Threatened by pet trade and habitat loss, the Red Siskin (Spinus cucullatus) — which features prominently in Venezuela’s national identity — is considered one of the most endangered bird species in the world. So when the Red Siskin Conservation Center (RSCC) opened at Leslie Pantin Zoo in July 2019, it quickly became an essential haven for individuals that are critical to ensuring a future for the songbirds.
Made possible by a grant from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the RSCC had barely opened its doors when legal authorities brought two male red siskins that had been confiscated from an illegal trade attempt. Soon after, a local breeder who learned of the Red Siskin Initiative approached the Center and willingly gave birds to help expand populations.
Today, thanks to a conservation grant awarded by Species360, Leslie Pantin Zoo will be able to share care and husbandry data on these and other individuals with international species survival program partners, including the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, Zoo Miami, Brevard Zoo, National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Zoologischer Garten Basel, Den Blå Planet / National Aquarium of Denmark, Zoo Zürich, Miejski Ogrod Zoologiczny Warsaw, Fundação de Parques Municipais e Zoobotânica (Brazil), and more.
In all, 19 institutions in four regions, Europe, Australia, North and South America, share information regarding Red Siskin husbandry and the individuals and groups in their care. Each of these is a vital link to protecting and restoring populations in the wild.
Leonel Ovalle-Moleiro, one of the leading collaborators of the Red Siskin Initiative since before its beginnings, is the RSCC bird curator in charge of the logistics for the transfer, reception, and monitoring of the birds. Leonel and the RSCC staff will use ZIMS to curate and share data on individual birds in their care, and can reference husbandry, care and welfare indicators, medical information, and more from partner institutions, as needed.
Commenting on the Species360 membership and its expected impact, Ovalle-Moleiro said:
“Sharing information generated in the RSCC through ZIMS database, will be beneficial for all organizations, because it represents a source of data generated in the area of distribution of the species, under climatic conditions and exposure to others natural elements of their habitat, difficult to recreate in other latitudes. This will generate feedback and can mean a source of ideas or experiences to be replicated for the improvement of management in other facilities around the world.
Undoubtedly, the system will facilitate the systematic organization of the data, which may allow to record events effectively, carry out evaluations and clarify doubts. It will allow a global level of access in a unified format, which can lead to develop new research and management practices. At present, our information is shared in a somewhat informal way, through direct person-to-person communications, written records, spreadsheets and other non-specialized tools. The access to ZIMS will undoubtedly be a leap to modernity and a great support for the conservation of tropical fauna.”
Leslie Pantin Zoo is the first Species360 institutional member in Venezuela, and joins the more than 1,200 zoos, aquariums, wildlife refuge, and research centers curating and sharing data on species in 99 countries.
More about the efforts to save the Red Siskin: When a previously unknown population of red siskins was discovered by Smithsonian and University of Kansas researchers conducting surveys in neighboring southern Guyana in 2000, international partners launched an initiative to protect this stable population and return Venezuelan populations to sustainable numbers.
Led by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), Zoo Miami, AZA, and many other collaborators, the international partnership employs community-based conservation strategies coupled with support from species advocates and experts working within zoos and aquariums around the world.
Learn more at the Red Siskin Initiative!