Accredited zoos are committed to maintaining healthy populations of animals within their care. In the early 1980s, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the zoos it accredits decided to work together to save species by creating cooperative conservation breeding programs known as Species Survival Plans® (SSPs). These AZA programs serve as “genetic insurance policies” against extinction in the wild.
Each SSP manages the breeding of a species in human care to maintain a healthy, self-sustaining population that is genetically diverse. Each SSP has a coordinator, a studbook keeper, and falls under the umbrella of a corresponding Taxon Advisory Group (TAG).
Species Survival Plan (SSP) Coordinators recommend which animals should be paired together to mate for the benefit of the population. They also recommend transfers of SSP animals to meet breeding and exhibition needs. In many cases, SSPs also promote education, research, and protection of wild habitats.
Minnesota Zoo staff members serve as SSP coordinators for Asian wild horse, tigers, green aracari, Japanese macaques, Lion-tailed macaques, painted storks, and moose.
Learn more: www.aza.org/species-survival-plan-program
Studbook Keepers track the pedigrees and histories of individual animals in a population of a species. From the point when an animal enters human care, the studbook tracks that animal for its entire life, recording all locations where it lives and the time spent at each location. The studbook includes the ancestors of all animals and ultimately records each animal’s date of death or transfer from the managed population.
Learn more: www.aza.org/studbooks
Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGs) examine conservation and exhibition needs of entire taxa, or groups of related species (for example amphibians). Serving as expert advisors, TAGs assist in the selection of species for conservation breeding programs and facilitate discussions of husbandry, veterinary, ethical, and other issues that apply to entire taxa. They recommend how space for species should be allocated, which new studbooks are needed, and the priorities for management, research, and conservation.
Learn more: www.aza.org/taxon-advisory-groups
Other leaders at the Zoo include: one TAG vice-chair, five TAG steering committee members, seven studbook keepers, two studbook course administrators/instructors, and two Small Population Management Scientific Advisory Group (SPMAG) members.