Zoo Record Keeping
A Brief Background about Zoological Parks
Collections of living animals have been in existence since antiquely. Well known
early examples includes those of Chinese emperors, Aztec emperors and Egyptian
pharaohs. The tradition of gathering and holding impressive animal collections by royal
and noble families continued into the 18th century in different parts of the world.
The history of the present day zoo began in the late 18th and early 19th century
with the formation of zoos in Vienna (1752), Paris (1793) and Landon (1826). These
were quickly followed by numerous other institutions in Europe, North America, and
many other parts of the world. These zoos were established primarily because of interest,
in part scientific of zoological society members in exotic animal life. Originally, many of
them were not open to the general public just serving the interest of members. As zoos
became more had a strong interest in them. Exotic animals obviously had a great power
of attraction. This, together with an increase in free time and better transportation,
resulted in the establishment of even more zoos, both private and public, since the
beginning of this century.
A number of changes have taken place in the world since the founding of the
early public zoos in the first half of the 19th century set the course of modern zoo history.
These changes, which had great consequences in terms of goas, policies, and
management of zoos, include :
1. Change in human society : Across the Earth –especially in the more affluent
countries of the world-and increasing proportion of the population is enjoying an
increasing amount of free time. The rate of this change varies greatly according to
location, but nevertheless is occurring. Thus a great diversity of places and ways
to spend free time has developed. This has resulted in zoos losing what was
essentially a monopoly as a mass recreational facility. During the first decades of
the 1900s zoos were one of the few places in which the general public could relax,
while in recent years the competition in this area has become enormous.
Simultaneously zoos have lost their monopoly as the one institution in which the
general population can become acquainted with exotic animals. Improved
education, films, television, videos, popular magazines, books, and encyclopedias
now offer-in contrast with earlier times-opportunities to become knowledgeable
about animals origination from outside the immediate surroundings.
2. Changes in the biological sciences : The publication in 1858 of the origin of
Species, Charies Darwin’s general theory of evolution by natural selection,
transformed biological science. Existing zoos were thereby given, and provided, a
new interest. Biological science, which had concentrated on comparative anatomy
and classification, moved ahead fast and produced many new or resurrected
disciplines such as ethology, ecology, genetics, and molecular biology. The
increase in knowledge and techniques has been enormous.
3. Changes in nature : An exponential increase in the destruction of nature has taken
place during modern zoo history, most particularly recognized during the last
twenty years. Wide-scale pollution, human overpopulation tremendous increases
in energy use, and careless, unplanned use of natural resources and natural areas
have led to the disappearance of numerous species, while an even greater number
have been brought to the brink o extinction. Entire biomes are endangered;
biodiversity in many areas is under so much pressure that the continued existence
of complete ecosystems-particularly the ones with great biological diversity-is in
Numbers of Individual Animals in World Zoos
The following table below gives estimated numbers of individuals of mammals,
birds, reptiles and amphibians in zoos on all continents. The estimates are based on
information from ISIS (International Species Information System), IZY (International
Zoo Yearbood) Invertebrates are not included. Fish are not registered in ISIS; their
numbers are estimates based on the collections of a number of aquariums. (For
amphibians and fish only those individuals beyond larval and very young stages are
Continent Mammals Birds Reptiles Amphibians Fish
North 60,000 70,000 25,000 5,000 100,000
Latin 10,000 25,000 5,000 1,000 25,000
Europe 90,000 130,000 20,000 8,000 180,000
Asia 75,000 100,000 20,000 10,000 50,000
Africa 7,500 15,000 2,500 500 5,000
Australia 7,500 10,000 2,500 500 20,000
Total 250,000 350,000 75,000 25,000 300,000
Estimated World Total of Zoo Vertebrates : 1,000,000
Role of Zoos in conservation of wildlife :
Zoos keep animals outside of their natural living area (ex situ), and in this
situation can contribute to the conservation of individual animal species. Most
conservation circles now generally accept this course as often being the only one
available for critically endangered species. Furthermore, there is an ongoing development
in techniques for integrated conservation of in situ (wild) and ex situ populations, In
which relict populations of the species concerned profit from numerical support by ex
situ populations. Consideration for this type a conservation action often goes to flagship
species, i.e., those species whose conservation will have an important influence on
conservation of the entire biotope.
Zoo collections include-more for historical reasons than any other-man
individuals of species that are now severely threatened in the wild, and even in a number
of cases those which have entirely disappeared. Zoos, therefore hold living material that
is of crucial importance to the continued existence of these species. These captive
specimens represent an important part of the remaining gene pool, which with well
planned and coordinated breeding management, may be used in the future to supplement
wild populations, or to build entirely new populations. For the proper scientific
management of Zoological Parks, the most important aspect is proper maintenance of
Animal records and conservation of Wildlife
Good record keeping is very crucial to the main objectives of conservation,
education and research of any zoological park. Animal records must be kept current and
is date logged.
