If we believe that each species is a unique assemblage of traits (genes, behaviours, microbial hitch-hikers) then we can freeze dry some sperm and egg and send them off to a long-term storage facility like they have on Svalbard. OR (and this is the usual preference of active zoo-keepers) we can try to establish sustainable populations of captive born-and-bred individuals for re-introduction into the wild . . . after Armageddon reduces the number of people to more sustainable levels. That unique assemblage of traits is more than a single ape can carry, so the plan is to retain as much genetic diversity in what is available in the zoos and circuses of the world. That means a structured breeding program to mobilise semen from as many healthy males as possible. Nobody in the ape-breeding business believes that a super-fit wonder-male should be identified to 'improve' the species although that is the basic protocol in breeding cattle and other domestic animals. That shows a commendable humility about knowing what is best for wild animals. Diversity is certainly good for the future.
brings us back to Basel. With a rather Calvinist outlook on morality among their captive primates, the Zoo has separated their orangutans into 3 family enclosures, each with a [Ma+Pa+offspring] demographic. When Padma the most recent female cub was born, the management took saliva samples from all nine members of their
Zoos talk large and strong, especially at Christmas when the WWF is drumming for money, about their value as an ark for animals whose habitat in the Third World has been destroyed by people and corporations. But Zoos are also in it as a business - however much subsidised by local and national governments. What brings 'Gate' more than anything else is a new-born addition to the inventory - especially from a cute species - great apes, pandas, bears . . . other large carnivores at a pinch. If they were really interested in the welfare of their breeding stock they wouldn't put the animals out as a raree show for the public where the animals can be assaulted with coins, inappropriate food, and a deafening hubbub of cries and whistles.
Great apes, being clever enough to spot an opportunity to escape from Stalag MenschenAffen XIX, used a storm-broken branch to leave their enclosure in Belfast Zoo last weekend [video footage]. Being seriously institutionalised they didn't much like the open space and small edible children of The Outside and were easily persuaded to return to ad lib bananas Inside.