Hundreds of endangered tree snails were sent back to their native island of Tahiti as part of an international zoo conservation project. Partula snail populations from French Polynesia were decimated in the 1970s after the predatory ‘rosy wolf snail’ was introduced from Florida to rid the islands of a previously-introduced alien species – the giant African land snail – but instead, the rapacious predator devoured the tiny native snails.
The release is the result of an international collaborative breeding programme between zoos and collections across the world, including the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), Edinburgh Zoo, Marwell Zoo, Bristol Zoo, Chester Zoo, and ZSL London Zoo. Over the past 30 years, zoos around the world have built up partula snail populations as part of captive breeding programmes.
The various subspecies of partula snails kept in captivity are managed under the International Partulid Conservation programme, which combines the breeding programme in 15 different institutions around the world with conservation work in the Polynesian islands.
652 snails from across the partnership were released in Tahiti. Around 46 out of 65 identified species of Polynesian partula are extinct.