There are a number of purposes for keeping records like;
Zoos are legally bound to maintain the records.
Records help the authorities in species management etc reasons.
It is mandatory to send inventory reports, which include the number of different
animals, acquisitions, births, deaths, dispositions, causes of death, to the Central Zoo
Authority of India, on a quarterly basis, along with the details of the mortality report.
Furthermore, documentary records of the animals could also be required for the
press, media and other interested organizations.
The ultimate goal of the captive management of endangered species is to release
them into their natural habitat. If this goal is to become a reality, intensive genetic
management is necessary to maintain healthy populations of animals in captivity that is to
avoid or minimize inbreeding; this is impossible if accurate information regarding each
individual’s genetic history in not available. Therefore it is fundamental that
comprehensive records are kept. This information will serve to facilitate animal
Zoos are guardians of captive wildlife populations where as animal records and
databases are tools that assist sound animal management in providing the best possible
care for these animals and their respective populations. Accurate and unambiguous data
permit informed decisions for the conservation and management of the species.
Inconsistencies and errors in the animal records limit the applicability of the
records in the management of captive animals.
Animal records form the permanent history of an institution’s animal collection.
Detailed records are now essential for internal and external functions of the Zoological
parks. Internally, the records are helpful in husbandry practices, medical treatments and
histories, potential exposure to diseases and mates, and are required for regional and
national permits for possession, transport and display.
Externally records are required for sharing the information with other Zoological
parks. These records are used for cooperative breeding programmes.
Management of Zoo animals now typically involves more than one institution.
Communication among different institutions requires good records and scientific
management of animals. Animals are the cornerstone of Zoological parks and accurate
inventory of those animals including individual status and history should be the highest
priority of every institution.
The cost of poor management of animal records may be substantial. First there are
genetic risks of inadvertent inbreeding due to uncertain (incorrect) parentage : increased
birth defects, lowered survival of infants, and lowere reproductive successive are the
most obvious and most costly effects of these pedigree problems.
Because cooperative management programmes rely on data derived from zoo
records, poor quality records may result in unnecessary movement of animals in between
zoos, or incorrect decisions not to breed. Second management may be hindered if
husbandry history particularly medical and behavioral problems, if not carefully
documented. Lastly, poor management of records hinders improvements in animal
management and husbandry.
Keeping of records on the animals involved is essential to all forms of population
management. Good management is impossible without thorough, reliable information on
aspects such as the number of animals in the population, where these animals are located,
their kin relationships, descendants, and so on.
Maintenance of animal records is very important considering the following reasons
Modern animal management is based on sound records. The live animals in the
Zoo collections are the unique resource that attracts visitors. Management of this living
collection resource requires information. Animal management decisions should be driven
by basic information on the animals being managed. Also, increasing international and
national regulations on animal transactions require sound and credible records. Increasing
International cooperation among zoos and among zoo regions also requires sound and
credible records. Records tell you what the zoo has.
Quality animal records are the basis for the most modern zoo programs. Such as
cooperative breeding programs are based on studbooks. The studbooks trace each
specimen back to the wild, through as many generations and zoos as required. It is not
always understood that the studbooks are only possible if each zoo keeps quality
specimen records. It is the zoo specimen records that are assembled into the studbook. If
the records do not already exist, the studbook is not possible – and hence cooperative
breeding programs are crippled.
There is another unusual issue about animal records. They need to be in place
long before the zoo authorities think they need them. For most kinds of modern
information systems being implemented in modernizing institutions, better accounting,
etc., one can set them up when they need them. But animal records are different. They
have time value, almost like financial investments. Each animal the zoo acquires, which
is not documented, may reduce the value of the collection at a later date. If today’s
animal is not documented, tomorrow’s offspring will not have a known pedigree.
There are other returns on sound modern animal records. Good veterinary records
reduce losses of animals due to disenno, by dacking pa and treatments, by keeping
vaccinations on schedule, by tracking optimal doses for immobilization drugs and
individual animal sensitivities, and by reminding veterinary staff of follow-up work
needed. Good veterinary records mean better animal health, which is not only better for
the animals but also better for the zoo in many ways.
Animal records maintained by world Zoos :
The zoo world has three levels for the recording and reporting of individual animal data :
1. The “In-house” registration of animal data in the individual zoos : Good zoos
register as much information as possible for each individual animal. This includes
not only data such as place of origin, birth, death, parents and offspring, but also
such information on diet and feeding habits, health, medical treatments, and
breeding habits. Some of the large zoos have been recording such data for over a
century, and have accumulated a wealth of information. Hitherto, zoos generally
kept records on card systems, but now many use computers and standardized
software packages developed particularly for zoos: e.g., the Animal Record
Keeping System (ARKS). This system ensures that all zoos record their
information in the same manner, allowing data from different zoos to be
combined. Over 300 zoos are presently using the ARKS system and is
supplementary programmes. The Indian Zoos mainly maintain records manually.
