Cooperation between zoos
In order to support natural populations and the survival of an endangered species, an artificial population of the species must sometimes be additionally created. An artificial population consists of individuals that are divided between different zoos, but are managed jointly. In order for such a system to work, zoos work closely together. European zoos participate in the „Endangered species in Europe program“ (EAZA Ex situ programme, EEP) – simply put, in reproduction programs, and one coordinator is assigned to each program. The species coordinator keeps an eye on the population’s genetic and demographic indicators and, based on the collected data, gives the zoos information about which animals should be mated together or, if necessary, sent to another zoo so that the artificial population remains viable. In breeding programs, the movement of animals from one zoo to another is always by agreement of the parties, and no institution pays for the animals.
The first reproduction programs in Europe were started in 1985. after a meeting at Antwerp Zoo, where it was found that such cooperation between zoos is necessary. In 1993 Tallinn Zoo was already in 15 EEP-s and by 2022 in 15 reproduction programs. These species can be recognized on the zoo by an oval sign with rhinoceros, with the letters EEP.
Pan-European breeding program for the European mink
The European mink is one of the most endangered small carnivores in the world. The semi-aquatic mink was a common species in Europe in the first half of the 20th century, but today less than 5% of its range has been preserved. The decrease in mink population was caused by the loss of habitats suitable for it, excessive hunting and competition with mink that escaped from fur farms. The last time a mink was found in Estonian nature was in 1996. year. In order to preserve the species and restore the natural population, in 1992 European Mink Breeding Program (EEP) was created, which is coordinated by the Tallinn Zoo. In the first year, only 14 mink were part of the program (9 of them were in the Tallinn Zoo), but since the turn of the century there have been more than 200 mink individuals in the EEP year-round. Almost half of them live in the largest European mink breeding center in the Tallinn Zoo, which can accommodate a little over a hundred individuals. At the moment (2022), 15 European zoos participate in the European mink breeding program, and it is gratifying that zoos’ interest in mink is growing.
In addition to managing the artificial population, Tallinn Zoo, in cooperation with the foundation Lutreola, has been engaged in the settlement of European mink in Hiiumaa and Saaremaa.
The garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus) was last seen in Estonian nature in 1986. year. At this point the local population of the garden dormouse is presumably extinct. The first animals were brought to the zoo species protection centre in 2021. with the aim of getting to know them better, multiplying them and, if possible, reintroducing them into Estonian nature. Tallinn Zoo licorices belong to the artificial population managed by the Dutch Zoo (GaiaZOO).