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Julián Santiago, a research professor at the Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria (INIA), highlights :
“Unfortunately, the ex situ topic is key in the conversation about species that could disappear. For that reason, it is important to take park in the zoological park network where qualified staff and infrastructures are always available. Through this network many activities take place, and event for extreme cases of extinction, it represents the basis for the creation of new populations, a sources of technical support for artificial reproduction, take part in controlled liberations, working in collaboration with the Autonomous Communities and with the public administration”.
This is the lesser-known side of zoos: their contribution to the fields of research, development and innovation through different national and european projects, as well as in collaboration with private research foundations geared towards preserving biodiversity at all levels, from animal reproduction to ethology and health.
“The role of zoos includes working actively alonside other institutions to try to establish germplasm banks or to develop recovery and reintroduction projects for species that have or could disappear from their habitat.”
In this regard, Santiago warns about the importance of putting local fauna in the spotlight and reminds us of the rich fauna that can be found in the Iberian penninsula, where there are, nevertheless, several threatened species.
Among the main biodiversity challenges, Julián Santiago points out the need to build greater awareness in the general public to achieve real social engagement. This is key to face the real challenges at a time when man’s actions are influencing climate change and provoking habitat fragmentation, thus causing population decline among many species.
“The education and dissamination efforts are essential”, Santiago point out. “Zoological parks have to make an enormous effort to make iformation available to all citizens and allow them to make their own judgement after received it. The zoo must get out of its enclosure, reach schools and universities, and gain access to other communities to tell its story and show the research they conduct, as well as its contribution to animal conservation”.
To fulfill that task and un aligment with the Parques Reunidos Spirit, the Parques Reunidos Foundation wagers on informing, educating, and creating awareness so that society might take on the need to protect the environment as its own responsiblity. With this objective in mind, the Foundation has developed initiaves like the “D Days” program, through which all parks organize activities related to sustainability and the protection of the environment.
Julián Santiago is a member of the Experts’ Focus Group put forth by the Parques Reunidos Foundation, where also participated: