Posted In Animals | 11th February 2022

Matchmaking at Dublin Zoo

Dublin Zoo participates in breeding programmes for over 35 species. This means that animals from different zoos are matched up with the most suitable partners in the hopes they will produce healthy young. Breeding programmes are essential for species conservation but – believe it or not – finding a perfect mate can be just as challenging for animals as it is for humans.

Partner compatibility plays a huge role in whether a male and female of the same species will successfully breed or not. Behaviours like grooming or even sitting next to one another are common signs of a pair that’s well matched. Just like us, sometimes it takes that special spark!

An important tool that zookeepers use to help identify a suitable breeding pair is ZIMS.

What’s ZIMS got to do with it?

The Zoological Information Management System, or ZIMS, is a global animal database with information on more than 22,000 different species. ZIMS collects and shares information with participating animal collections around the world. It is instrumental in identifying sustainability strategies for many of the species listed as Vulnerable, Endangered, and Extinct in the wild.

The animal care team at Dublin Zoo uses ZIMS daily to record animal activity. They can track mating rituals, interactions between potential mates, nest building behaviours, parental skills and share this information with other zoos.

The main goal is to establish a healthy, genetically diverse animal population in zoos which can assist in future reintroductions to the wild and protect species under increasing threat of extinction in the wild.

Wooing the cockatoo

The citron-crested cockatoo is a bird native to Indonesia and is currently listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation in Nature, with less than 1,400 individuals surviving in the wild. It has suffered extremely rapid population declines in recent years due to deforestation and unsustainable trapping for the illegal cage-bird trade.

To help conserve this species the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) have developed an Ex Situ Programme (EEP) for the citron-crested cockatoo, which aims to create a healthy and self-sustaining population of cockatoos within European zoos.

citron-crested cockatoo at Dublin Zoo Citron-crested cockatoo

As of 2020, there were only 81 citron-crested cockatoos in European zoos. Since 2004, Dublin Zoo has been coordinating this EEP, meaning that we manage the breeding of citron-crested cockatoos across all European zoos to ensure that the population remains both genetically diverse and healthy.

However, just like humans, finding the perfect mate isn’t always an exact science. Behaviours like eating together, sitting next to one another, and grooming are all telling signs as to whether a cockatoo pair like each other and are well bonded. On the other hand, the male chasing the female, hissing and tail fanning with their head down, are signs that a cockatoo pair are not well matched. The animal care team monitor these behaviours very closely when introducing a potential pair.

If a pair is not showing signs of a good match there are ways the team can help. Allowing them to explore and modify their nest-boxes, and providing lots of enrichment, can increase the bond between the pair and encourage breeding. If after the team’s best efforts the pair are still not well-bonded then the process may need to be restarted with different partners in the EEP.

As this is a Critically Endangered species, every single chick is important, so understanding what makes pairs compatible is crucial in helping conserve this species.


Love is in the air

Dublin Zoo also coordinates the European breeding programme for Goeldi’s monkey. Goeldi’s monkey is listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as developments and deforestation can lead to habitat loss. In 2019, a male Goeldi’s monkey from Parc Zoologique d’Amiens in France was successfully matched with a female at Dublin Zoo. We were delighted to welcome a beautiful newborn Goeldi’s monkey from this pair in November 2020.

Goeldi’s monkey


Find out more about the breeding programmes at Dublin Zoo here.

Visit the troop of Goeldi’s monkeys and citron-crested cockatoos at Dublin Zoo. Save up to 15% by pre-booking your ticket online.