The use of captive breeding in species recovery has grown enormously in recent years, but without a concurrent growth in appreciation of its limitations. Problems with (1) establishing self-sufficient captive populations, (2) poor success in reintroductions, (3.) high costs, (4) domestication, (5) preemption of other recovery techniques, (6) disease outbreaks, and (7) maintaining administrative continuity have all been significant. The technique has often been invoked prematurely and should not normally be employed before a careful field evaluation of costs and benefits of all conservation alternatives has been accomplished and a determination made that captive breeding is essential for species survival. Merely demonstrating that a species population is declining or bas fallen below what may be a minimum viable size does not constitute enough analysis to justify captive breeding as a recovery measure. Captive breeding should be reviewed as a last resort in species recovery and not a prophylactic or long-term solution because of the inexorable genetic and phenotypic changes that occur in captive environments. Captive breeding can play a crucial role in recovery of some species for witch effective alternatives are unavailable in the short term. However, it should not displace habitat and ecosystem protection nor should it be invoked in the absence of comprehensive efforts to maintain or restore populations in wild habitats. Zoological institutions with captive breeding programs should operate under carefully defined conditions of disease prevention and genetic/behavioral management. More important, these institutions should help preserve biodiversity through their capacities for public education, professional training, research, and support of in situ conservation efforts.
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Limitations of captive breeding in endangered species recovery