MCCS 0520: Conservation Breeding Centers for Wildlife Sustainability

A sable at The Wilds, Ohio. Photo by Ian Adams

Historically, approaches for preserving biodiversity have centered on saving habitat and, by default, protecting species living in these native environments (in situ).  However, the magnitude of the species crisis means we must extend our strategies, including considering how zoos and breeding centers can play a larger role (ex situ approaches). Traditional captive programs are severely limited by space, and most captive populations are not self-sustaining.  The zoological community is experiencing a real and growing crisis about its capacity to maintain living collections that are genetically vigorous and demographically stable.  There is a consortium, however, called the Conservation Centers for Species Survival (C2S2) that collectively manages thousands of acres and has decades of experience in conservation breeding.  C2S2 cooperatively applies its unique resources for the survival of species with unique needs – large areas, natural group sizes, minimal public disturbance and research.

This exciting new 1-week course will share the details of the specialized C2S2 expertise and facilities that manage, study and reproduce wild animals on a sufficient scale to create demographically and genetically stable populations.  These organizations are ‘non-traditional’ in that they have substantial space and specialized resources that allow animal production as well as scientific study and population recovery, including for reintroduction.  This course, through lectures, discussions and field demonstrations, is designed to communicate information on the philosophies, practices, facilities and expertise associated with ‘conservation breeding’, including what makes breeding centers unique and effective. Based on the interests of participants, additional related topics may include public awareness, conservation education, guest experience and financial sustainability.  The course will be led by Dr. David Wildt (SCBI) and will be taught by a team of expert instructors from within C2S2 institutions.

Cheetah cubs born at SCBI. Photo by Adrienne Crosier.

The course will focus on three thematic areas:

  • Creating sustainable populations of species ex situ that are linked to their wild counterparts,
  • Multi-disciplinary research on wild animals to inform management of captive and wild endangered species,
  • Ecosystem management at large breeding centers including the promotion of local biodiversity


This course will be of interest to conservation, zoo and veterinary professionals who are involved in species assessment, management and recovery programs in captivity or in the wild as well as those interested in developing a career in conservation breeding of endangered species.

Participants will spend time in the classroom at the new training facilities of the SMSC, as well as in the field throughout the animal facilities of SCBI.



Future dates for this course have not been confirmed.


Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia

Application Procedure

Applications are not currently being accepted for this course.

Course Costs

The total cost for this course is $2,036 (Course fee of $1400 + Housing and Dining Package of $636). Those applying as citizens of “less-developed” nations qualify for a reduced course fee of $850, making the total cost including housing (shared double room) and dining package $1,486. Click HERE to check if your country of citizenship qualifies you for the reduced course fee. Your total course payment includes:

  • Registration fees
  • Instruction, course manual, textbooks and other course materials
  • Pick-up and drop-off at Dulles International airport, and transportation for course activities
  • Daily full-service buffet at the SMSC Dining Commons – Dining begins with dinner the night before the course begins and ends with breakfast the day after the course ends.
  • Housing at the SMSC Residential Facility, including a shared room with bathroom (single rooms available at extra cost) – Lodging at this facility begins the night before the course begins, and check out is during the morning after the course concludes.


Scholarships are available on a competitive basis for eligible international applicants. Click HERE for more information on scholarships.


With course coordinator’s written approval in advance of registration/payment, local participants may elect to stay off campus, waive the housing and dining package, and commute to this course. Meals in the Dining Commons can then be purchased individually as needed.

For more information