I Love Zoo

The Importance of Species Survival Plans

Valentine’s Day is a great time to celebrate some of your Zoo’s lovebirds! We are happy to have multiple pairs of animals that are important members of their Species Survival Plans, also known as SSPs. SSPs are a population conservation program for specific threatened animal species that aim to maintain healthy populations under human care. Zoos around the world, including Reid Park Zoo, collaborate with each other to move and manage animals as needed to create potential breeding pairs to keep threatened populations healthy.

Reid Park Zoo has a diverse collection of animals contributing to their species’ SSPs. Two notable representatives include Anna the Grevy’s zebra and Semba the African elephant, both of whose babies are due this spring! Both of our aviaries are filled with birds in breeding pairs including trumpeter hornbills, blue-crowned mot mots (pictured above), and violet turacos. There are also many other couples throughout the Zoo that have breeding recommendations, and we have had multiple successful births in the past through our participation in the SSPs for Baird’s tapir, southern tamanduas, and giant anteaters.

Each species’ SSP has an SSP Coordinator, a zoo professional that acts as a matchmaker for that specific species. Each coordinator carefully analyzes the age, health, and genetics of each individual animal, and makes recommendations on which animals would make good breeding pairs. As an example, Ben and Anna the Grevy’s zebras were recommended to be a pair and were brought to Reid Park Zoo for this purpose. We are delighted that they get along well and that Anna is now pregnant!

A common question that we are asked is what happens if two animals who are matched together just aren’t that interested in each other? Each situation is different, but if it is a threatened species where every birth is vital, the SSP Coordinator might reevaluate the match and make new recommendations to see if the individual animals might prefer someone else.

Animals that are under human care serve as reservoir populations, or populations that are outside of their wild habitat and act as a safety net in case of rapid population loss or extinction of their wild counterparts. The continued breeding of these threatened species in human care is vital for maintaining this reservoir. Reid Park Zoo is proud to have multiple breeding animals that are able to contribute to protecting their species in this way.

Click here to learn more about SSPs from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums website.