Captive Animal Release

Animals that have been kept as pets or have been confiscated from illegal pet traders can be the source of animals for a reintroduction program, as was the case for many of the orangutans released into Tanjung Putting National Park in Borneo, Indonesia.

Sometimes, endangered species are bred in zoos or other facilities to increase their populations. If the population of a species drops to only a handful of individuals, scientists may decide to capture all of them to protect and breed them. Once the species has reached stable numbers in captivity, individuals can be released into their native habitat. A great example of this is the black-footed ferret.

Regardless of where they come from, all captive animals being released into the wild must first be taught the skills they need to survive. A list of criteria exist for orangutans outlining what skills they must acquire before being reintroduced, such as being able to find food, stay up in trees, and interact with other orangutans. Their release also involves a transition period of a couple weeks in which the animals spend a couple of weeks in a large pen without human contact.

Certain animals, including many species of birds, will only interact with members of the same species correctly if they are raised by that species at a critical early period of their development. To get around this problem, people raising California condors use condor- shaped hand puppets to feed and handle the chicks.


Oftentimes, scientists worry about the survival of the released animals that they have invested so much time and money into. So, they supplement their diet by periodically supplying food. For example, fresh fruit is provided at feeding sites in Tanjung Puting National Park for the Bornean orangutans daily, while California condors are provided with an animal carcass weekly. 

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CAC is a program of the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.