Breeding in captivity provides a safety net for vulnerable species and a way of bolstering dwindling populations. It involves managing captive groups so they remain genetically healthy and self-sustaining.
In some cases, habitats exist to which new animals can be reintroduced. In other cases, we can do little more than hold captive populations of species already extinct in the wild.
Conservation breeding is central to ZSL's work, integrating our field conservation ability and our animal husbandry expertise. We are involved in breeding programmes of many sorts, from worldwide breeding efforts to reintroducing struggling UK native insect species. More about breeding for conservation.
Managed Breeding at ZSL
ZSL is part of collaborative breeding programmes for numerous species, and holds the studbook for many. Most of these animals won't be reintroduced, but they are vital as safety-nets for vulnerable species and as public ambassadors.
Managing Breeding Programmes
Captive populations ideally need to be large and genetically varied, so organisations collaborate by exchanging animals and resources. A 'studbook' is held for each species by one zoo or aquarium that coordinates all the breeding activities for that animal.
Find out about breeding programmes and studbooks
Some key ZSL breeding projects :
Breeding for Reintroduction
The ideal result of captive breeding programmes is that animals can be released to reinforce wild populations or restablish a species in its former range. ZSL is breeding animals that have already been released back into their natural habitats or will be in the future.
Breeding new captive animals is the foundation for reintroduction, but success relies on the habitat, animals and conditions all being suitable. ZSL has provided expertise for several reintroductions, from health monitoring to preparing habitat: