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Photo © John Ternan Calgary Zoo


IUCN SSC Conservation Translocation Specialist Group

Day after day, an increasing number of species are becoming rare or even extinct in the wild. The current mass extinction threatens to undermine the ecological fabric of nature and associated life-support systems for humanity. As our population triples from 3 billion in 1960 to 9 billion by 2050, societies world-wide recognize that conservation actions are necessary now to prevent extinctions and restore nature. The Conservation Translocation Specialist Group (CTSG), formally known as the Reintroduction Specialist Group, of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) is working with others to face emerging threats, restore species, and yield wide-ranging benefits for nature and people. Actions of our practitioners worldwide illustrate that there is hope and that positive change is possible.


IUCN is the only environmental organization affiliated with the UN General Assembly as it integrates government, non-government, and indigenous organizations to provide expertise regarding nature and associated implications for humanity. IUCN’s Red Listing Process yields the globally authoritative list of imperiled species and its methodology is used by most countries to determine national lists of species at risk. The IUCN SSC includes a small number of disciplinary groups that deal with overarching issues such as climate change, wildlife health, and sustainable use.

The CTSG is one of IUCN’s disciplinary groups, with member representation spanning all continents. CTSG developed IUCN SSC Guidelines for Reintroductions and Other Conservation Translocations, which are now available in 8 languages and have been integrated into government policy in many regions. These guidelines are applicable to all species on Earth, conservation translocations have been conducted for over 1500 species, and the diversity of objectives, species, and countries of application continues to increase. CTSG advances science, informs government policy, trains practitioners, and promotes the application of conservation translocations to benefit nature. Such activities acknowledge social, cultural, political, and economic considerations and often align to enhance tangible benefits to society.

Conservation translocations can be proactive to avert extinction, or reactive to return species that have been lost regionally or globally from the wild. CTSG’s mandate includes the planning, application, or evaluation of any human-mediated translocation for conservation purposes. Such activities span translocations among regions in the wild or any form of conservation breeding, propagation, or headstarting for release. Reinforcements or Reintroductions can be used to restore populations within their indigenous range. More risky applications include conservation translocations beyond such ranges including Ecological Replacements which introduce species to restore ecological functions lost through the extinction of other species, or Assisted Colonizations which involve translocations to mitigate against emerging or inescapable threats. The application of CTSG’s guidelines extends to Rewilding Efforts that attempt to restore larger ecosystems, as well as to the controversial topic of ‘De-Extinction’ which aims to resurrect proxies of extinct species for eventual release into the wild.