Within the framework of a policy of compliance with international plant and animal health standards, the Biodôme’s conservation activities involve its living collections as well as safeguarding natural environments. The Biodôme participates in a number of national and international conservation programs to prevent extinction and promote reintroduction of endangered species into their natural habitat. It also conducts many research projects on endangered species or collaborates with partner institutions on their research.
Promoting the survival of the wood turtle
The wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) is the most terrestrial of freshwater turtles native to Québec. It’s been listed as vulnerable under the provincial Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife since 2005.
Unfortunately, most of the turtle populations in Québec are at risk because of the loss and degradation of their natural habitat, collisions on the road, and a number of other factors linked to human activities. The wood turtle is also threatened by poaching and illegal trade.
In collaboration with the Québec Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs, the Biodôme is endeavoring to help maintain the populations of the species in their natural surroundings.
The “head start” program for wood turtles makes it possible to raise dozens of young turtles in captivity. The goal is to increase the survival rate of those young and to protect them from various threats (predators, poaching, and so on) during their most critical period, which is from hatching until the age of one or two. As soon as they’re big and heavy enough, the young turtles can be released into their original natural environment in the Témiscouata and Madawaska regions.
Breeding Western Chorus Frogs
The Western chorus frog, Pseudacris triseriata, is the smallest living frog in Québec, measuring between 2.1 and 3.7 cm. It is found in the lowlands of the southwestern part of the province. It inhabits and reproduces in shallow water (ponds, ditches, flooded clearings). For several decades, the chorus frog’s situation has greatly deteriorated because of the destruction of its habitat.
In spring 2000, the Western chorus frog was officially designated a vulnerable species under the Act Respecting Endangered and Vulnerable Species.
The Biodôme, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Ecomuseum and the Ministère des Ressources Naturelles (MRN) are currently working with the Western Chorus Frog Restoration Team. The aim of this collaboration is to develop expertise in keeping them in captivity, hibernation, reproduction and maintaining a captive population. Such knowledge is necessary in case a survival population is needed in the event of a massive population loss in the frog’s natural habitat.
Conservation of the Golden Lion Tamarin
The golden lion tamarin, Leontopithecus rosalia, a small Brazilian monkey that is surely one of the most beautiful monkeys in the world, is a species designated as rare and in danger of extinction. In 2004, 1,180 golden lion tamarins were documented in the Brazilian forest, of which 550 were bred in captivity.
Fortunately, it is not too late to save the species. The Biodôme is one of 144 institutions participating in a species survival plan. As of December 31, 2008, 497 golden lion tamarins were living in captivity in 144 zoological institutions around the world. The objective of the program is to obtain a population of 2,000 golden lion tamarins in the wild by breeding in captivity followed by reintroduction into the forest, preserving the habitat essential to their survival and completely stopping illegal trafficking.
Since the first couple was introduced into nature in 1984, a major increase in numbers has been observed. Without the conservation program, the risks of inbreeding could have decimated the species.
Conservation of the Copper Redhorse
The copper redhorse, Moxostoma hubbsi, is a species of fish that only exists in Québec and is in danger of extinction. The critical situation prompted the Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement, de la Faune et des Parcs du Québec to develop an artificial reprodution technique, in collaboration with the Biodôme and the Université du Québec à Montréal.
Methods of hormonal induction, egg incubation and raising the young were developed. More specifically, the Biodôme has played an important role in developing a shelter network (genitarium) to conserve the species’ genetic variability. As of 1994, young copper redhorse males crossbred from different parents are kept at the Biodôme, the Québec Aquarium and the Baldwin Mills provincial fish hatchery.
Conservation and restoration of Wild Leek in Québec
Did you know that 20 per cent of wild plants in Québec are currently vulnerable, endangered or at risk? Concrete measures must be taken to change this situation. Local communities have a key role to play. In 1999, the Montréal Biodôme launched SEM’AIL, a public awareness, education and restoration program for wild leek. From 2000 to 2004, one million wild leek seeds were distributed to 1,117 maple groveowners, creating 500 new colonies in southern Québec.
Today, the Montréal Biodôme leads SEM'AILjr, a school program on biodiversity. After learning about the importance of preserving biodiversity, students then get involved in wild leek restoration by creating a new colony in their community. Regions that have been most affected by the plants’ decline – Montérégie, Lanaudière and the Laurentians – are targeted. During the wintertime, a Biodôme facilitator gives a workshop on biodiversity conservation in the classroom. In the spring, students plant wild leek seeds in a protected forest in their area suitable for the plant to thrive. Each student involved in a community project to restore a vulnerable species plays an important role in biodiversity conservation in Québec.
Conservation and restoration of North American Ginseng
The national recovery plan for North American ginseng suggests that 40 natural, high-quality populations be conserved in Québec and Ontario, as a priority. Conservation and restoration of North American ginseng have been undertaken at the Montréal Biodôme since 1994. In 2004-2005, 38 conservation targets were identified in Québec and personalized conservation plans were prepared. Since then, these plans have been implemented. It should be noted that most conservation targets (17/38) are orphans and are not being monitored. There is an urgent need to evaluate the implementation of conservation plans with local stakeholders (NGOs or site managers) and adjust them as necessary.
At present, the project aims to:
- Increase conservation efforts for orphan targets
- Offer ginseng conservation and restoration training to local NGOs and key site managers (including a reference guide)
- Evaluate the implementation of 2004-2006 conservation plans
- Conduct inventories for 10 priority targets that have not been reviewed since 2006
- Offer scientific and technical support to NGOs involved in monitoring priority conservation targets.
These actions will contribute to a significant advancement of wild ginseng conservation and restoration in its distribution area in Québec.