1. Have students research captive breeding programs and species-survival plans.
Have small groups use the Smithsonian and Association of Zoos and Aquarium websites to research and answer the following questions:
- What is a captive-breeding program, and what are the goals of this type of program? (Captive breeding programs breed endangered species in zoos and other facilities to build a healthy population of the animals and, sometimes, to reintroduce endangered species back into the wild.)
- What is a species-survival plan, and what are the goals of this type of plan? (Species-survival plans coordinate with zoos around the world to bring species together for breeding that ensures genetic diversity.)
- How can captive-breeding programs and species-survival plans contribute to biodiversity and the health of ecosystems? (They ensure large, healthy, and genetically diverse populations that otherwise would not exist.)
2. Have students list positive and negative aspects of each in a worksheet.
Explain to students that the use of captive breeding programs and species-survival plans is controversial and they will explore both sides of the issue. Distribute the Venn Diagram worksheet and ask students to list pros, cons, and specific examples of each as they explore the following questions:
- What are some difficulties with captive breeding?
- What are the arguments against captive breeding programs?
- In what situations are artificial habitats beneficial?
- In what situations might they be harmful?
3. Discuss students’ findings as a class.
Have a whole-class discussion about students’ findings. Ask: What is your opinion about whether these programs and plans are good or bad? Do the positives outweigh the negatives, or vice versa?
Have students summarize both scientific and moral arguments on the topic of captive breeding.
Extending the Learning
Have students research and report on the genetic and behavioral difficulties that zoos often face when trying to breed animals in captivity. Students can explore these questions: Why do zoos often transport their animals to other zoos that are hundreds or even thousands of miles away in order to breed? Why might two healthy animals of opposite sexes fail to reproduce?
Subjects & Disciplines
- explain how captive-breeding programs and species-survival plans contribute to biodiversity and the health of ecosystems
- list the positive and negative aspects of each
What You’ll Need
Materials You Provide
The resources are also available at the top of the page.
Background & Vocabulary
Captive-breeding programs breed endangered species in zoos and other facilities to build a healthy population of the animals. Species-survival plans coordinate with zoos around the world to bring species together for breeding that ensures genetic diversity.
|Term||Part of Speech||Definition||Encyclopedic Entry|
all the different kinds of living organisms within a given area.
|Encyclopedic Entry: biodiversity|
to produce offspring.
plans, research, and work done by an organization, such as a zoo, to control reproduction of rare species in that organization's facilities (not in the wild).
community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.
|Encyclopedic Entry: ecosystem|
difference or variety of units of inheritance (genes) in a species.
wildlife management and conservation program run by zoos and aquariums.
For Further Exploration
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Rhonda Lucas Donald
Christina Riska, National Geographic Society
Mark Riegner, Professor of Environmental Studies, Prescott College
adapted from National Geographic Xpeditions lesson “Can Captive Breeding Save Species?”
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