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Ring-tailed lemur in the indoor enclosure.

The gecko is Zoo Animal of the Year 2024

Animal news | 31 January 2024


The 2024 Zoo Animal of the Year – the gecko – was announced today at the Cologne Zoo aquarium. The patron of this year’s campaign, President of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) Sabine Riewenherm, was among those admiring the endangered species at the launch event.

Ground into powder, brewed as tea or soaked in alcohol – many geckos fall victim to superstition, which ascribes special healing powers to the animals. There is no scientific evidence for this, but demand for these supposed medicines is increasing dramatically. Geckos face a wide variety of threats. These range from pollution, loss of habitat and damage due invasive species and climate change to capture for the pet trade, for use in traditional Asian medicine or for consumption as a delicacy. In addition, habitats for some gecko species are very limited, which means that detrimental factors can have a major effect on the survival of the populations in question. We humans are fascinated by these reptiles, which have special lamellae, or thin plates of tissue, on their footpads, enabling them to stick to and move across smooth surfaces such as leaves or even glass.

Himmelblauer ZwergtaggeckoAufforstungsmaßnahmen in Tansania

As many gecko populations are acutely endangered and continue to decline, geckos will now be in the spotlight for a whole year. “In choosing the gecko as the Zoo Animal of the Year 2024, our aim is to work with our campaign partners and the zoo community to advocate for highly endangered gecko species, and support specific conservation projects on the ground,” says Dr Viktoria Michel, Project Coordinator of the ZGAP Zoo Animal of the Year campaign.

The campaign funds will be used to boost conservation initiatives for various gecko species in Vietnam and Tanzania, and to introduce environmental education programmes. Donations collected throughout the year are enabling these activities to be even broader in scope. In several regions of Vietnam, for example, new breeding centres are being established, or existing ones expanded, for the purposes of conservation and campaign funds will cover the costs of the necessary equipment and transport. In Tanzania, the funds are being used to designate and establish a new nature reserve to extend the habitat of the turquoise dwarf gecko and bring disparate gecko populations back together.

Fokusarten Zootier des Jahres 2024


Species conservation at Dresden Zoo

Although Dresden Zoo does not currently have geckos for visitors to view, we are supporting the campaign to raise public awareness of these under-represented but highly endangered animals. We are donating €5,000 from Conservation Euro proceeds to gecko protection initiatives. We will also hold events and lectures focusing on the Zoo Animal of the Year throughout 2024.


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