The gecko is the zoo animal of the year 2024. The agile animal is the successor to the crocodile, pustular pig and macaw, as the Zoological Society for Species and Population Protection (ZGAP) at the Cologne Zoo announced.
“We need effective instruments and good cooperation to preserve endangered gecko species,” demanded Sabine Riewenherm, President of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), who is the patron of the campaign and got an idea of endangered geckos in Cologne.
Geckos are threatened by climate change
Because no matter how cool and unaffected the gecko often looks, it is not doing well worldwide. Among other things, the climbing artists fall victim to a rumor that attributes special healing powers to them. According to the Zoo Animal of the Year makers, there is no scientific evidence for this - but the demand for the alleged drugs is increasing. Geckos would be ground into powder, brewed as tea, or pickled in alcohol. The "charismatic" tokehs - a once widespread gecko species - are particularly badly affected. Some species, like the golden gecko, are also hunted to eat. They are considered a delicacy in some places. Geckos also suffer from habitat loss and are threatened by climate change.
The geckos have a great history behind them. They have colonized the earth for 50 million years, making them one of the oldest animals in the world. Geckos are found on every continent except Antarctica. They have adhesive strips on their feet with millions of fine hairs that allow them to even walk on vertical panes of glass and on the ceiling. And when threatened, they can throw off their tail, a special trick.
The makers of Zoo Animal of the Year are concerned with species protection. The campaign was launched in 2016 to advocate for critically endangered species that are not well known or whose threats are rarely discussed. “So that no group of animals is left out, we always alternate between fur, feathers and scales,” explained project coordinator Viktoria Michel.
The election of the Zoological Society for Species and Population Protection (ZGAP) is intended to support specific species protection projects - for example in Vietnam.