Despite volumes of data currently available on mankind, it is surprising how little is known about other species.
A paper published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) — using data recorded by Wildlife World Zoo in collaboration with other zoos and aquariums worldwide — confirms critical information, such as fertility and survival rates, is missing from global data for more than 98% of known species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
That changed when researchers added data from a previously untapped source: the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS).
Across classes of species, key blanks fill with salient data. Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park records its animal data in ZIMS, which is curated by wildlife professionals working within zoos, aquariums, refuge, research and education centers in 97 countries. It is maintained by Species360, a nonprofit, member-driven organization that facilitates information sharing among its nearly 1,200 institutional members and is the world’s largest set of wildlife data. Wildlife World Zoo has been contributing data on its animals since 1985.
“It seems inconceivable,” said Dalia A. Conde, lead researcher and Species360 Conservation Science Alliance director. “Yet scientists tasked with saving species often have to power through with best-guess assumptions that we hope approximate reality.”
A multidisciplinary team led by Species360 Conservation Science Alliance, with participants from 19 institutions, believes knowledge can be substantially increased by applying new analytics to data that has been long overlooked — using data contributed by Wildlife World Zoo and other zoos and aquariums around the world.
The team of 33 scientists including data analysts, biologists and population dynamics specialists developed the first Species Knowledge Index to map just how much we know about species worldwide. The index aggregates, analyzes and maps data from 22 databases and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
“Wildlife World has added data on 10,361 birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals of 840 species, making a huge impact on the understanding of those species’ life histories,” said Mickey Ollson, director of Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park. “Providing that missing data — filling in those gaps — is game-changing for these species.”