Julie Yamamoto of Species360 met with Save The Snakes Conservation Partner & Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society Founder Murthy Kantimahanti at the ZACC (Zoos & Aquariums Committing Conference) 2018, to chat about the value of data to snake conservation.
Snakes play a vital role in our ecosystem and widespread fear of these reptiles has led to indiscriminate killings of snakes and declines in populations worldwide. During his interview, Murthy spoke about his work with Save The Snakes and the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society and the necessity to work with communities to reduce human-snake conflict. He says:
“Data plays a key role in our work in educating communities on the important ecological role that snakes have. Our conservation efforts are more effective when we can tell people that the non-venomous rat snake kills 400 rodents annually that destroy large vegetable crops in India and spread diseases”
Much of Murthy’s work is focused on the infamous resident of the Eastern Ghats, the king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah). It is currently listed as vulnerable on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, and has reportedly experienced local population declines of over 80% over 10 years in parts of its range in South and Southeast Asia!
As the loss of habitat and human exploitation threaten the survival of many species, collecting data on them is proving to be crucial. King cobras in captivity are particularly challenging for data collection but the team at Species 360 are ready to dive in to protect snakes.
Species360 members around the world care for more than 20,000 snakes and nearly 900 species! Currently, 44 Species360 members across Asia, Australia, Europe and North America, collectively hold over 100 king cobras with two births in the past year.
Why the numbers matter!
Successful conservation depends on data!
Having large enough populations to sustain genetic diversity over the long-term is the key to conserving species. Collecting data on continued animal health and survival determines the best actions for long-term preservation. When populations are small, preserving genetic diversity is challenging as the small number often results in no statistical significance. Therefore, it is crucial for zoos, aquariums and other wildlife organisations to share data on the number of species of any one species they have. The combined data will provide valuable information about the conservation of that species.
Successful examples include:
- King cobra conservation breeding by Bronx Zoo/Wildlife Conservation Society
- Ringed snake reintroduction by Duisburg Zoo
- Ocellate mountain viper conservation breeding by St Louis Zoo
- Hatching of four rare Louisiana pine snakes by Tulsa Zoo last year
Species360 ZIMS (Zoological Information Management Software) is currently used around the world by more than 20,000 animal care professionals in 1,100+ zoos, aquariums and other wildlife member organizations.
ZIMS was named the top conservation tech innovation for big data insights by Mongabay for advancing collaboration and information sharing. The data from ZIMS is also being used to create species survival plans to manage breeding programs that maintain healthy and self-sustaining populations.
Species360 ZIMS is underpinning many efforts in:
- Preserving the “gene bank” of wildlife
- Breeding and reintroducing animals to the wild and
- Managing critically endangered wild populations
“ZIMS is an excellent way to gain vital insights on breeding and other behaviors in a species. If we apply that knowledge as we study wild populations, it will help us devise better long-term conservation management plans.”–Murthy Kantimahanti
Read more about Species360 and their interview with Murthy, the Data4Wildlife superhero!