Trends in Japan

Not Just for Display, Now They're Preservation Facilities Too

JUNE 13, 1996

Gorillas and Tigers at Ueno Zoo
This April saw the opening of a new gorilla and tiger park at the Ueno Zoological Gardens in Tokyo. Modeled on the natural habitats of these animals, this facility to encourage breeding covers some 11,000 hectares.

The gorilla enclosure is home to nine gorillas living in two groups. This is the largest gorilla population of any domestic zoo. The breeding area is now five times its previous size, and the animals are permitted to eat as much as they like whenever they like. In the tiger enclosure, four Sumatran tigers pad calmly around on the bare earth. Visitors to the zoo can view these animals through glass windows from all directions.

The park is one project in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Zoo Stock program to preserve animal species. Four facilities are involved in the scheme to preserve 50 different species, including orangutans and cheetahs.

The zoo at Ueno is responsible mainly for gorillas and tigers, and the enclosures at the zoo have been rebuilt accordingly. The animals that were kept in isolation at zoos around the country have been brought together at Ueno with the aim of fostering breeding. Meanwhile, the Tennoji Zoological Gardens in Osaka is establishing a sperm bank to freeze and preserve the sperm of rare creatures.

The sperm of 18 species, including orangutans and bird varieties, has already been preserved. It will be used in the future to inseminate females that satisfy the necessary conditions, such as an appropriate estrous cycle, for breeding purposes.

Aquarium Tackles Turtle Breeding

An increasing number of aquariums are participating in breeding programs, too. The Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium for example, built an artificial beach in a display tank for the breeding of loggerhead turtles.

The population of these turtles has dropped dramatically due to the shrinking number of beaches. Yet virtually nothing is known about the conditions required for breeding.

For this reason the adjustment of conditions at the aquarium, such as water temperature, has been a process of trial and error.

Last year an egg was laid indoors for the first time in the world. The aquarium will continue to conduct experiments and gather data, shedding light on the mysteries of the ecosystem of the loggerhead turtles and playing a useful role in preserving this endangered species.

The Port of Nagoya Pulic Aquarium
(Photo: Noritoshi Yamaguchi)

International Cooperation
The International Species Information System based in the United States holds a collection of data on rare animal life kept in zoos all over the world. Information kept on file includes species names, gender, age, reproductive history and so on. At the end of 1995 data had been prepared on 236,000 individual animals of 6,500 different species.

By having each zoo exchange and purchase animals based on this information, breeding of rare species can be undertaken, and mating with close blood relations can be prevented. Four Japanese facilities, including Ueno Zoo, are participating in this information system, and implementing animal exchange programs.

Zoo and aquarium officials agree that the days when their facilities raised animals simply for exhibition purposes are now over. They maintain that these creatures are on loan to us from the world of nature and that there is a need to promote breeding and preservation efforts further.

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