High extinction rates and loss of biodiversity is a critical conservation matter. Twenty-two Australian mammal species have become extinct in the last 200 years. Of the 95 mammal species under the EPBC Act, 51 have recovery plans and 15 of these have captive components. Zoo-based programs as part of a recovery plan can ‘buy’ time for critically endangered species. In Australia, programs are established as a result of government recovery plans, though more consultation with the zoo industry in initial development phase is needed. Often by the time the decision is taken to remove individuals from the wild for captive breeding, the source populations are fragmented and small. As zoo-based programs become more successful, issues with space limitations arise. This may be rectified with regular release of individuals or avoidance of maintaining post-reproductive and/or non-reproductive animals long-term. Those involved in recovery efforts should make few assumptions on the captive productivity of species, unless the species has been held before. Success of the captive component of a recovery program can be measured by the number of animals bred for release and the level of genetic diversity retained by the program. Although recovery teams are responsible for strategy development, good communication between parties from an early stage is essential. Where a captive component is needed, a more unified strategy, developed early, should provide our native fauna with a realistic chance of recovery. Zoo-based breeding programs are useful in assisting with the preservation of some Australian fauna, whilst for others they will have limited relevance.
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