Brexit threatens endangered animals as restrictions affect breeding programmes

Animal Health

It has become increasingly difficult to transfer critically endangered species within Europe to broaden the gene pool with Britain outside the EU.

Breeding programmes intended to save critically animals are at risk as a result of Brexit, with zoos cautioning they are being prohibited from relocating animals such as giraffes and rhinos by red tape created by the UK’s exit from the EU.

“It has become increasingly difficult to transfer critically endangered species within Europe.“

The animal health regulation came into force in April 2021, despite being passed in 2016 before the EU referendum. There have been no information that the UK fought the regulation.

It is essential that zoos, due to their small population, exchange animals for breeding programmes to keep the gene pool as extensive as possible.

According to the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Biaza), before December 2020, a regular year saw approximately one thousand four hundred exchanges between the UK and EU countries. However, in 2021 there were only fifty-six, and so far this year, there have been eighty-four.

Biaza’s senior manager for animal conservation and care, Nicky Needham, has stated there were over four hundred European Endangered Species Programmes (EEPs), and about twenty-five per cent were coordinated by UK aquariums and zoos.

She has said, “These are safety net populations for threatened species. Animal transfers between zoos and aquariums are carefully planned to maintain a healthy genetic population.”

One programme to save a critically endangered species, the Eastern black rhinoceros, contains roughly eighty-seven animals, nearly forty of which are in UK zoos. Needham has said, “Losing this would jeopardise the viability of the population and stop reintroductions to east Africa.”

Needham said that transfers have fallen for two specific reasons. Since Brexit, after being agreed in 2016, a new EU Animal Health Regulation has come into effect. That introduced new restrictions on the import of plants and animals into the EU, known as sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks.

A number of those assessments need to be executed at border control posts, which are normally set up by private enterprises. A couple are present at airports in the EU, therefore generating an effective ban on the import of any large animals.

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