The official website of the EAZA Antelope and Giraffe Taxon Advisory Group (TAG)





















  About us









  About us

Chairs: Frank Rietkerk, Apenheul, The Netherlands (until October 2012) and  Jens-Ove Heckel, Zoo Landau, Germany (from October 2012), Vice-Chair Angela Glatston, Rotterdam Zoo, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Vision: Healthy, viable, free ranging populations of antelopes, giraffes and okapis, ranging through intact ecosystems, valued and cherished both locally and globally

Mission: To maintain healthy, genetically viable, self-sustaining, captive populations of okapis and a representative cross-section of antelope and giraffe taxa. These populations will be: ambassadors, drawing attention to the plight of these taxa in the wild; a focus for fund-raising for conservation; a source of individuals for re-stocking and reintroduction purposes and a research resource to improve husbandry, welfare and in situ conservation.


The Antelope and Giraffe TAG continues as one of the largest and most complex TAGs representing the approximately 50 species (and approximately 65 taxa) held in European zoos. We have always taken it as our remit to retain as many species in European collections as possible. The stringent veterinary regulations imposed by the EU mean that it continues to be difficult to obtain animals from outside of the EU, whether it is a desirable taxon or to bolster our antelope and giraffe populations. Therefore the majority of species are recommended for EEPs, ESBs or monitoring. Currently the TAG organizes 12 EEPs and 9 ESBs; the remaining species are actively monitored by either a person or the TAG.


In order to better manage such a large number of species and programmes, the TAG is subdivided into five taxonomic (aridland, woodland and savannah species, mini antelopes and giraffes) and three thematic (conservation, research and import/quarantine) sub-groups. Each of these sub-groups has its own leader who monitors activities and developments relevant to that group).


2012 was definitely a year for changes in this TAG. In addition to a new TAG chair the group has new coordinators for aridland and woodland antelopes and a new EEP coordinator for the Arabian oryx. The mid-year meeting of 2012 was held in Marwell in June. This was part of a more general hoofed stock meeting which gave us opportunity to discuss issues which effect the management of all hoofed stock, key amongst which is the problem of imports and veterinary regulation.


The performance of the last four EEPs run by the TAG was evaluated; all seem to be running smoothly although some minor recommendations for improvement were made. One general problem was brought to light by the Nile Lechwe EEP, namely inadequate interest in participating in the species committee. In the case of this species the coordinator was advised to get as many participants as possible and work with these people. Another option, that of joint species committees, covering several related taxa, was again raised. The TAG is again planning to take this issue back to the EEP committee for discussion.


The TAG also decided to look at different ways of compiling Husbandry and Management Guidelines. There is a feeling that zoos should think more about the species they hold rather than literally following concrete recommendations. It was suggested that zoos should be encouraged to design their enclosures on the basis of information provided in the guidelines rather than instructions. This could be assisted by providing more videos and photos as part of the guidelines package. It was also recommended that we look at new ways of producing these which may cover more species.


Since the recent publication of the volume dealing with ungulates in The Mammals of the World, there has been much discussion on taxonomy and the way this impacts on our programmes. During the mid-year meeting, Helen Senn gave a presentation on the species concept and how DNA can help to resolve some of the questions – and how DNA then raises further questions. We do need to understand the phylogenetic tree but we do not yet have all the genetic data to do this. A coherent naming system is also important. The TAG needs to decide if we’re going to keep populations apart or to mix them. But perhaps the most important recommendation was that we need to manage zoo population for a purpose e.g. reintroduction versus a display population. This purpose will inform our eventual decisions as regard managing that population.


During the annual meeting in Innsbruck, Jens-Ove Heckel took over as chair of the TAG. On this occasion we all want to thank Frank Rietkerk for his achievements and the countless hours he has dedicated to foster and lead this TAG in the past 17! years. And we look forward to Jens-Ove continuing this great tradition and that he may use his long-term involvement in the IUCN Antelope Specialist Group and in international species conservation to further enhance the synergies between ex situ and in situ activities.


Additionally, after an evaluation of the Giraffe EEP with the TAG Chairs, subgroup leader and coordinator in Innsbruck, it was concluded that the programme was back on track and that the TAG had full confidence in the further success of the programme and its coordinator. Finally, an engaged new studbook keeper has been identified for Giraffes and Greater kudu.


As a final note our mid-year meeting for 2013 is planned in Landau on 22.-24. May. The intention is to focus on husbandry guidelines and taxonomy: both topics will be given adequate time.