Captive Breeding

Captive breeding of an endangered species is a last resort. The process requires custom facilities, specialists, time, and funding. It does not guarantee success, but it does offer hope. If the breeding facility can sustain generations of healthy offspring, then the animals can be used to bolster wild populations or start new ones. Failing that, the species may still survive in captivity. However, starting a captive breeding program also involves some risk to the species. Some animals must be removed from the wild, loosing their chances of contributing to the wild populations. After several years of discussion and debate amongst wildlife biologists, captive breeding of the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow began in 2015. 

 
 
A Florida Grasshopper Sparrow in the breeding program at White Oak Conservation Foundation.

A Florida Grasshopper Sparrow in the breeding program at White Oak Conservation Foundation.

 

Rare Species conservatory foundation

Captive breeding began in 2015 with 2 males and 4 females collected from the prairie and brought to the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (RSCF) in Loxahatchie. Since then, the organization has overseen the first successful captive breeding of the sparrow and received additional individuals from the wild. The non-profit organization's website says RSCF "designs sustainable recovery, reintroduction and protection programs for endangered species in the wild, and works collaboratively with governments and other conservation/research organizations to restore target species and protect critical habitats. We also provide consulting and technical services to conservation groups, and form educational, political and economic partnerships to expedite specific habitat and species conservation projects."

Resident Animal Care Specialist, Stephanie Howard prepares a meal of crickets for Florida Grasshopper Sparrows.

Resident Animal Care Specialist, Stephanie Howard prepares a meal of crickets for Florida Grasshopper Sparrows.

IMGP1619.jpg
Dr. Paul Reillo, founder and director of the Rare Species Conservation Foundation, shows off a new enclosure for Florida Grasshopper Sparrows.

Dr. Paul Reillo, founder and director of the Rare Species Conservation Foundation, shows off a new enclosure for Florida Grasshopper Sparrows.

RSCF have successfully hatched and raised chicks indoors, but have build an outdoor enclosure for future wild-caught adult males.

RSCF have successfully hatched and raised chicks indoors, but have build an outdoor enclosure for future wild-caught adult males.

 

White Oak Conservation

In 2016, White Oak Conservation in Yulee, Florida accepted their first Florida Grasshopper Sparrows. According to their website, "White Oak promotes endeavors in conservation through innovative science, education, training, and collaborations. We are committed to providing conservation options for the species that need them the most."

Andrew Schumann, Animal Collection Manager at White Oak, unlocks the outer door of the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow enclosure.

Andrew Schumann, Animal Collection Manager at White Oak, unlocks the outer door of the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow enclosure.

Andrew Schumann checks the wildlife cam in one of the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow rooms inside the enclosure.

Andrew Schumann checks the wildlife cam in one of the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow rooms inside the enclosure.

Andrew Schumann sets out a new plate of food for the sparrows.

Andrew Schumann sets out a new plate of food for the sparrows.

White Oak's sparrow enclosure is outside, so they use an outer bowl of water to keep ants from getting to the birds' food.

White Oak's sparrow enclosure is outside, so they use an outer bowl of water to keep ants from getting to the birds' food.

 
This Florida Grasshopper Sparrow mother is feeding her captive bred chick at White Oak Conservation.

This Florida Grasshopper Sparrow mother is feeding her captive bred chick at White Oak Conservation.