Our species conservation research lab is responsible for scientific research in Tallinn Zoo. The necessity to establish such a lab came from the management of European mink captive population as well as from the actions aiming to establish a safe European mink population in Hiiumaa Island.
This establishment of European mink island population and its management are the most outstanding achievements of our lab in the field of practical species conservation.
In research, our lab collaborates with various universities and research institutions. Our partners have been, among others, the Estonian University of Life Sciences, the Tallinn University and the University of Tartu, the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, the Kuopio University, the Helsinki University and the Stockholm University.
Our lab has a very close collaboration also with the foundation “Lutreola”. In 2014, the lab moved into new building. The construction was funded by project called “Tallinn Zoo and Species Conservation Laboratory“.
During 2016 and 2017, a new complex for European mink captive population will be constructed. This project also funds the acquisition of DNA laboratory equipment for our lab. The funding for these actions comes from project „European mink breeding facility and equipment for DNA lab”.
Since 2015, our lab develops research in three directions. These are (a) the species conservation (b) animal well-fare and (c) genetic forensic. The research focuses into four areas:
1. Reintroduction biology – The model for research is the establishment of island population for critically endangered European mink in Hiiumaa Island. The possibility to integrate research ex situ and in situ provides us with unique opportunities to study in depth the process of restoration and establishment of wild populations.
2. Ex situ populations: biology and reproduction. Our lab maintains and manages the ex situ population of over 100 European mink and the European mink EEP (European Endangered Species Program) program (link: lutreola). This provides us an excellent opportunities to study various questions related to maintaining wild animals in captivity.
3. Animal well-fare. This is relatively new area for the lab, it includes elaboration of environmental enrichment in our zoo and looking into possibilities for applying animal training methods to enhance animal husbandry and welfare in captivity.
4. Genetic forensic analyses. This is also a new developing direction for us. We wish to provide genetic forensic help to practical conservation issues both in situ and ex situ.
In addition, the lab analyses our zoo species collection and keeps animal records in global on-line zoological information database (www.zims.org).
Photo: Tiit Maran
More about European mink here.
The laboratory cooperates with the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC). In 2014, our lab organized IUCN SSC meeting in Tallinn. The materials of the meeting are available here. There is also a close cooperation between our lab and the IUCN Redlist authorities.
The list of articles prepared with the involvement of our lab are here.
The head of the lab is Tiit Maran (PHD).