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From the Zoo to the wild

The adventure of releasing animals back to the wild

Since the year 1600, more than 80 mammal species have disappeared from the face of the earth. Uncountable species more - among vertebrates as well as among invertebrates - have been eradicated or are close to extinction. In order to antagonize this trend, zoos such as Tiergarten Nürnberg have dedicated themselves to conservation breeding of endangered species.


Owls for our home

After the Tiergarten had provided eagle owls to increaase the number of inhabitant eagle owls in Germany several decades ago, they now also release ural owls into the wild. Ural owls had been extinct for several decades in the Bavarian forest, on the German side of the border as well as on the Czech side.

The Tiergarten assisted with creating a breeding population by presenting the first animals bred in captivity worldwide of this owl-species in 1965. In 1975, a joint German-Austrian-Czech project for the resettlement of ural owls was founded. Ever since 2003, the offspring of the ural owls of the Tiergarten is being directly released into the wild to extend the wild owl population. The almost fully fledged birds are kept in large enclosures and after the enclosures are opened for good are only at the very beginning still fed by humans.

From the Tiergarten directly back to the steppe

Some of the species already extinct in the wild can only survive thanks to selective breeding in zoos. The zoos try to protect the species in captivity in the short and medium run. As soon as their existance is secured in the wild, it is taken to resettling the species. The breeding programmes therefore have to accompany/go along with the protection of the endangered species' habitats.

However, often it is particularly this part which is hard and longwinded to achieve, for either financial or social reasons. One successful example for saving an animal species by breeding it in captivity is Przewalki's horse (tahki) which is ancestor to all our present horse species. In it's former home, Mongolia and China, it was eradicated in the 1960s. In 1992, the Christian Oswald Foundation started a project with the aim to resettle those horses in Mongolia. This project is being followed-up by the International Tahki Group. Tiergarten Nürnberg supports this project with horses from its own breeding group. The animals come from different zoos in order to maintain and secure the genetic diversity and to avoid inbreeding.

In 1997, the first group of horses was released into the steppe of the nature reserve Gobi B. Two further groups, some of the animals marked with collar-transmitters, followed suit in 1998. The following year they had their first offspring: two foals. In 2002 already 10 foals were born. Meanwhile the population has increased to 36 animals in the wild and 22 horses still kept in enclosures. Luckily, the horses cope well with their native habitat conditions - extreme weather conditions and the permanent threat of nearby wolf packs.

The bearded vulture has come home