Brexit bites British zoos’ conservation efforts

first_imgBritish zoos are struggling with post-Brexit paperwork rules, undermining conservation efforts both in the U.K. and the EU.Brexit has drastically reduced the pace of animal transfers as part of conservation programs across the Channel. Before Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic, about 1,400 animals were transported across the U.K. and EU border in both directions annually, according to Myfanwy Griffith, executive director of the European Association for Zoos and Aquarium (EAZA). But recent data shows “that there has not been a single international animal move from the U.K. to another country since the end of the transition period,” she said.Fifty British zoos and aquariums are active in ex situ species conservation projects, aimed at managing the population of endangered species and safeguarding them through breeding, organized by EAZA. One of them is Twycross Zoo, which recently told the BBC that Brexit is compromising its conservation program to save endangered leopards. The Leicestershire zoo explained that it can’t export an endangered female Amur leopard to Belgium for breeding because of missing paperwork.“The paperwork that existed before Brexit has literally just vanished so all of those permits now need to be rewritten,” curator Neil Dorman said. Failure to send the leopard to Belgium could compromise the species’ long-term conservation, he said.In the conservation program for the threatened Amur leopard, “as many as 21 percent of the 120 [leopards of the program] live within our U.K. member zoos,” explained EAZA’s Griffith. She added that disrupted exchanges not only affect the species’ population in the conservation project itself, “they also hamper planned reintroductions into the natural range where as few as 100 Amur leopards remain.”According to her, “disruptions to programs such as this could be reduced by the establishment of more suitable border control posts in the U.K. and EU.” She added: “These transfers are often complex and anything that slows them down could compromise animal welfare and overall conservation efforts” because it limits genetic mixing of animal populations.Hear me roarDorman said it’s the government’s responsibility to make sure all the necessary forms and paperwork are available at the end of the transition period and called on U.K. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to urgently resolve the issue.But according to DEFRA there is no issue. It told the BBC that animals can still be exported as long as they follow import rules from EU countries. That view is not shared on the rest of the continent. “From the moment the U.K. left the EU, it can no longer use the sanitary standards granted at EU level,” said Eric Bairrão Ruivo, research and conservation director at Beauval Zoo, one of France’s largest. “They have to start all over again and define new sanitary conditions for the entry of animals in their country.”He added: “We anticipated Brexit and did as many animal transfers as possible before December 31 … We know it’s going to take time to get back to normal because border posts are not ready to handle zoo animals … it’s also a logistics issue.”The U.K. is now considered a third country, which complicates administrative procedures. Britain “is now considered for us like doing trade with Australia or Latin America, which makes things very complicated,” Bairrão said, regretting that “one of the things that was good in the European Union was the administrative simplification.”There are also concerns about potential overpopulation of some animals in the U.K. because they cannot be exported, he added.Since the Brexit referendum, EAZA has helped its members on both sides of the Channel put in place contingency plans. But it seems this has been insufficient to prevent disruptions like at Twycross Zoo. Zoos are already struggling due to a loss of income caused by coronavirus lockdowns.“We understand that zoo animal transfers might not be the highest priority as part of the negotiations but, we do urgently need more suitable border control posts and streamlined paperwork so as to safeguard the effectiveness of EAZA zoo and aquarium conservation activities,” Griffith said.last_img