News from Zoos
Great Ape Conservation Act
In a press release dated November 3, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) praised the U.S. Congress and President Clinton for passing and signing into law HR 4320, the "Great Ape Conservation Act." "America's zoos and aquariums are passionately committed to conserving the world's wild creatures and their habitat. We are proud to be part of the powerful partnership that has achieved passage of this bill," said Syd Butler, executive director of AZA. HR 4320 authorizes the appropriation of $5 million a year for the Department of the Interior to grant to organizations involved in the conservation of great apeschimpanzees, bonobos, gibbons, orangutans and gorillas. These grants will provide financial resources for the conservation programs of countries within the range of great apes and projects of persons with demonstrated expertise in the conservation of great apes. Unfortunately, no funds have been appropriated for these grants for fiscal year 2001 as the Great Ape Conservation Act was signed into law
after the passage of the FY 2001 Interior Department Appropriations bill. AZA is working diligently to secure some measure of funding for these important grants for the upcoming fiscal year. AZA has supported HR 4320 from its inception on April 13, when it was introduced by Congressman George Miller (D-CA). Senator James Jeffords (R-VT) had introduced similar legislation in the Senate on 11 May 1999. AZA President
Richard Lattis testified on behalf of AZA in support of HR 4320 during a June 20 hearing held by the House Committee on Resources. "For many years, the AZA Species Survival Plans (SSPs) have provided protection both in our care and in the wild, for endangered species from Partula snails to great apes," commented Lattis. "This bill was a logical next step in addressing the plight of the great apes." Chief among the threats to great apes are habitat destruction, civil wars which drive humans into great ape habitat and the devastating increase in the illegal commercial hunting of forest animals for their meat, known as the "bushmeat" trade. In 1999, 133 million people visited AZA's 188 accredited zoos and aquariums, and members daily educate visitors about the devastating effects of the loss of vital species habitat, as well as the illegal trade in endangered species parts and products. AZA facilities go far beyond the daily care and husbandry of animalsin 1999-2000, they supported nearly 1300 conservation and research projects in 80 countries. "And while AZA zoos and aquariums have become the last stronghold for some species, we realize we cannot save them by zoo propagation alone," concluded Lattis in his testimony. "AZA and its member institutions will continue to work with Congress, Federal agencies, conservation organizations and the private sector world-wide to conserve these magnificent animals."
Banggai Cardinalfish Conservation Program
The Banggai cardinalfish project, which includes an exhibit featured in the Indo-Pacific segment of Conservation, Outreach and Observation Lab (COOL) at the New Jersey State Aquarium, is the culmination of three years of successful research and captive breeding under the direction of the aquarium's Manager of Science and Conservation,
Alejandro Vagelli. The New Jersey State Aquarium is the only facility in the world where this species' life history has been studied. It is the research lab's goal to develop techniques for the reproduction and rearing of aquatic species; in particular, marine
tropical fishes, and to use this as a tool to further understand and describe their basic biology. The Banggai cardinalfish inhabits a small triangular area of Banggai and other nearby islands in Indonesia. Due to this species' vulnerability to exploitation for the pet trade, coupled with low levels of productivity, the continued survival of the cardinalfish is in question just five years after its rediscovery by science. The program will provide the first scientific evaluation of the Banggai cardinalfish population status and will yield
essential data on its reproductive ecology in the wild. In addition, the aquarium will establish a breeding program with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences and local collectors in an effort to develop a specific methodology for the captive breeding
and care of the Banggai cardinalfish. The American Zoo and Aquarium Association's Conservation Endowment Fund provided funding for the Banggai project.
Information for News from Zoos is provided by Joseph Lankard
of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.