RZSS helps reintroduce Partula snails to their native habitat

05/10/2017 in RZSS

Tree-snails that are among the most endangered species in the world were reintroduced to their former Polynesian home following the success of an international zoo conservation project involving the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS).

RZSS sent four varieties of Partula snail- P tohiveana, P affinis, P mooreana and P suturalis vexillum - which had been bred at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, to be released into the snail’s native range of Tahiti.

Partula snail populations were decimated in the 1970s after the predatory ‘rosy wolf snail’ was introduced from Florida to rid the islands of a previously-introduced alien species - the giant African land snail - but instead, the rapacious predator devoured the tiny native snails.

Gareth Bennett, Senior Presenter at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, said:

“We are proud to have been part of helping to restore the Partula snail back into its native habitat for many years now. Edinburgh Zoo has been involved in the conservation of Partula snails since 1984 and was even given the very last individual of the Partula taeniata simulans variety in 2010 which the Zoo bred back to a safe level of several hundred.”

“We were very pleased to learn that the reintroductions have gone so well and that snails from earlier releases have been found within the habitat continuing to thrive. This is a wonderful conservation success story and further demonstrates the critical role zoos can play in species conservation. The reintroductions are historical landmarks, not only for Polynesian tree snails, but for wildlife conservation in general because the results we are seeing are made possible through the hard work of committed zoos working together as part of an international breeding programme.”

The release is the result of an international collaborative breeding programme between zoos and collections across the world, including Bristol Zoo, Chester Zoo, Marwell Zoo, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and ZSL London Zoo in the UK alone.

The various subspecies of Partula snails kept in captivity are managed under the International Partulid Conservation Programme, which combines the breeding programme for 15 taxa in 15 different institutions around the world with conservation work in the Polynesian islands. Approximately 46 out of 65 identified species of Polynesian Partula are extinct. 

Originating from the steep volcanic forested islands of French Polynesia, Partula snails provide valuable insights into the mechanisms of evolution.

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