CJS ADOPTS AN ENDANGERED SPECIES
We accept that maintaining biodiversity is about conserving ALL species, not just the big, the furry and the cuddly ones.
CJ's Adoption Certificate,
the snail him / herself - plus a few friends. Photo taken by Niall on his trip to
Niall's report from Jersey.
A bit about CJ:
CJ Snail ('CJ' to his / her friends) is a small and 'insignificant' beastie, about as big as your thumbnail and found originally on the Pacific island of Moorea (once visited by Captain Cook of
In 1967 someone introduced the giant African Land Snail to Moorea as a source of food. These giant snails soon became a pest and threatened the livelihood of the orange grove farmers. A carnivorous snail
(Euglandina) was then introduced to eat the giant snails but (guess what), it preferred the native snails instead... and Partula became extinct on Moorea within 10 years.
In 1997, while on a pilgrimage to Jersey Zoo (founded by Gerrald Durrell
OBE, whose books first got me interested in conservation) Anthea and I heard about the captive breeding programme of Partula snails at Jersey, London, Edinburgh and Chester Zoos, etc. We noted the links between
Whitby, Captain Cook and Moorea, and between ourselves, Gerrald Durrell and the CJS - and decided to adopt a Partula snail on behalf of the CJS. We christened him / her 'CJ Snail' because... well, as with most historic events, it seemed like a good idea at the time...
We felt that any contribution WE could make to maintaining global biodiversity would only be a very small one. Then we invited our Subscribers to make a very small contribution as well - by adding just one penny per week (or more) to their CJS subscriptions and we would forward 100% of all donations to Jersey Zoo.
How your contributions
Since 1997 the Countryside Jobs Service has sent these contributions from our subscribers towards
our adopted Partula Snail, called “CJ”. As at December 2005, these donations
now total £1855.70. Thank-you to everyone who has contributed!
"On behalf of 'CJ' your adopted Partula Snail and everyone here at Jersey Zoo I would like to thank all the subscribers of the Countryside Jobs Service for your wonderful support and encouragement towards our work for endangered species. Kind regards, JA"
- Adoptions Secretary, Jersey Zoo [Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust].
News about CJ and his
Here at Jersey Zoo we have four species of Pacific island snails: Partula
faba, Partula mooreana, Partula taeniata nucleola and Partula radiolata (the first three of these now extinct in the wild). Since 1981 we have been very successful in breeding these species and have exported many to other collections and even some back to the island of Moorea for an experimental reintroduction.
The extinction of Partula from the Pacific islands, represents one of man’s greatest achievements in simplifying the biodiversity on the planet to a more manageable level.
60+ species in the Society Islands (including Tahiti) have been reduced to just 4 in less than 30 years! These four species have probably now less than 12 months left in their tiny fragment of remaining habitat on Tahiti. The devastating Euglandina (the introduced predatory snail) is closing in on them - storming through the forest at something rather more than a snail's pace. Their extinction, and consequently the extinction of all Partula in the wild in the Society Islands, looks inevitable.
It was in the face of such doom and gloom that the annual meeting of the Pacific Island Land Snail Group
(PILSG) took place at London Zoo in May . The meeting was attended by, amongst others Professor Brian Clarke (Nottingham
Univ) and Professor Jim Murray (Virginia Univ), who started the original work on Partula back in 1962.
The two day meeting started with a review of the current status of the field work and a rescue operation was proposed to help save the last individuals left on Tahiti. The operation would involve encircling the fragile population with a small electric fence to protect them from predators. This would not be a long term solution, nor is it a plan that has any history of success (previous attempts to maintain snails in an electrified ‘corral’ have not been entirely successful). Instead, the rescue operation would be more of a dramatic final gesture - heavily publicised - in a desperate attempt to get the relevant authorities alerted to, and interested in, the Partula crisis.
Government interest may also be aroused as the extinction of these species has affected the livelihoods of many local people, who used to make decorative welcome necklaces from dead snail shells. Although the predatory snails initially provided them with a huge glut of shells for their trade, the absence of any more live snails means the production of the raw material for their traditional industry has now stopped.
The captive-breeding of Partula in universities and zoos around the world is a story of highs and lows - quite literally. Population explosions followed by colony crashes that have resulted in the extinction of at least one species. Finding out why captive populations bust, rather than boom continually, is really the molluscan holy grail. Vast amounts of demographic data have been generated over the years, by all the captive populations and these are now being married with recorded changes in temperature, humidity, lighting, diet, management regimes, water, parasite loads etc,. in an effort to establish any trends / relationships between them.
The system being used to analyse this data was designed specifically for Partula by IT staff at the Zoological Society of London. It is a vastly impressive web based colony management system. When up and running properly the programme will be able to provide an ‘early warning system’ for an impending population crash, by picking up on the signature changes in the population demographics. Suffice it to say, it is among the most complicated, most advanced, most sensitive animal management tools ever devised - and its all just for snails!
Niall's report from his trip to
Jersey and meeting with CJ in October 2002:
I met CJ Snail
The staff of Jersey Zoo were worried that I would be disappointed when I met
CJ. ‘It’s not a proper, large-scale recovery programme’ explained JA,
their Adoptions Officer. ‘Thak’s ok’ I replied, ‘He’s not a proper, large-scale
In fact, that was one of the main reasons why Anthea and I had chosen to
adopt a small and (dare I say it?) ‘insignificant’ species of snail from a small
and (dare I say it?) ‘insignificant’ speck of land once visited by Captain Cook
of Whitby. The big, the dramatic and the furry endangered species are rather too
good at grabbing the public attention and purse – but what about the small, the
retiring and the slimy? They are no less important when it comes to maintaining
Kevin, the Head of Herpetology at Jersey Zoo, showed me the entire collection
of Partula snails, some 400 individuals ranging from thumbnail sized adults to
pinhead sized young. There are 4 different species and each clear plastic tank
on his bookshelf contains
between 30% and 80% of the total world population of that species, all now
extinct in the wild. They live under his personal care in the office where he
can monitor and maintain the optimum light, temperature and humidity
conditions. Sometimes a Partula population can plummet for no apparent reason,
emphasising the importance of keeping collections in several different zoos.
A new computer programme will co-ordinate all the available information on
Partula numbers, environmental conditions, feeding, cleaning, etc, in all the
collections around the world. Then any increase or decrease in numbers can be
analysed, the probable reason/s identified and the information passed on to
safeguard all the other collections. Only when the group is better understood
will there be any possibility of a deliberate breeding recovery programme…
Reintroduction to the tropical island of Moorea is not a realistic option
until the introduced predatory snail can be controlled, but maintaining a viable
population in captivity is just the first step - and the money donated by CJS
Subscribers IS bringing that day a little closer. But only at a snail’s pace… By
Niall Carson, Editor CJS, 2002.