Captive breeding might sound like a quick-fix for boosting endangered species populations, but critics disagree. It weakens their ability to survive in the wild, some studies have shown, because once released, their reproduction rates plummet, and the animals are also often unable to re-adapt to their new environments.
It doesn't help, critics say, that in captivity, all offspring are allowed to survive?rather than natural selection weeding out traits that wouldn't survive in the wild?essentially creating a built-in "maladaptedness."
Some captive breeding efforts have been wildly successful, others mildly so. Conservationists have been helping the Puerto Rican Parrot, for example, since 1967, and grown the population from a meager 13 to about 85 today.
Critics, however, maintain that conservation through captive breeding reduces genetic diversity, which, among other consequences, can result in a lack of immunity to disease and other problems in the remaining population. Captive breeding can also create a false sense that the battle to save endangered species and habitats is being won. Programs can be quite costly, diverting resources from more cost-effective ecosystem conservation efforts.