Thrive in the Wild

The ultimate goal of GWC's species conservation work is to do more than just prevent the extinction of our priority species, but to ensure that their populations thrive in the wild.

Sometimes, however, species require a little bit more help than the strategies we implement in the field.

When threats are impossible to control, such as when the deadly amphibian disease called chytridiomycosis reaches frog habitat, sometimes species simply can’t survive in the wild. In cases like this, we are left with only one option: to bring the species into the captivity until the threat can be managed, while ensuring the survival of the species in captivity until then. For example, GWC has supported expeditions to find and rescue the last few individual Sehuencas Water Frogs in the wild in Bolivia, safeguarding the species with the hope of someday returning it to its natural habitat.

Sehuencas Water Frog, Juliet
Sehuencas Water Frog, Juliet, discovered in 2018. Photo by: Robin Moore

Conservation Breeding Programs

Sometimes threats are so great that we can’t guarantee that they can be reduced in time for the species to recover. The Saola and Large-antlered Muntjac are two examples where snaring pressure in Vietnam and Lao are so pervasive that no site guarantees the survival of the species. In this case, the only way to ensure the survival of these Critically Endangered species is to bring a small number of founder animals into conservation breeding programs so they can be released back into the wild once the threat has been addressed.


Where species numbers drop too low that individuals can’t find each other to breed, the death rate starts to outpace the birth rate, making it impossible for the species to rebound naturally. This is the situation for the Sumatran Rhino. The only way to increase the birth rate and reverse the decline of the species is to consolidate individuals either into one location or, as in the case of the Sumatran Rhino, into a conservation breeding program.

Sumatran Rhino enjoying a stroll
Sumatran Rhino, photo by: Barney Long

Range Recovery Programs

Other species are in the precarious position of living in habitat with the perfect conditions for recovery, but are no longer found in large areas of their former distribution. For these species, the best potential for the recovery of the species is the translocation of animals from healthy populations to additional sites where we can ensure that conditions for reintroduction are in place. GWC is working with partners to develop this kind of range recovery program for the Tamaraw.

Female Tamaraw and her calf in Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park, photo by: Emmanuel Schütz DABOVILLE Foundation

GWC works with and through partners who have the proven expertise in conducting the kinds of specialist interventions as those required by our recovering endangered species strategy. Most of this expertise is found within the zoo community, which can uniquely contribute animal husbandry, animal capture, and veterinary knowledge skills. Without the incredible expertise of our zoo partners, we would not be able to save these species from extinction.

One Plan Approach
and Building Coalitions

One Plan Approach

Disturbing animals is not ideal and we take such interventions very seriously. We not only work with the very best experts to reduce risks as much as possible, but we consider all alternatives beforehand. We always implement the ‘one plan approach,’ which pairs any ex-situ (out of the wild) approach with in-situ (in the wild) approaches to ensure the habitat of the species is protected and that the species has the chance to be returned to its natural environment as soon as possible. To do this, we focus on building coalitions around species recovery projects.  We bring together the right combination of international and national experts, from multidisciplinary fields, to catalyze big actions for species recovery.  The relationships we build are transparent and trusting, where all partners are a part of, and take an active role in, the One Plan Approach.

Stay Wild. Stay Connected.