C2S2’s Native Species Forces grow local or regional species projects and are championed by curators and biologists, particularly from Affiliate Member institutions. Zoos within the species’ range act as hubs for both ex situ and in situ conservation efforts, including citizen scientist/Master Naturalist ‘Forces’ conducting surveys in the field and monitoring habitat over time. C2S2 ‘incubates’ native species projects brought to the organization by a champion (and accepted by C2S2), and provides advisory support, strategic planning, access to experts, and facilitation of connections with new partners. This model benefits from C2S2’s relationship (and MOU) with the USWFS to advance scientific understanding and conservation of priority species and habitats.
While C2S2 historically has focused on larger-sized, more charismatic animals, mostly because such species require the space unique to the Conservation Centers, the Native Species Forces model provides exciting opportunities, in particular, for C2S2 Affiliates. These facilities are keen to build and grow their own conservation breeding activities, specifically with species of importance to their local communities. Zoos have larger collections of birds and reptiles than Conservation Centers (see figure below) and are very experienced with husbandry of these diverse species.
And although zoos typically specialize in exotic species, they exist in a landscape filled with native species and part of their conservation obligations are, at the very least, to co-exist with those native species. Conservation Centers, in particular, often put a great deal of energy and resources into maintaining biodiversity on their land. While most zoos and Conservation Centers are aware of the opportunities and necessity of working with their own specific native species (and some have very impressive programs), there is still a need for outside facilitation to create more coordinated effort across facilities in the same area. In many cases (for example with native songbirds), now is the time for action to learn how to care for and propagate these species ex situ.