Endangered Pacific species of snails saved from extinction by Scots scientists

Hundreds of critically endangered creatures are to be re-introduced into their natural habitat on the Pacific island of Tahiti by Scottish conservation experts.

Partulas and baby

Photograph by: RZSSPartulas and baby

The rare Partula tree snails almost became extinct as a result of alien invaders, such as the rosy wolf snail, which preyed upon native species. Approximately 46 out of 65 identified species of Polynesian Partula are already extinct.

However, as a result of the combined conservation efforts of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), Edinburgh Zoo and its partners, a number of the remaining species have been rescued from complete oblivion.

The conservation charity has sent hundreds of snails from five different species of Partula to be released into the wilds of French Polynesia. The critically endangered Partula affinis will return to its native Tahiti, while Partula mooreana, Partula suturalis vexillum, Partula tohiveana and Partula taeniata simulans, which are all extinct in the wild, will be returned to the island of Mooreana.

RZSS has been involved with the conservation of the Partula snail since 1984 and was given the very last captive individual of the Partula taeniata simulans subspecies in 2010, which experts at Edinburgh Zoo have subsequently bred back to a safe level of several hundred.

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Photograph by: RZSS

The Zoo was awarded the prestigious “BIAZA Award for Significant Contribution to Conservation Breeding” in 2012 for saving this subspecies of Partula snail from extinction.

Gareth Bennett, Senior Presenter at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, said: “It is extremely exciting to be able to send some of our Partula snails, which we have been breeding for years, to be reintroduced directly back into their native habitat.

“This is a wonderful conservation success story and further demonstrates the critical role zoos can play in species conservation. We hope that the Partula reintroduction will provide a model framework for other species reintroduction programmes worldwide.”