2. The worldwide databases for animal information: The ISIS system based in
Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA) has been collecting zoo animal data and entering
them into a computer system since 1975. Presently over 400 zoos provide
information on a part, or all, of the animals in the collections. Zoos that use the
ARKS system (developed through ISIS) can enter data directly into ISIS, as the
systems are compatible. The ISIS database currently includes historic data for
hundreds of thousands of zoo animals of more than 4,000 species. In some
countries or regions national or regional databases for zoo animal records are
being maintained as intermediates between the in-house. On species and higher
taxonomic levels, rather than for individuals, worldwide data on zoo animals are
also collected by the IZY. Approximately 800 zoos contribute data on numbers of
animals per species and on reproduction to the IZY.
3. Studbooks for endangered species: International Studbooks are compiled using
information from ISIS and IZY and information from individual zoos that have
not begun to register their animals in these database. Each international studbook
contains information on all individuals of one particular species that live in zoos
throughout the work or have ever lived in zoos. The international studbooks are
maintained by studbook keepers jointly appointed by IUDZG and IUCN/SSC and
coordinated by the editor of the IZY. Presently international studbooks for over
100 endangered animal species exist, and this number is rapid increasing.
Studbooks are also kept on regional levels, as a component of the regional
All of these animal data, and particularly those in studbooks, are used for
population analysis. ISIS personnel, along with other specialists from within and
outside the zoo world, are continuously upgrading existing programmes and
working to develop new software programmes that simplify these processes. This
studbook and population management software makes it possible to carry out
detailed and complicated analysis in a short amount of time; the results of these
analyses can then be used to formulate management proposals for ex situ
populations. Further development of these software tools, particularly regarding
species specific situations (such as husbandry, social structure, and reproductive
strategy) should be stimulated.
While in India, responsibility for the maintenance of studbooks is assigned to
different zoological parks, for example Kanpur Zoo is the national studbook
keeper for Rhinoceros.
Software that are used for the maintenance of Animal Records
World Zoos are presently using various software’s for the maintenance of animal
records. They are ISIS (International Species Information System) ARKS (Animal
Record Keeping System) Med. ARKS (deals with medical records of the animal
collections), ZIMS (Zoological Information Management System) and SPARKS (Single
Population Analysis & Records Keeping System program) A brief note on ARKS is as
ARKS was developed by ISIS (International Species Information System) in
Dec. 1985 officered its first software package ARKS (Animal Record Keeping System)
in march 1987 an upgraded ARKS2 was released. In 1996 a different software entailed
ARKS3 was released. ARKS3 has two different versions ARKS3.1 (developed on 6th
May 1997) and ARKS3.2 (developed on 6th Nov. 1997), a modified version of the
ARKS3 software ARKS4 was released recently.
ARKS3 allows a record keeper at a single institution to record the local history of
each specimen in an electronic database. Entry of observations/event such as date of
birth/hatch dam, sire, origin of specimen, identifiers, medical history, behavioral and
husbandry concerns and location of specimen permit easy retrieval of information in
variety of formats are made in to ARKS3. For example ARKS3 can produce reports on
each specimen’s history, all specimen of a taxon, transactions/events (example births or
transfers to other institutions or the complete inventory of the institution.
ARKS software helps the record keepers to enter individual animal
information from its birth to death, where as there is no provision for entering the
details like pre birth events like stillbirths, spontaneous abortions, death shell or in larval
stages. These different outcomes are important to record for example in case of
mammals, as they provide information on reproductive activity, fertility, and fetal
development. These data are important for veterinary medicine, breeding decisions, and
Similarly in case of Birds : Chicks that die during their pipping process are
equivalent to that of mammalian premature birth. Information on Late tern, non-pipped
dead in shell deaths gives the managers fairly good idea in the proper management of
birds in Zoos. But in the ARKS software there in no provision for recording such data.
For overcoming this problem EGGS software was developed by Laurie Bingaman
Lackey. The EGGS software can record important information like egg production,
incubation periods, fertity, hatchability, egg weight, and measurements for the breeding
and management purposes.
List of Records maintained by Kanpur Zoological Park :
1. Register of supply of vitamins, minerals etc.
2. Register of wild animals captured from touring zoos
3. Vaccination Register
4. Animal stock Register
5. Fecal examination Register
6. Post mortem Register
7. Stock register of medicines and equipment for immobilization
8. Stock register of lab equipment
9. Visiting doctors opinion
10. Medicines stock register
11. Pheasant hatching register
12. Daily issue medicine register
13. Deworming register
14. Animal treatment register
15. P.M. guard files
16. Daily reports
17. Stud book of
Himalayan Black Bear