Belfast Zoo warns of ‘existential threat’ to breeding programs in letter to Taoiseach and Prime Minister

Belfast Zoo has signed a letter sent to the Taoiseach and Prime Minister warning of an ‘existential threat’ to conservation breeding schemes.

Experts from zoos and aquariums across the island say this is due to the continued post-Brexit bureaucracy over animal movement.

Last year, the number of animal transfers between EU and UK zoos fell nearly 97% from 2019, from 1,400 to just 48.

“There are species which now only exist in the dedicated care of zoos and aquariums and for which cross-border movements are essential to their continued survival,” the letter from the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA ), seen by RTE , States.

“Not only are transfers between zoos in Great Britain and Ireland (and Northern Ireland) prevented, but animals can no longer transit through [the UK] on onward journeys to the EU which previously allowed the fastest journeys (and therefore the best possible welfare).”

He urges Michael Martin and Boris Johnson to “work together with the European Commission on behalf of species conservation”.

BIAZA is calling for a high level sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) agreement for the movement of animals between Britain and EU Member States – including Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Principal Nicky Needham said: “The import/export systems between Ireland, Britain and the European Union are now so misaligned that there are vast amounts of red tape just to get a single animal.”

BIAZA members include Dublin Zoo, Fota Wildlife and Belfast Zoo as well as Dingle Aquarium.

Dublin Zoo CEO Christoph Schwitzer said: “It is imperative that the UK and the European Commission find a solution so that good zoos and aquariums can continue their work to save species from extinction.

“It is extremely frustrating that the transfer of animals, from langur monkeys to cheetahs, has been made so much more difficult after Brexit.

“Our zoos now face impossible hurdles and delays in participating in international breeding programs.”

Breeding programs run from Ireland include Colobus monkeys and Francois langurs at Belfast Zoo.

This is in addition to the critically endangered lemon-crested cockatoo and Geoldi’s monkey, coordinated by Dublin Zoo.

Other species include cheetah and lechwe at Fota Wildlife Park.

Dublin Zoo CEO Christoph Schwitzer said: “It is imperative that the UK and the European Commission find a solution so that good zoos and aquariums can continue their work to save species from extinction.”