What is SPA?

SPA is an ungulate conservation program that was formed to create a large sustainable ex situ metapopulation. SPA works to bring together private-sector and public-sector participants to combine their collective resources, scientific knowledge, land, husbandry methods, and animals to sustain insurance populations into perpetuity.

Why was SPA formed?

SPA was formed because it was determined that breeding centers alone would not be able to sustain the insurance populations of ungulate species. There was also a large sector of conservation-minded private landowners raising ungulates that were not involved with formal conservation programs. SPA was created to bring these different partners together to share knowledge, resources, and combine their animal populations to create a larger sustainable metapopulation.

Who participates in SPA?

SPA participants consist of conservation-minded private landowners, conservation breeding centers, and zoos.

How does SPA Work?

The SPA metapopulation works by bringing together diverse participants and their herds of ungulate to form a strong metapopulation. Initially after consultation with population biologists we are working to build population numbers of 1000 animals in each of our program species. In the long term the goal is to build that population up to 2500+ animals per species to ensure true long-term viability.

What in situ conservation Programs does SPA support?

SPA has partnered with the Sahara Conservation Fund to support North African antelope species. Additionally, in 2018 we also working to support conservation projects for Bongo, Grevy's Zebra, and Asian Wild Cattle.

How does the SPA population help species in their native range?

The SPA metapopulation helps their counterparts in native range countries in several ways.

  • Acting as an insurance population to prevent extinction.
  • Serving as a source for genetically diverse animals for reintroduction projects back to a specie's native lands. An example of this is the involvement of SPA participant facilities in the SCF Scimitar-horned Oryx reintroduction project in Chad.
  • The SPA metapopulation allows leading scientists an accessible group of animals to study to further our knowledge of these species and their biological characteristics. The knowledge gained from this research may one day be essential for the preservation of wild populations.

Why is large herd management important?

Large herd management is vital to raising successful ungulate populations because it allows animals to exhibit their full range of species specific behaviors. Animals raised in these large herds maintain similar survival and social skills to that exhibited in their native range counterparts, making them ideal candidates for release projects.

How is the SPA Metapopulation managed?

The SPA metapopulation is managed with a flexible management structure. SPA does not interfere with any existing zoological association breeding program that a participant may be involved in like an AMP or SSP. Each January SPA takes a census of the population levels of our program participants in our ten species. Participants provide overall population numbers broken down by gender, as well as number of animals over one year of age, effective breeding population, and number of offspring produced in the past year. This information is used in our work with population modeling specialists to determine the viability of the overall population.

In SPA's effort to promote large herd management, one of the recommendations we make to our participants is to practice bull rotation every three years. Through SPA's genomics program we are able to identify how related one participant's herd is to another, allowing them to make an informed decision on where to source a new herd bull from.