Population management programs

Zoos worldwide have intensive conservation programs for mammals. Although the names and acronyms vary by the geographic region of zoo associations, their functions are very much the same. In North America, that plan is called the

Species Survival Plan (SSP), a copyright name and program implemented in 1981 by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA). The Species Survival Plan is defined as a cooperative breeding and conservation program designed to maintain a genetically viable and demographically stable population of a species in captivity and to organize zoo and aquarium-based efforts to preserve the species in captivity and in natural habitats. SSPs participate in a variety of other cooperative conservation activities, such as research, public education, reintroduction, and field projects. Currently, 108 SSPs covering 159 individual species are administered by the AZA.

Most SSP species are endangered or threatened in the wild, or "flagship species." These are well known animals that arouse strong feelings in the public for their protection and that of their habitat. For an animal to have an SSP there must be qualified professionals with time to dedicate to conservation. Each SSP has a coordinator and management committee. They use tools such as population management, scientific research, education, and reintroduction to formulate a master plan. This plan outlines the goals of the program, based on what is most appropriate and attainable based on the current captive population.

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