Calgary Zoo opens Canada's 1st greater sage-grouse breeding facility
Fewer than 400 of the endangered birds estimated to exist in Canada today
There's some good news for one of Canada's most endangered birds.
The Calgary Zoo has just opened the first captive breeding facility in the country to help restore the greater sage-grouse population, which experts estimate has fallen below 400 individuals.
"I see the greater sage-grouse as an iconic part of our Canadian heritage; a key component of our prairie ecosystem," said Axel Moehrenschlager, director of conservation and science at the zoo.
Once commonly found in Canada's prairie region and the northwestern United States, the greater sage-grouse now inhabit just half their historic range, in part because of habitat destruction and human development.
"We had a workshop of experts here a couple of years ago that was predicting the species might go extinct in the country in two to five years," Moehrenschlager said.
One of the actions that was suggested to address that was to create a facility to breed the birds so that they could be reintroduced into the the wild and eventually help restore and reinforce the dwindling population.
The zoo's new 31,000-square-foot centre will not only breed and raise greater sage-grouse; it will also use cameras to monitor the birds and improve research into their incubation, survival and breeding.
In 2016, eggs were collected from Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan and from birds relocated to Alberta from Montana. Today, the zoo's new facility houses 18 sage-grouse and is part of the zoo's 10-year plan to help recover that population.