Brazil’s rich ecosystems are home to about 20 percent of all species of flora and fauna found on our planet. As the country’s largest zoological institution, São Paulo Zoo is an epicenter for national and international conservation programs to protect biodiversity and sustain natural habitats.
The zoo was the first institution in Brazil to participate in Species360, beginning a rich history of contributing essential wildlife data to improve animal welfare and inform conservation. São Paulo Zoo staff later led the diffusion of Species360 husbandry and medical solutions to other Brazilian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZAB) members, helping to link wildlife experts in the region and worldwide.
Earlier this week, we spoke with Mara Cristina Marques, Technical Department Biologist and Species360 Registrar for São Paulo Zoo, about the role of Species360 and the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) in animal management and conservation programs.
Q: What has been your experience with the Species360 community?
Mara: “Species360 is a global family, we speak frequently and share our knowledge and needs no matter the distance. As part of the global community, we are proud to help facilitate the dissemination of species knowledge. This fulfills a core mission, which is to continually improve the welfare of animals and to sustain biodiversity through professional improvement and shared knowledge.”
Q: São Paulo Zoo has contributed data for more than 4,400 animals and 435 species, making it one of the largest contributors of Species360. Why do you use ZIMS for records management?
Mara: “ZIMS makes us more agile in how we manage animal care and welfare, especially for individuals and species involved in international programs. Participating in Species360 demonstrates how much we value the provisioning of data about the animals in our care, and the importance that we place on its quality.”
Q: São Paulo Zoo was the first zoo in Brazil to join Species360 and later helped to encourage the adoption of ZIMS among other AZAB member zoos and aquariums. What has that meant for the AZAB community?
Mara: First, we saw the importance and the benefits to the whole community, of using best practices in recording and sharing information about animals in our care. We started by demonstrating ZIMS, and before it the DOS-based Animal Record Keeping System (ARKS), at animal management and zoo veterinary congresses. This has been especially critical for institutions participating in international species survival campaigns, like the Giant Armadillo Conservation Project teams working in Pantanal, Brazil. The animal and species data recorded, shared, and analyzed using ZIMS is critical to collaboration across borders.
“Second, as a member of the AZAB board, São Paulo Zoo seeks to qualify as many zoological professionals as possible in best practices. We help member institutions to adhere to high standards of data management for populations of animals under human care. By using ZIMS for Husbandry, Care and Welfare, Medical, and Studbooks, we can support and integrate the way that we plan animal collections, manage populations, and conduct conservation programs.
“Finally, AZAB members using ZIMS also ensure privacy and quality of data. And what begins as data quality impacts everything from research to policy.”
Q: Can you talk more about why you chose this field?
Mara: “As biologists, we enjoy the opportunity to explore different areas of research and biotechnology, and to propose methodologies and improvements to advance our field. Working within the zoo gives me the opportunity to work in different segments of the field. I am especially grateful to be part of the conversation around conservation as we assist decision makers and establish public policies to protect and sustain the immense biodiversity of my country.”
Q: How do you use ZIMS, day to day, and what would you change?
Mara: “We use ZIMS to answer requests for information on behalf of colleagues, and to inform key functions and decisions throughout the organization. That includes our animal care, veterinary, and collections management staff that rely on ZIMS to help ensure the welfare of individuals and groups.
“Among the challenges is adapting ZIMS to the needs of each country, so that the unique characteristics of fauna management can be accommodated. In addition, AZAB users must continue to learn as Species360 introduces new ZIMS solutions such as ZIMS for Care and Welfare, and ZIMS for Studbooks.
Q: What is next for São Paulo Zoo and ZIMS?
Mara: “In March, we will host 25 AZAB studbook keepers for a ZIMS for Studbooks training session, with Katelyn Mucha (Species360 population management expert) and Erika Fronk (member support representative).
“We plan to begin using the new ZIMS for Medical – Sample Storage module to help manage biobank resources and to support research needs.”
Thanks to Species360 member Mara Cristina Marques, São Paulo Zoo, for talking with us and sharing insight for this article. Obrigada, Mara!