What is Reintroduction?
Reintroduction involves the release of captive individuals into an area which was once part of that species’ historical range, but from which it has been extirpated or extinct.
Translocation is similar to reintroduction in that it involves the release of individuals into a part of the species’ historical range. However, instead of captive individuals, translocation refers to the relocation of wild-caught individuals from another area.
The primary goal of species reintroductions is to reestablish a species in an area where it has lived historically, but has since become locally extinct. With more species declining due to human influences, reintroduction will play a more vital role in conservation efforts. One way to observe the status of a reintroduction attempt is to look for the establishment of a sustainable population of a species in an area where it had previously been extirpated.
Zoos play a crucial role in many reintroduction efforts. While wild populations may be declining or non-existent, zoos can maintain stable, carefully managed captive populations. These zoo populations can provide individuals for release into the wild.
Reintroduction programs also benefit from zoos’ experience in captive breeding. Successful breeding in captivity is essential to provide individuals for future reintroductions into the wild. The knowledge and expertise of zoo employees ensures the likelihood of having a stable, genetically diverse population that will not only exist into the future, but also will be capable of increasing in population size to provide animals for release.
Reintroduction Programs at Lincoln Park Zoo
In its commitment to conservation, Lincoln Park Zoo is involved in reintroduction efforts. From the creation of an avian database documenting past reintroductions to coordinating SSP programs with reintroductions, to direct involvement with the reintroduction of various species, Lincoln Park Zoo uses its expertise and resources to aid conservation efforts through reintroduction.
Species Reintroduction programs at Lincoln Park Zoo
Lincoln Park Zoo participates in reintroduction programs in several capacities. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums Population Management Center, based at Lincoln Park Zoo, acts as advisor for reintroduction programs. Through both selection of breeding pairs within the captive population and selection of individuals that should be targeted for release, the PMC ensures that institutions will be able to maintain genetically diverse populations while releasing individuals into the wild. Lincoln Park Zoo staff also coordinates and advises SSP programs that have reintroduction components.
AZA Guidelines for Reintroduction of Animals
The official Association of Zoos and Aquariums guidelines for the reintroduction of animals.
IUCN/SSG Reintroduction Specialist Group
The International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission Reintroduction Specialist Group provides reintroduction practitioners with tools such as reintroduction guidelines, networking resources and publications for distributing information on reintroduction projects.
Channel Island Fox Reintroduction Project
In the last 15 years non-native predators, introduced diseases, and other anthropogenic factors have decreased island fox (Urocyon littoralis) populations on the California’s Channel Islands. The zoo is working with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Coordination Group, and zoo staff Chair the Genetics Technical Expertise Group.
As part of recovery efforts, zoo staff work to develop annual breeding recommendations for captive breeding facilities. They also use genetic and demographic analyses to choose candidates for reintroduction from the captive facilities back to the wild and to plan long-term captive management and reintroduction strategies.