Northern Ireland news

Zoos and aquariums call for post-Brexit animal transfer deal

Belfast Zoo, along with zoos and aquariums from across Ireland, have written to the taoiseach and the British prime minister to call for an agreement on the transfer of animals post-Brexit. Picture by Hugh Russell

Zoos and aquariums from across Ireland have written to the taoiseach and the British prime minister to call for changes to the transfer of animals post-Brexit.

The attractions, including Belfast Zoo, Exploris Aquarium and Castle Espie Wetland Centre, said breeding programmes are at risk because of restrictions on animal movements.

Belfast Zoo’s breeding programmes include colobus monkeys and Francois’ langurs – one of the rarest monkey species.

It said there were “excessive and in some cases prohibitive restrictions”.

The zoos, members of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), have also written to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

The letter stated that there were 48 animal transfers between EU and UK zoos in 2021, compared with 1,400 “in a normal year”.

“This is completely undermining the conservation impact of BIAZA member zoos in all these nations,” it added.

The group explained that transfers between zoos in Britain and Ireland are “being prevented” and “animals can now no longer be transited through Great Britain on onward journeys into the EU”.

It has called for an agreement to be struck between the UK and EU to ease the restrictions.

Nicky Needham, from BIAZA, said it was “hugely frustrating” that the transfer of animals, such as cheetahs and langur monkeys, “has been made so much more difficult following Brexit”.

“Our zoos now face impossible hurdles and delays to partaking in international breeding programs,” she said.

Christoph Schwitzer, chief executive of Dublin Zoo, said: “It is imperative that the UK and European Commission find a solution so that good zoos and aquariums can continue their work saving species from extinction.”

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