Sustainable species management of the elasmobranch populations within European aquariums: a conservation challenge.
Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research 5(1) 2017: 172-181.
Elasmobranchs, including sharks and rays, are popular animals in public aquariums. Worldwide,
more than 700 million people visit zoos and aquariums annually, enabling elasmobranchs to become
an important ambassador for their natural habitats. We conducted a census within the European
Association of Zoos and Aquaria to gain a better overview of which species are present within European
collections. The census showed that 102 chondrichthyan species are found in European zoos and public
aquariums, accounting for 8.6% of all known species. Benthic species are the most common. Of the
captive population, 47.1% of species have reproduced in aquariums. Of the reproducing species, 87.8%
exhibit body sizes of 51 to 250 cm. Categorising the reproductive results by reproductive mode, the
most successful are oviparous and aplacental viviparous groups with uterine villi or trophonemata. A
regional collection plan, stating the level of organised breeding recommended within the region, has
been defined using the results of the census and the IUCN status. Currently, 42 species are managed
by a species coordinator, within the ex-situ European elasmobranch population, to ensure a genetically
healthy population, to increase reproductive output and to conduct husbandry research. Longterm
breeding efforts will help to reduce the demand on wild populations to supply the aquarium
population. Species coordinators will become the contact for in-situ conservation initiatives and
international conservation bodies like IUCN. This study discusses further the future challenges in the
captive management of chondrichthyan populations.