Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Programs

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Species Survival Plan® Programs

The mission of an AZA Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program is to cooperatively manage specific, and typically threatened or endangered, species population within AZA-accredited Zoos and Aquariums, Certified Related Facilities, and Sustainability Partners.

There are currently more than 450 SSP Programs, each managed by their corresponding Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGs), within AZA. Each is responsible for developing a comprehensive population Studbook and a Breeding and Transfer Plan which identifies population management goals and recommendations to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically varied AZA population.

Many of these SSP Programs represent species that urgently need to be conserved and protected in the wild, such as the giant panda, California condor, and lowland gorilla. SSP Programs, as well as AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, significantly contribute to field conservation efforts, species recovery, veterinary care for wildlife disease issues, establishment of assurance populations, as well as many other species-focused conservation. Read more about Field Conservation

AZA Policy for Full Participation in the Species Survival Plan Program

Collaborative management of individual animals within the greater whole of the AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, Certified Related Facilities, and Sustainability Partners population is critical to ensuring the long-term survival of the species represented in its SSP Program. The Policy for Full Participation in the SSP Program ensures that all AZA stakeholders have input into the SSP Planning process and fully comprehend, agree to, and follow the final SSP breeding recommendations. Read more about the AZA Policy for Full Participation in the SSP Program.

AZA Animal Management Reconciliation Policy

The success of cooperative breeding programs depends on all institutions supporting SSP recommendations. If differences regarding SSP breeding recommendations occur between the SSP and an AZA stakeholder, AZA’s Animal Management Reconciliation Policy articulates the processes that both parties must utilize to resolve them. Read more about the AZA Animal Management Reconciliation Policy.


Each SSP Program is supervised by an SSP Coordinator and composed of a Management Group, appointed from AZA members, and several expert advisors. All SSP Program functional and management processes are specified in the Species Survival Plan® Program Handbook, however primary functions include:

  • Overseeing the development of a Studbook.
  • Establishing management, research, and conservation priorities.
  • Developing a Breeding and Transfer Plan, in coordination with the Population Management Center (PMC).
  • Developing non-breeding plans, in coordination with the Wildlife Contraception Center (WCC).
  • Serving a specific role in conflict resolution issues that may arise.
  • Collaborating with other institutions/agencies to ensure integrated conservation initiatives.
  • Increasing public awareness of wildlife conservation issues.
  • Developing and implementing ex situ and in situ education strategies.
  • Developing in situ reintroduction programs, if possible.
  • Serving as an AZA expert and providing a discussion forum for topics applicable to the species.
  • Providing species-specific information to the TAG in their development of a taxon-specific Animal Care Manual.

Breeding and Transfer Plans

SSP Programs collaborate with the PMC, WCC, Program Leaders, and Institutional Representaties (IRs) from each participating institution to develop an SSP Breeding and Transfer Plan. Each Breeding and Transfer Plan summarizes the current demographic and genetic status of the population and identifies breeding or non-breeding recommendations with consideration given to each animal’s social and biological needs as well transfer feasibility. All recommendations designed to maintain or increase a healthy, genetically diverse and demographically stable population. AZA members may log in to the Animal Program Database to download SSP Breeding and Transfer Plans.

SSP Coordinators

SSP Coordinators often serve as the Studbook Keeper for the same species, but this is not a requirement. Individuals interested in becoming an SSP Coordinator must be an individual AZA member, be employed by and receive support from an AZA-accredited institution, Certified Related Facility, or by a Sustainability Partner.

New SSP Coordinators will work closely with their corresponding TAG Chair to become accustomed to their responsibilities. Becoming an SSP Coordinator is an excellent opportunity to enhance their knowledge about a particular species and population planning, develop professional relationships with other Program Leaders, and become familiar with the management structure of AZA Animal Programs and the WCMC.

Interested in Becoming an SSP Program Coordinator?

Search the Animal Program Database to find out which Animal Programs have vacancies. The SSP Program Handbook contains all of the administrative information needed to manage an SSP Program, including detailed job descriptions, Program Leader, Officer, and Management Group responsibilities and expectations, accountability, and contact information.