Racecourse gives £40,000 to “adopt” zoo’s Grevy’s zebra herd

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The new Grevy's filly, who was born at Chester Zoo at the weekend.
A Grevy’s zebra foal at Chester Zoo.

A British racecourse has adopted the Grevy’s zebras resident at Britain’s Chester Zoo, and will donate £40,000 to its conservation breeding programme.

Chester Racecourse, in England’s northwest region of Cheshire, has pledged an annual £10,000 donation for four years towards the running of one of the zoo’s key conservation breeding programmes following the ‘Save Our Zoo’ campaign.

The zoo’s conservation breeding programme is using racehorse breeding techniques to explore innovative and non-invasive approaches to identify key biomarkers in the zoo’s own wildlife. These techniques are vital for animals in the wild and these markers are providing invaluable insights into what’s needed to create the correct environment for breeding several endangered species, including Grevy’s zebra, the Eastern black rhino, African elephants, giraffe and okapi, all whilst maintaining the highest standards of welfare.

The Grevy’s zebra is the largest of three species of zebra and one of 500 animal species at the zoo. The population of Grevy’s zebra has declined by over 80% in the last 40 years, meaning they are classed as endangered, with fewer than 2000 individuals left in the wild. A new male zebra, Tajiri, was introduced to the herd at the zoo in October and it is hoped that the zoo might welcome some new foals in the spring of 2022.

With its donation, the racecourse hopes to raise awareness of the plight of the endangered species, drawing upon the similarities between the Equidae family members and promoting animal welfare. A series of zoo updates, educational events and activities will be available for racecourse visitors and youngsters within the local community to enjoy and take part in over the term.

Chester Racecourse Chief Executive Richard Thomas said the commitment was aimed at the prevention of the extinction of animals in the wild.

“As key stakeholders within the horse racing industry, animal welfare is top of our agenda and through our adoption of the Grevy’s zebra species at the zoo, we hope to generate positive awareness through a unified approach, highlighting the duty of care we all have towards the protection of animals.

“We are huge advocates of everything the zoo does within our local community and on a global scale and we are extremely proud to now hold the title of ‘Official Supporter of Chester Zoo’. We hope our commitment of funding will ease a small part of the damage done by the impact of Covid-19 and support the crucial ongoing work in the coming years,” Thomas said.

Chester Zoo is the UK’s most visited zoo. It is the only zoo in the country with a dedicated wildlife endocrinology department, whose objective is to measure hormones and other biomarkers to assess the health, well-being and reproduction of wildlife to assist in the goal of extinction prevention. In 2016, the zoo hosted a symposium at Chester Racecourse, where experts shared their knowledge about commercial breeding techniques, specifically within racehorse breeding.

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