RZSS statement on Sunday Times article, printed on Sunday 2 July

03/07/2017 in RZSS

Partula snails at RZSS

RZSS has expressed its disappointment at a recent Sunday Times article – “Rare animals among body count at Scottish zoos” – which appeared in print on Sunday 2 July, and has subsequently been repeated in The Scotsman and Daily Star Scotland.

Despite the sensationalist tone of both the headline and body copy, the Society can confirm that of the 856 animals that died over the course of 2016, over 80% (708) were Partula snails with a short life-expectancy of between three and four years – something which the Sunday Times neglects to mention alongside its headline figure.

Barbara Smith, Chief Executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), said:

“The Society looks after around 8,000 animals at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo and RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, from the diminutive leaf-cutter ant to the giant panda, and all of these animals have different lifespans which vary according to their size, precise genetic makeup and so on. Whilst our dedicated team of keepers and veterinarians are always disappointed to lose animals from the collection, we are also aware that this is very much a fact of basic biology – something which the Sunday Times neglects to report.

“RZSS has an international reputation for excellence in animal husbandry and welfare, dating back to its foundation over 100 years ago. Our work with the critically endangered Partula snail is just one example of this expertise in action. In 2010, the Society was entrusted with the last of the Partula taeniata simulans sub-species in existence, and it has since recovered the population to a safe level of several hundred, so much so that the Society was able to reintroduce 671 individuals of this and other threatened Partula snails back into their native habitat of Tahiti, in September last year.

“Without the work of zoological institutions such as RZSS, the Partula snail would be extinct in the wild. Over the course of 2016, our team expanded the population at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo from 1,290 to 2,106 animals, something which will have lasting benefits for the future of the species in French Polynesia.

“It is unfortunate that the Sunday Times chose to criticise our efforts without reference to the natural lifecycle of the species, rather than celebrating a true conservation success story, not only for the Society but for Scotland as a whole.”

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