Wednesday, February 2, 2011

From Edinburgh to Brazil – Scottish Society Helps the World’s Largest Freshwater Wetland

To coincide with World Wetland Day on Wednesday 2nd February 2011, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), the society who own and manage Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park, has announced the breakthrough development and launch of a special piece of software that now contributes to the vital conservation of the Pantanal freshwater wetlands in Brazil. The project is the culmination of six years research.

Although the chillier forested wetlands of the east of Scotland seem a million miles away from the hot and humid wetlands of Brazil, the RZSS regional conservation and research team has worked with local organisations to develop this special project.

Since its creation the RZSS has placed great emphasis on the conservation of biodiversity and the contribution of scientific research. As well as a successful breeding programme and living collection from across the globe, the society’s team of some of the most knowledgeable experts in the world conduct and support a number of projects both at home and abroad.

The programme, called the DeltaDiet, is crucial to help conserve and protect the Brazilian Pantanal which has become increasingly threatened by large development programmes and changes in land management practices. This tool, developed by the RZSS team and Embrapa Pantanal (Brazilian Government research institute), allows the rapid analysis of faecal samples from plant eating animals, which in turn helps scientists understand the nutritional needs and the foraging strategies of animals in the wetlands – all crucial information that will contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of the Pantanal ecosystem.

Dr Arnaud Desbiez, the RZSS regional conservation and research coordinator for Latin America, comments: “This is an immensely positive long term legacy left by RZSS. To date over 250 plants have been characterised, leading to detailed manuals for plant families being published, and we have been able to examine the diet of several species through the different seasons of the year. This is particularly urgent since cattle ranching activities are intensifying and destroying important wildlife habitat. The DeltaDiet tool is ultimately key to developing a strategy to conserve the threatened Brazilian Pantanal – the largest freshwater wetland in the world.”

The database will now be widely and freely available for use by other researchers and will constantly be updated with new data. Other conservation and research projects continue to be developed by RZSS in the region.

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