A Species Survival Plan (SSP) is a cooperative population management and conservation program for endangered species at zoos, aquariums and nature centers in North America. The SSP manages the breeding of each species in order to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse and demographically stable, self-sustaining population. It focuses the efforts of many different institutions into a single consistent program for conservation through research, education, reintroduction and field efforts. Each SSP has a coordinator who is responsible for general organization and administration. He works with all the cooperators throughout the year and at an annual meeting the coordinator and cooperators make decisions on the direction of the program.
The Master Plan plots the “family tree”. Besides managing the breeding of every animal of that species in captivity for genetic diversity and demographic stability, the master plan must take into account the logistics and feasibility of animal transfers as well as the social groupings of that species. Master Plans also include recommendations not to breed animals to avoid creating a surplus of animals which cannot be accommodated in the limited holding spaces of cooperators.
Studbooks are vital to the group as they contain the history of the entire captive population including births, deaths, transfers and lineage. Studbooks and computer software enable breeding recommendations.
Red Wolves have been maintained in captivity since the early 1970s, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began capturing individuals from the remaining population in Texas and Louisiana. At that time, a captive breeding program was established at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, WA to increase the population size of Red Wolves and reestablish this federally endangered species into portions of its original range. The captive population has been managed demographically and genetically with the cooperation of approved zoos and nature centers across the country. When the gray wolf was reintroduced into Yellowstone, aspects of the Red Wolf program, things that worked and things that didn’t work, were applied to their program.
Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center has been a member of this critical program since 1996 and is currently 1 of 43 RWSSP (Red Wolf Species Survival Plan) cooperators in the world that house Red Wolves; we are also a breeding facility and can have a breeding pair(s) depending on the recommendations made by the RWSSP.
Click on this link to read an article written by Will Waddell, RWSSP Coordinator. Please bear in mind that this is an older article and while the facts remain accurate some of the numbers may have changed.