Conservation Breeding Programmes

Zoos and aquariums take part in cooperative international and regional ex situ breeding programmes to form viable populations that can benefit in situ conservation efforts. These breeding programmes serve many purposes:

  • Support demographic and genetic backup to wild populations
  • Provide animals for public education
  • Support important research
  • Provide awareness opportunities as ambassador animals

Zoo and aquarium populations must be viable over the long term, which means that they must be demographically stable, genetically healthy, well-maintained and capable of self-sustaining reproduction, distributed among several institutions to lessen the risks of catastrophic loss and of sufficient size to maintain high levels of genetic diversity.

Conservation breeding programmes are typically managed by regional associations, which have established special committees (Taxon Advisory Groups, or TAGs) to oversee the work. These efforts may include data collection, long-term ex situ population management, or in situ conservation programmes that result in reintroduction to the wild.

In North America, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) uses the Species Survival Plan (SSP) to maintain healthy, self-sustaining, genetically diverse and viable, as well as demographically stable populations of each species in human care, and to organise zoo and aquarium-based efforts to preserve the species in situ.

In Europe, the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) is the population management tool for species kept in European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) institutions.

Other regional associations also manage breeding programmes, such as the Australasian Species Management Program (ASMP) of the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) Australasia.

In 2003 WAZA adopted the Global Species Management Plans (GSMPs), a procedure for establishing inter-regional programmes that may include a number of species for which international studbooks have already been established.

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is the global alliance of regional associations, national federations, zoos and aquariums, dedicated to the care and conservation of animals and their habitats around the world.

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