The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Alberta, Ottawa fund Calgary Zoo captive breeding program for greater sage grouse

  • Print

CALGARY - The future of the critically endangered greater sage grouse could well be determined on a ranch south of Calgary.

The ranch is operated by the Calgary Zoo's Centre for Conservation and, over the next decade, staff hope to attempt a breeding and rearing project with the possibility of reintroducing the birds into the wild.

The federal government introduced an emergency order to protect the sage grouse in December that puts special rules in place for 1,700 square kilometres of Crown land in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

It's believed there are as few as 90 birds in those two provinces. The population has declined by 98 per cent since 1988, partly due to contact with humans and disease.

Both the Alberta and federal government announced plans to donate $2.1 million to the Calgary Zoo.

"Because the population was so small, we felt we needed to go ahead with this approach and try to secure the unique genetic pool of the birds that live in Alberta," said Clement Lanthier, president of the Calgary Zoo.

"We are going to try and mitigate the impact on the population before going ahead and reintroducing those birds. In the coming years we'll start the reintroduction, but now we need to act as soon as possible to protect the genetics of those birds."

It is important to begin rebuilding the sage grouse population as far away from human contact as possible, said Lanthier, noting that the ranch south of Calgary has been used to help other endangered species such as the Vancouver Island marmot and whooping cranes.

"The animals that are to be released — we need to minimize the impact and interaction with humans," he said.

The emergency protection order grew out of a 2012 court case brought by several environmental groups to force the federal government to live up to its Species At Risk legislation.

The order restricts oil production in areas near the sage grouse's habitat as of Feb. 18, but it is being challenged in court by the City of Medicine Hat and LGX Oil & Gas Inc.

Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said that's unfortunate.

"To put a stop to that through court challenges would be very harmful to the sage grouse," she said. "I think the broader issue here is on a go-forward basis how do we mitigate impacts on birds or wildlife as opposed to dealing with it at the crisis stage."

There has been criticism that Ottawa should have acted quicker to protect the sage grouse.

"I can say today we are acting on it," Aglukkaq said.

"We are acting with the people and organizations that have expertise in dealing with this. The Calgary Zoo has expertise that we're partnering with them on and I think that's an important initiative that we are undertaking to demonstrate our commitment to deal with this."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

RMTC preview of Good People

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • June 25, 2013 - 130625  -  A storm lit up Winnipeg Tuesday, June 25, 2013. John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press - lightning
  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100615 - Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 The Mane Attraction - Lions are back at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Xerxes a 3-year-old male African Lion rests in the shade of a tree in his new enclosure at the old Giant Panda building.  MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What are you most looking forward to this Easter weekend?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google