The Toronto Zoo announced that three Canadian conservation breeding programs have welcomed births and hatchings recently: the black-footed ferret (BFF), the eastern loggerhead shrike (ELS) and the Vancouver Island marmot (VIM). These three flagship Canadian endangered species exemplify the importance of cultivating a world where wildlife and wild spaces thrive.
The BFF, ELS and VIM are bred and cared for under strict animal care protocols until they can be relocated into suitable habitats in the wild. The breeding and reintroduction programs at the Toronto Zoo are putting more endangered species back into the wild.
Black footed ferret
The Toronto Zoo has been part of the BFF conservation breeding program since 1992, resulting in 530 babies (or kits) being born at the Zoo to date. Hundreds of kits have been bred for reintroduction to the wild in USA, Mexico, and Canada, where the ferret was listed as extirpated in 1978. This conservation breeding program has helped re-establish this species back into the prairies and has increased the wild population to approximately 300 animals. The BFF conservation breeding program continues to be important as the ferrets continue to face threats, such as habitat loss and disease.
During the 2020 breeding season, Toronto Zoo has 17 adult ferrets. On June 2, 2020, one female gave birth to a litter of six kits (four females and two males).
Vancouver Island marmot
In 1997, Toronto Zoo began taking part in the conservation breeding program for the VIM, which is one of the most critically endangered animals in the world and Canada’s most endangered mammal. This species had only 30 individuals left in the wild in 2003, but the population is now estimated to be at approximately 200 animals, thanks to joint efforts from four Canadian facilities, with 162 pups born at the Toronto Zoo. Research and recovery efforts continue to protect the marmot and its habitat in Vancouver.
This year, the Toronto Zoo has seven pairs of adult marmots. On May 20, 2020, five pups started to emerge from one of the nest boxes. Since then, the pups have been venturing throughout their indoor and outdoor enclosure. On June 22, 2020, three more pups were seen emerging from a different nest box (therefore different parents).
Eastern loggerhead shrike
Finally, the eastern subspecies of the loggerhead shrike is one of the most imperiled birds in North America. In Canada, loggerhead shrikes are now only found in a few isolated pockets of grasslands in Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba. They used to be found readily from southwestern Manitoba, east to the Maritime Provinces. In 1991, in response to a rapidly declining population, the Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) listed the ELS as endangered, and it is now protected by provincial endangered species legislation in Ontario, Manitoba, and Quebec.
The Toronto Zoo has been involved in the captive breeding of the ELS since 1997 and have hatched 376 chicks. This year, the Toronto Zoo has 18 adult ELS, that formed four breeding pairs and three of which were successful. Most of these young birds will join the wild population this summer.
Image credit: The Toronto Zoo.