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Zoo Helping Re-Populate 17 Endangered Species

December 20, 2011, 7:12 AM by Austin Hoffman

Zoo Helping Re-Populate 17 Endangered Species
The Great Plains Zoo has been a family-friendly attraction for many years in Sioux Falls. But there's much more going on behind the scenes than daily feeding and cleaning up.

Three tiger cubs, a black rhino, and now two zebra foals have all been recently born at the zoo. While they may be cute, they're all on the endangered species list. They're part of a breeding program the zoo has to help re-populate animals that aren't doing so well in the wild.

"The Great Plains Zoo, here in Sioux Falls, participates with zoos across the country and world to help save 17 endangered species," Great Plains Zoo President and CEO Elizabeth Whealy said.

Whealy says some of the animals in the program are some pretty-high profile species.

"We have the deeply endangered Eastern Black Rhinoceros, we have Siamang Gibbon, penguins, Amur Tigers, snow leopards, lots of amazing animals that we're working to breed right here at the Great Plains Zoo," Whealy said.

The most recent addition is two Grevy Zebras, which are also on the endangered species list.

"Scientists believe there’s less than 3,000 Grevy Zebras left in the wild. These are very exciting and important births, not only for the zoo but the community of Sioux Falls, but more importantly for the whole zoo community, that Grevy population in general," Allison Douglas, who works with the zebras, said.

Douglas says there are only about 200 of them currently in North American zoos.

For all of the animals, it's much more than putting together a male and female and hoping for the best.

"Zebras are set up genetically, paired up to breed, in order to increase gene diversity in the Grevy's population," Douglas

"This is a highly-selective dating service. Geneticists and biologist in the zoo community look at the very best pairings throughout the population at that given time and make recommendations for breeding based on that," Whealy said.

And of course, it's a program that's meant to help much more than the Great Plains Zoo.

"It's great knowing that our local community can make a difference in North America population as well as the world," Douglas said.

Here is the list of the endangered species in the breeding program:
• Humboldt Penguin
• Yellow-Footed Rock Wallaby
• White-Winged Wood Duck
• Swift Fox
• Red Panda
• Giant Anteater
• Panamanian Golden Frog
• Grevy’s Zebra
• Cheetah
• Eastern Bongo Antelope
• Eastern Black Rhinoceros
• Amur Tiger
• Snow Leopard
• Red Wolf
• Siamang Gibbon
• Black and White Colobus Monkey
• Ring-Tailed Lemur

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A misspelling was corrected in this story.

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