The partnership between the University of Manchester and the UK’s number one zoo, Chester Zoo, will see a £1.1 million investment into two research areas, to help prevent the extinction of threatened species across the planet.
The first will focus on improving the future outlook for some of Africa’s most endangered species, e.g. Eastern black rhinos and Grévy’s Zebra. Habitat destruction and hunting has led to more than 60% of mega herbivores such as these to collapse in numbers. The joint research project aims to explore further how these species are affected by environmental change and human disturbance.
The second area of research will focus on finding new ways to manage animal populations outside their natural range to increase their conservation value and promote animal welfare. The research will also focus on ‘safety net’ populations ensuring animals are fit to be reintroduced into the wild and continue to improve animal reproduction and welfare in zoos. The aim is to build these projects and continue establishing them worldwide.
Head of Applied Ccience at Chester Zoo, Dr Sue Walker, said: ‘The partnership with the University of Manchester brings together skills sets from both institutions and is a crucial step towards protecting some of the most charismatic species on our planet”.
The projects will be delivered by 10 doctoral/post-doctoral researchers over the next seven and a half years.
Chester Zoo Science Director, Dr Simon Dowell, commented: “Species across Africa are threatened with extinction. Conservation is critical and urgent. We have worked with the University of Manchester on a number of projects over the years but this important new partnership takes our collaboration to a new level”.
Professor Susan Shultz, a Royal Society University Research Fellow from The University of Manchester, said: “This partnership represents the best of collaborative applied science. The university is combining its expertise, facilities and technology with the conservation experience and global conservation reach of the zoo to find innovative solutions to the global biodiversity crisis.”
Immediate projects to be delivered include:
– Why some black Rhino populations in Kenya fair better than others
– How environmental change affects Grevy’s Zebra in Kenya and Cape Mountain Zebra in South Africa
– How large mammals in Tanzanian National Parks are Impacted by resource extraction and land use change
– Establishing a new physiology lab in Kenya
Other studies include research into management of bird song in the Javan sparrow, social behaviour in the endangered Sulawesi crested macaque and genetics in Eastern black rhinos. The aim of these research projects is to explore new ways of maximizing reproductive success and delivering world class animal welfare.