Species Survival Plan (SSP) programs were developed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to help oversee the husbandry and breeding management and, as a result, the sustainability of select animal species within AZA-member institutions, such as zoos. Many of these programs help enhance conservation efforts of these species in the wild as well. Currently, almost 500 SSP programs exist, each of which helps to manage the breeding of a select species and is overseen by the appropriate Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) and managed by an SSP program coordinator. The program coordinator is responsible for working with participating members and coordinating conservation, research, husbandry, management and educational activities related to the selected program species.
Two members of the Oklahoma City Zoo bird team were recent named SSP coordinators. Eddie Witte, curator, was named coordinator for the red and yellow barbet species. Holly Ray, assistant curator, was named coordinator for the red-fronted macaw.
Eddie Witte, curator – birds; SSP Coordinator – Red and Yellow Barbet
There is no one reason why a species becomes an SSP: many times that is due to the fact there is enough birds to have a breeding population. For red and yellow barbets, there had to be someone in the past who had an interest in them and was willing to do the Studbook and then create the SSP. The population is small, in 2017 it was 43 birds (30 males and 13 females). This is considered a “red” SSP meaning there are fewer than 50 individuals in the population.
I worked with this species a long time ago in the Zoo's Dan Moran Aviary and it was a rewarding experience. We bred and reared chicks in the exhibit which was so cool to watch. We currently have two males in the pachyderm building and a breeding pair off-exhibit in the over-wintering habitat.
As far as duties of an SSP coordinator, in addition to the duties listed above, we also promote the species, encourage other institutions to work with this species and answer any questions that holders may have on that species. Holly and I will also both need to attend population school so that we learn exactly more about how to do the studbook and SSP duties.
Holly Ray, assistant curator – birds; SSP Coordinator – Red-Fronted Macaw
I’m going to population management school in November and I am very excited about that. It has been a personal goal of mine to become a SSP coordinator and I preferred it being something that I had some sort of experience working with.
We currently have two male red-fronted macaws in overwintering. We will likely add females to our collection after the next breeding and transfer plan is finalized.
Red-fronted macaws are a “yellow” SSP, they are currently classified as endangered and we have less than 60 individuals within AZA-accredited zoos.
Red-fronted macaw photo by Balaji Dutt, MV
Red and yellow barbet photo by Michael Salazar