Captive Breeding and Conservation

When effective alternatives are unavailable or unsuccessful, captive-breeding can play a crucial role in the recovery of critically endangered species. The popularity of incorporating captive-breeding programs in species recovery plans has increased over the years. With constantly improving techniques, this can make the difference between survival and extinction for many species. Successful examples include the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus), the Mauritius Kestrel (Falco punctatus), the black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) and the Guam rail (Rallus owstoni).

The goal of establishing a captive breeding program for an endangered species may be to establish stable and genetically healthy captive populations to reintroduce animals back into the wild where they can boost population numbers or to introduce new populations in additionally suitable habitat areas.

There are many limitations to captive-breeding as a recovery strategy and when employed, should always be coupled with recovery objectives for wild populations as it is not a long-term solution. Such programs are not to be confused with captive propagation for other reasons such as public exhibits, research or conservation education.

The Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program Is a partnership composed of the Zoological Society of San Diego’s CRES, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the State of Hawaii and Hawaii’s private land owners. These groups work together to save some of Hawaii’s most endangered forest birds. The Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project is involved in capturing wild birds for use in this program, harvesting wild eggs for captive incubation and rearing and to plan future releases of captive-bred birds.

To see more about this program visit the CRES website at

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