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Mar 11, 2019, 11:00 ET
Conservation collaboration benefits greater sage-grouse
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CALGARY, March 11, 2019 /CNW/ - With the release of 66 greater sage-grouse into the wild, the Calgary Zoo, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and Parks Canada, has significantly boosted one of Canada'smost endangered birds at a time when fewer than 250 remain in their habitat.
This milestone release is the result of a five-year program by the Calgary Zoo, which is working in collaboration with NCC and Parks Canada, with funding support from the Governments of Canada and Alberta.
"These are early days in the urgent effort to save this precious species, but what we have been able to accomplish so far has been truly remarkable," says Dr. Axel Moehrenschlager, Director Conservation and Science, Calgary Zoo. "With the help of many partners, we have built an innovative, multi-year breeding and reintroduction program, which we hope will ensure this iconic prairie bird can flourish for generations to come."
Once common across the western prairie, an estimated 80 per cent of the greater sage-grouse population has disappeared over the past 30 years. Today fewer than 250 wild greater sage-grouse remain in southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan. The birds were designated as endangered in Canada in 1998 under the Species at Risk Act. The loss, fragmentation and degradation of native grassland habitats are key reasons why the bird is endangered. Other factors are predation and the West Nile virus. Populations are limited to sagebrush grasslands.
Greater sage-grouse recovery project
In 2014, the federal and provincial governments pledged funding to help protect greater sage-grouse, enabling the zoo to begin a dedicated conservation breeding and reintroduction program. The plan was based on recommendations from the international multi-stakeholder Population and Habitat Viability Assessment Workshop for the greater sage-grouse in Canada.
In 2016, the zoo announced the creation of Canada's first-ever greater sage-grouse breeding facility: the Snyder-Wilson Family Greater Sage-Grouse Pavilion. Since then the zoo has established a healthy population of 54 grouse that make up the conservation breeding flock.