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•  In situ conservation may require active management of nature reserves or national parks

Conservation involves the protection and maintenance of natural resources – such as trees, water and wildlife

  • Conservation can be either in situ (on site) or ex situ (off site)

In situ conservation is the preservation of plant and animal species within their natural habitat

  • This typically involves the designation of protected areas of land as either nature reserves or national parks

These areas may require active management to ensure that an appropriate and sustainable ecological balance is maintained

  • Ecological monitoring of species may be required to ensure viable population levels are maintained
  • Interventions may be required to prevent habitat degradation or competition from invasive species
  • Legislation may be necessary to ensure adequate funding for policing and education

In situ conservation offers several advantages when protecting endangered species from extinction:

  • It allows species to live in the environment to which they are adapted and to occupy their natural position in the food chain
  • It maintains the animal's normal behaviour (offspring usually aquire skills from parents and peers around them)
  • Retaining the natural habitat prevents its eventual loss and ensures it remains available for other endangered species
  • Such areas provide a place to return animals from breeding programs as they provide realistic conditions for reintegration
  • Reserves in different areas can share information and provide a place for scientific study and developing public awareness

In situ Conservation via Nature Reserves

nature reserves

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•  Ex situ conservation is the preservation of species outside their natural habitats

Ex situ conservation involves the preservation of plant and animal species outside their natural habitats

  • Ex situ conservation may typically be required for critically endangered species when urgent intervention is required

There are several advantages associated with ex situ conservation:

  • It allows for greater control of essential conditions (e.g. climate control, dietary intake, veterinary care, etc.)
  • It can improve the chances of successful breeding by utilising artificial methods (e.g. embryo transfer, IVF, etc.)

Ex situ conservation is also associated with several disadvantages:

  • Such conservation methods do not prevent the potential destruction of their natural habitats
  • Species raised in captivity are less likely to be successfully reintroduced into the wild (loss of autonomous survival)
  • Ex situ conservation increases inbreeding by restricting the gene pool and restricts the evolution of the species

There are a number of ex situ conservation measures employed around the world, including:

  • Captive breeding – animals are raised and bred in containment (e.g. zoos) to ensure survival prospects
  • Botanical gardens – areas devoted to the collection, cultivation and display of a wide variety of plant species
  • Seed banks – secure sites that store and catalogue seeds, in order to preserve plant genetic diversity

Ex situ Conservation Measures

ex situ conservation

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•  Case study of the captive breeding and reintroduction of an endangered animal species

Case Study 1:  Indian Rhinoceros

  • The Indian rhinoceros is a endangered species with only approximately 3,500 rhinoceros living in the wild
  • This number was as low as 2,000 in the early 1990s, but has increased due to successful captive breeding programs
  • In addition to habitat loss, the Indian rhinoceros is threatened by poachers (their horn is considered potent in some cultures)
  • It is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list and the majority of the species is situated in Indian protected areas (reserves) 

A Swiss Rhinoceros Breeding Program

Case Study 2:  Mountain Chicken Frog

  • The mountain chicken frog is a species of frog native to the Carribean islands of Dominica and Montserrat
  • The population of this frog has declined 81% in the last ten years due to the fungal disease chytridiomycosis
  • The mountain chicken frog is also threatened by human consumption (it is a local delicacy said to taste like chicken)
  • It is now considered to be critically endangered with fewer than 8,000 individuals estimated to be existing in the wild
  • The frog has been artificially bred in laboratories in England prior to being reintroduced into the wild

Captive Breeding and Reintroduction of the Mountain Chicken Frog