Thousands of species around the world are endangered or threatened, facing the loss of their habitat. A key to some species’ survival could be in an unlikely place — Texas.
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is part of a new breed of zoos that’s unlike any you’ve seen before. It covers 1800 acres, nearly 20-times the size of a typical urban zoo. And instead of housing a few animals of a particular species in enclosures, it lets whole herds of animals roam and live just as they would in the wild.
“Ultimately, this me be the insurance or assurance population for their wild counterparts,” said Kelley Snodgrass, Fossil Rim’s chief operating officer.
There five other facilities across the country with similar approaches, all members of the group Conservation Centers for Species Survival. At Fossil Rim, they focus their efforts on 50 species, including some that are extinct in the wild.
Their breeding programs have helped increase the population of cheetahs, rhinos, addax, and even the Attwater Prairie Chicken, a species native to Texas. The goal — to increase the animals’ numbers and eventually reintroduce them to their natural environment.
“The holy grail is to ultimately not need to have them in captivity, that they are running wild in wild places,” said Snodgrass.
Credit: Bradley Blackburn and Joanna Suarez