European Studbook Foundation (ESF)


Keeping animals

Keeping animals in captivity is an old human custom. Domestication of wild animals and improvement of several plant species has brought many advantages to humanity through the ages, not in the least as a source of food.
To keep pets as a hobby and to care for wild plants in the house or the garden has also become common throughout the world, from primitive society to western people living in an urbanized world. Due to the increasing prosperity in the western world and the growing interest in something palpable from nature`, the international commercial trade in exotic plants and animals has find a soft spot. A flourishing trade arose the last decades from exporting third world countries, which become increasingly poorer in comparison with western countries. Particularly Western Europe, Japan and the United States have become a market for many wild animals and plants.

They create a demand and this demand has surpassed the supply considerably, with disastrous consequences. There is a lot of data on this development, although they do not reflect the (possibly much larger) scale correctly. Conclusion: western man consumes, and again much more than needed.

Mass consumption by a large number of amateurs is responsible for a deathrate of 80 or 90% among imported exotic animals shortly after arrival. Beside the consuming amateur there is a limited group of people who want to deal with animals and plants in a different way, as I will explain below.


In 1992, N.S.V. took the initiative to start studbook/breeding programs for tortoises/turtles. They became aware of the importance of protecting the animals in the wild and of a more stringent policy concerning the import of animals from the wild. They had to become self-supporting!

In 1994 these activities clearly needed a proper management and the foundation of O.O.S. (Coordinating Body Studbooks) became reality, that in February 1997 became an official foundation and was registered with the NL Chamber of Commerce under number S-136106.

Soon after that the same initiative was taken for lizards, snakes and some species of Dendrobatinadae.This led over the years to the start of a large number of studbooks for species and sub-species of reptiles anf amphibians. Recently our studbook initiative was followed in Germany by starting a number of breeding programs for several endangered species of Chinese terrapins and turtles. Cooperation is about to start between Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Holland to save a number of species. Details and a plan have yet to be worked out.

Because of extension of the activities to other European countries, in January 2003 the name of the organisation was changed to European Studbook Foundation (E.S.F.). Before long reptile and ampfibian keepers in other EU countries apply for participation of the E.S.F. studbooks. Over the years also zoos became participants of the E.S.F. studbooks.

ESF Aims:

– Conservation of reptiles and amphibians in captivity, with emphasis on endangered species.
– Management of European studbooks.
– Management of genetically healthy breeding programmes.
– Cooperation with re-introduction programmes.
– Gathering, compiling and spreading of knowledge of husbandry and reproduction of reptiles and amphibians.


The following studbooks are relevant for our Foundation:

Sauromalus obesus /  Henk Zwartepoorte /  +31 10 46 59 527 /
Ctenosaura melanosterna /  Rene Gaal /

What is a studbook?

A studbook is literally a register in which the origin (descent) and characteristics of the registered animals of one race or species are drawn up. In case of the ESF, this concerns a group of reptile and amphibian species. A studbook can arrange a number of things: management of an animal species in captivity, countering inbreeding by working with breeding programmes and knowledge collection and publication.

This means that the studbook keeper keeps track of which animals are being cared for at which location and which animals reproduce, the goal of this being to guarantee the genetic health of the population on the long term. Animals and their offspring can be exchanged between (aspiring) studbook members, with the studbook keeper possibly playing a mediating / advising role. The studbook keeper can be consulted if there are questions regarding the husbandry and breeding of the species.

Once a year, the studbook keeper publishes an annual report, in which mutations and successes of the past year are noted.

Why is a studbook of importance?

Especially for species that are in danger of extinction (in captivity and/or in the wild), it is vitally important to keep the gene pool of the population as broad as possible. The smaller the population, the bigger the chance of risks that come with inbreeding. With every individual animal that dies in a small population (such as the European captive population), part of the genetic variation disappears that is necessary for a genetically healthy population. The same applies for an animal that does not reproduce: this individual is genetically `dead` for its populations future existence, unless an effort is made to breed with the individual.

The collection and transfer of knowledge means that an effort is made to collect, and eventually publish, as much information as possible about the husbandry and breeding of a studbook species. This way, one person can be consulted instead of `the wheel having to be reinvented` again and again.

What do I do to join a studbook?

Participation in a studbook does not cost money. You can register your animals by contacting the studbook keeper directly (See, or by using the online registration forms. These forms can be found under “Forms” on the website the screen of the particular studbook.

How to start a studbook?

For this we would like to refer you to the guidelines for a new studbook, which you can find on the ESF website under ‘Lines of action’. It needs to be said here that the board strives to appoint, apart from the studbook keeper, a co-studbook keeper for each studbook. The advantage of this is a better guarantee of the continuity of the studbook and the possibility of splitting workloads.


Want to know more about the European Studbook Foundation? ESF is happy to inform you any further.
Please e-mail your questions to: