The Canadian Species Initiative strengthens endangered species recovery planning and implementation in Canada by ensuring that all possible management options are considered.

Founded by:


Endangered species conservation continues to face new and emerging challenges, such as novel and emerging diseases, and the effects of climate change. In today’s world, the view that species can be effectively conserved with minimal management simply by creating large areas of protected habitat is unrealistic.  There is increasing need for active management, and long term human intervention. 

While not all species will benefit from ex situ management, when used strategically, ex situ conservation can be a key tool for species conservation that complements field conservation efforts.

Ex situ, or “off-site”, conservation is the process of protecting an endangered species outside its natural habitat, for example within a zoo, aquarium, botanical garden or gene bank. In situ conservation efforts on the other hand occur “on-site” with wild populations in their natural habitats. 

The Eastern Loggerhead Shrike Recovery Program includes ex-situ conservation breeding efforts at zoo partner facilities.

The ‘One Plan Approach’

Promoted by the Conservation Planning Specialist Group (CPSG), part of the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN),  the One Plan Approach ensures integrated conservation planning that bridges the gap between wild and captive population management. A wide range of stakeholders is involved in the planning process, including field biologists, wildlife managers, First Nations, academics, and the zoo and aquarium community.



About the Canadian Species Initiative

The Canadian Species Initiative (CSI) aims to ensure that species recovery planning in Canada adheres to the principles of the One Plan Approach. As home to the Conservation Planning Specialist Group’s Regional Resource Centre in Canada, we are working to build Canada’s capacity to apply existing internationally recognized tools to conserve our own threatened species. Our goal is to establish a coordinated and holistic effort to ensure ex situ management is effectively used for species conservation in Canada. Through multi-stakeholder workshop processes, we can identify which Canadian species would benefit most from ex situ actions, provide program specifics to meet identified roles, and prioritize actions. By doing so we ensure the most effective methods of addressing Canadian species conservation needs are implemented.

If you are interested in becoming involved or kept abreast of this initiative, or want more details, please contact us at

Upcoming Projects

We are working with CPSG on our first Integrated Collection Assessment and Planning (ICAP) workshop that will cover all of Canada’s snake species representing 39 different management units. ICAP is a multi-species, rapid ex situ conservation assessment workshop that provides guidance to zoos and other ex situ facilities on ex situ conservation priorities for collection planning and integration of in situ and ex situ efforts. This process promotes greater collaboration among the in situ and ex situ communities as part of the One Plan approach for conservation of these species. Scheduled for early 2021, this virtual ICAP workshop will be the first in a series for Canadian species across a range of taxonomic groups. Pre-planning work is underway, including compilation of species status information both in situ and ex situ, stakeholder analysis and engagement, and workshop process design.


Integrating In-situ and Ex-situ Conservation Initiatives: A One Plan Approach to at-risk bumble bee conservation
For more information about our work with the yellow-banded bumble bee and the many partners and collaborators that help make our one plan approach possible, visit our program webpage.

Learn more about the Canadian Species Initiative with WPC’s Conservation Programs Director, Jessica Steiner, and Dr. Amy Chabot from African Lion Safari as they speak to the Canadian Herpetelogical Society about the joint efforts to increase  conservation impact for species at risk.

This webinar provides an overview of the IUCN Guidelines for the Use of Ex Situ Management for Species Conservation and its five-step decision process to assess if ex situ activities are recommended as a conservation tool for a species and, if so, how they should be structured, including case studies. 


WPC participated in a conservation planning workshop for the rusty patched bumble bee, one of North America’s most threatened pollinators and one of WPC’s focal species.  The workshop brought together a wide range of global bee conservation experts to evaluate and recommend conservation breeding and other ex situ strategies to complement existing recovery strategies in the wild for this endangered species.  The report highlights the critical importance of WPC’s leading efforts to develop conservation breeding techniques for threatened bumble bees. The full workshop report is now available, click below.

CSI Partners

Canadian Species Initiative Committee

Dr. Amy Chabot
Research and Conservation Programs Coordinator
African Lion Safari
CPSG Canada Regional Resource Center



Dr. Kevin C.R. Kerr
Manager of Species Recovery and Program Assessment
Toronto Zoo



Jessica Steiner
Conservation Programs Director

Wildlife Preservation Canada
CPSG Canada Regional Resource Center

Stephanie Winton
Species Conservation Planning Assistant
Wildlife Preservation Canada



​Potential roles of ex situ programs

There are many ways that ex situ activities managed by zoos and aquariums can directly address the threats or challenges a species is facing. There are also indirect conservation roles, such as conservation education or funding of in situ projects by the ex situ community. One ex situ program may serve several conservation roles, either simultaneously or consecutively.

Success stories from ex situ conservation

Headstarting: increasing juvenile survival.
Success story: Western painted turtle recovery program in British Columbia

Conservation breeding: supplementing existing populations.
Success story: Loggerhead shrike recovery program in Ontario


Translocations: reintroducing species to areas of their range where they have disappeared.
Success story: Swift fox recovery program in Alberta