With fewer than 400 greater sage-grouse in Canada, the Calgary Zoo is proud to open the first breeding facility in Canada for one of the nation’s most endangered birds. Now entering the third year of its reintroduction breeding program, the goal is to build a sustainable captive population that will one day bolster wild populations.
“I see the greater sage-grouse as an iconic part of our Canadian heritage; a key component of our prairie ecosystem,” says Dr. Axel Moehrenschlager, Director of Conservation & Science, Calgary Zoo. “Our new facility, the Snyder-Wilson Family Greater Sage-Grouse Pavilion, will help to build a strong, wild population for this species.”
This 31,000 square foot world-class centre, built at the zoo’s Devonian Wildlife Conservation Centre (DWCC), will focus on all aspects of captive breeding including planting sage brush and other native vegetation. The facility will also house cameras to monitor the grouse and space for research to improve approaches for incubation, survival and breeding.
Once commonly found in Canada’s prairie region and northwestern U.S., the greater sage-grouse now inhabit only half of their historic range. Threats such as habitat destruction and human development have caused their wild population numbers to diminish. In the spring of 2016, it was estimated that the population of greater sage-grouse in Canada was between 250 – 350 individuals.
In the 2016 field season, eggs were collected from Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan and from birds relocated to Alberta from Montana. There are currently 18 sage-grouse in the zoo’s new facility at the DWCC.
Greater sage-grouse are one of 189 plant and animal species in western Canada listed as threatened or higher under the national Species at Risk Act (SARA) and in 1998, these birds were designated as Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Their wild population numbers decreased to such an extent that in 2013, the Federal Government announced an emergency order to protect them.
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