International Species Information System

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This article is about the international non-profit organization pursuing animal conservation goals. Not to be confused with the Islamist extremist rebel group ISIS.
International Species Information System
International Species Information System Logo.png
Founded 1973
Type International not-for-profit organization
Focus Zoo and aquarium animal records database
Area served
Method Membership
Slogan "It is the mission of ISIS to facilitate international collaboration in the collection and sharing of knowledge on animals and their environments for zoos, aquariums and related conservation organizations to serve institutional, regional and global animal management and conservation goals."
Website ISIS

The International Species Information System (ISIS) is an international non-profit organization serving more than 920 zoos and aquariums in 80 countries worldwide. ISIS provides its members with zoological data collection and sharing software called ZIMS - the Zoological Information Management System.[1] As of April 2013, the ZIMS database contains information on 12,490 taxonomies at species level, 393,641 living individuals and 3,170,281 reported individuals in groups.[2] ISIS members use the basic biologic information (age, sex, parentage, place of birth, circumstance of death, etc.) collected in the ISIS system to care for and manage their animal collections (including demographic and genetic management in many cases).

Since its founding almost 40 years ago, ISIS has been a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) pursuing wide animal conservation goals. Operating independently from any government, it is not a conventional for-profit business and has no political goals.

ISIS works in partnership with zoo associations around the world, adding new institutional and regional associations frequently.

Regional association members include:

ISIS and the Central Zoo Authority of India (CZA) have a five-year memorandum of understanding with a primary goal of migrating the majority of the zoos in India into the ZIMS database.

Currently, ISIS has staff and representatives in Amsterdam (the Netherlands), Bogota (Colombia), New Delhi (India) with headquarters in Minnesota (USA).

Centralized database[edit]

Today, zoos and aquariums are “gene banks” for endangered species. In some cases, species which have become extinct in the wild and have been bred in zoos are eventually returned to the wild. Examples include the black-footed ferret, California condor, Przewalski's horse, red wolf, Micronesian kingfisher (not yet reintroduced), and the Arabian oryx. Individual zoos generally do not have the space to maintain a viable species population (which for many mammals and birds requires 500+ animals to maintain sufficient genetic diversity[3]), so this requires coordination between many zoos. In addition, scientific expertise on husbandry, nutrition, veterinary care and so on is spread throughout the zoos and aquaria of the world. Breeding and population management relies on accurate information about animals in all member institutions, especially pedigree history (parentage) and demography (births and deaths).

An ISIS-Board approved Data and Privacy Policy has been in place since 1995. Member data remains under the ownership of the submitting institution; member data is not available for sale.

ISIS records are accepted by international regulatory bodies such as CITES. Several Regional Associations seek ISIS membership for their members: Roughly three-quarters of Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) members in North America are ISIS members. The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) requires its members to join ISIS. The World Association of Zoos and Aquaria's (WAZA) Conservation Strategy Guidelines strongly recommend that all zoo and aquaria join and participate in data sharing via ZIMS.[4]

ISIS software[edit]

ISIS serves as a center for cooperative development of zoological software. This spreads software development costs across many institutions, making software support available to all participants at a reasonable cost.

ARKS4, or "Animal Records Keeping System" allows members to contribute information and generate reports from that database.[1]

MedARKS, or "Medical Animal Records Keeping System" is distributed upon request to ISIS members, and supports veterinary medical records keeping and collection.[1]

SPARKS. or "Single Population Analysis & Records Keeping System" supports studbook management and species analysis, and is for use by studbook keepers.[1]

EGGS is egg clutch management software for a single facility, and augments records for egg-laying species in both ARKS4 and SPARKS.[1]

ZIMS, or "Zoological Information Management System" is the next generation ISIS software. Release 1 was delivered in March 2010 and was updated in 2012 to a greatly improved user interface. Release 1 covers functionality regarding basic inventory of animals, detailed individual animal information, and general institutional information such as staff, enclosure data and life support system design and maintenance. Release 2 features veterinary medical features currently offered via the MedARKS application. Release 3 will incorporate the SPARKS and Poplink Studbook functionalities. The ZIMS application is the world’s first and only real-time, unified global database for animals in zoos and aquariums.[5]

LearnZIMS, the educational version of ZIMS,[6] is made available for licensing to educational organizations teaching animal husbandry, zoo and aquarium science. This version of ZIMS mirrors the standard ZIMS application, but does not include the global database of animal records. LearnZIMS uses a fictitious dataset to teach application functionality and to demonstrate the types of data that are collected in the global database.


In 1973, Drs. Ulysses Seal and Dale Makey proposed ISIS as an international database to help zoos and aquariums accomplish long-term conservation management goals. It was founded in 1974 with an initial membership of 51 zoos in North America and Europe, and its membership has increased every year since.[7]

Grants and endorsements have been provided by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (AAZV) and other zoological associations. The doctors also raised development funding from private foundations and the United States Department of the Interior. For the first 30 years, the Minnesota Zoo hosted the program on their grounds.[7]

Since 1989, ISIS has been incorporated as a non-profit entity under an international Board of Trustees elected by subscribing member institutions.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e "International Species Information System". International Species Information System. 2008. Retrieved 14 March 2010. 
  2. ^ International Species Information System ZIMS Species Holding
  3. ^ Tudge, Colin (1992). Last Animals at the Zoo: How Mass Extinction Can Be Stopped. Washington, DC: Island Press. ISBN 1-55963-158-9. 
  4. ^ WAZA 2009 Conservation Strategy.
  5. ^ "Four-Release Timeline" (PDF). International Species Information System. 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2010. 
  6. ^ LearnZIMS educational license of the ZIMS application.
  7. ^ a b c "History". International Species Information System. Retrieved 14 March 2010. 

External links[edit]