological-botanical garden go far beyond keeping exotic animals and plants. One of the most important areas is species conservation, which is divided into two forms.
In situ conservation involves projects directly in the animals' habitats. Ex situ conservation includes breeding programs in zoological gardens or reserves outside the species' natural range.
Ex situ conservation and breeding programs
In order to build up a long-term healthy, self-sustaining reserve population, the greatest possible genetic diversity is necessary. To prevent inbreeding and to obtain suitable animals for reintroduction, zoos exchange their animals among themselves. To organize this, the European Endangered Species Programs (EEP) of the European Association of Zoos (EAZA) were established in 1992. Each EEP of an endangered species is supervised by a coordinator who keeps an eye on the entire population in the EAZA member zoos. The coordinator decides which animals are a genetic match and are allowed to have offspring. He makes binding recommendations with the help of computer programs that take the age, genetics and relationship of the animals into account.
Each EAZA zoo is responsible for one or more EEPs. In addition, there are the European Stud Books (ESB) and the International Stud Books (ISB). Here, the pedigree data of all animals of a certain species are collected in order to place young animals or to reassemble groups on this basis. Wilhelma participates in over 50 EEPs, for example for the gorillas, the okapis and the cheetahs, and over 30 ESB and ISB.
Release and reintroduction
From Wilhelma to the wild - this path was already taken by ibexes, griffon vultures, moor ducks and white-tailed eagles as part of reintroduction projects. Counteracting the decline of populations in the wild is an active contribution to species conservation. However, animals from zoo populations can only be reintroduced into their native habitats if the new habitat offers sufficient food and protection from poaching, for example. For this purpose, nature reserves or protected zones must be established in which the animals can find a safe home.
Zoos ensure the survival of the scimitar-horned oryx
The scimitar-horned oryx once populated the edges of the Sahara and the Sahel in large herds. In the course of the 20th century, however, they gradually fell victim to humans. The meat and fur of these antelopes were coveted, and the impressive horns were popular trophies: the saber-like curved forehead ornament measures up to 1.20 meters. Poaching was compounded by prolonged droughts, civil war, and habitat loss due to increased sheep and goat herding. By the late 1970s, the oryx population was down to only 6,000 animals. Since 1986 the species was considered threatened, in 1996 the IUCN classified it as critically endangered, and another four years later it was officially considered extinct.
Only because there were also scimitar-horned antelopes in zoos, the species was able to survive and its population could grow again in human care. In 2016, a reintroduction project started in Chad to bring the oryx back to its original home. In the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim nature reserve, animals from North American and European zoos were released into the wild to build up a stable population free from hunting and persecution.
Wilhelma is part of the EEP with its small herd of antelopes and has already been able to enjoy several offspring of this highly endangered species.
In situ conservation: reforestation, land acquisition and sanctuaries
Wilhelma supports numerous projects around the globe so that these reserves can be created and, above all, preserved. For example, the Zoological-Botanical Garden was able to contribute the equivalent of 375,000 US dollars for the purchase of rainforest areas in Belize and Ecuador in Central and South America. On Borneo, the renaturation of the former logging area at the Lamandau River region is made possible. In just a few years, seedlings will grow into a young forest that will provide food and shelter for the orangutans living there. Donations also flow to South Africa, where the Vulpro association takes in injured vultures and releases them back into the wild.
Wilhelma can support more than 30 such projects with financial means. For this purpose, it not only has its own species protection budget, but the Friends and Sponsors Association also contributes to the financing. Visitors to the park also have the simple option of making a small contribution through the Conservation Euro when they buy their ticket.
At Wilhelma, in order to build bridges between the animals in the zoo and their wild conspecifics, every newly built animal house and every larger facility has already been linked to a conservation project in the home country of the respective species since 2013. Wilhelma uses its expertise to select the projects that are to receive donations and accompanies their development over the years to ensure that the money is well spent.
Species protection for plants
As a botanical garden, Wilhelma is naturally also committed to the conservation and protection of plants. According to the "State of the World's Plants Report", two out of five plant species worldwide are threatened with extinction - mainly due to intensive agriculture, deforestation and the spread of human settlements. To counteract this, botanic gardens are active in nature conservation and cooperate worldwide. A key aspect of this is seed exchange: the participating institutions publish an annual catalog of all the seeds they have harvested. These can be obtained free of charge from other gardens. In this way, rare species are effectively distributed. Wilhelma also participates in this exchange and sends seeds to more than 130 botanical gardens.
The creation of ex situ collections also serves to protect species. Here, a botanical garden receives plants of an endangered species from the wild and cultivates them. For example, Wilhelma is currently responsible for the Glossy Water Lily, which only occurs in a few lakes in Baden-Württemberg. If these dry up, the species survives at Wilhelma and can later be reintroduced into the wild.
Become a conservationist
- The Conservation Euro is a voluntary contribution that visitors can pay when purchasing an adult ticket. Children's tickets do not include the Conservation Euro.
- If you do not wish to make this donation, you can opt out of this option during the booking process. The contribution will not be charged.
- 100 percent of the money collected through this initiative goes to our projects worldwide.
- There are no deductions for administrative costs.
Thank you for also being part of the alliance for nature.