1. Introduce the activity.
Tell students they will complete a detailed case study for one species in a captive-breeding program and evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Have students go to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park’s Captive Breeding page to choose and research a species.

2. Have students complete their case studies.
Students’ case studies should include the following information:

  • species name, natural range, and habitat
  • a simple world map showing the species’ historic and current ranges and/or historic and current population statistics
  • reason the species is threatened or endangered
  • when the captive breeding program began
  • difficulties with maintaining the species’ population in the wild
  • difficulties with breeding the species in captivity
  • assessment of whether or not the captive-breeding program has been successful and why
  • explanation of how the program might help the overall biodiversity of the regions where the species naturally lives


3. Have students present their findings to the class.
Have each student present their findings to the class. Encourage students in the audience to ask questions.

Subjects & Disciplines

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • complete a case study for one species in a captive-breeding program
  • present their findings

Teaching Approach

  • Learning-for-use

Teaching Methods

  • Discussions
  • Research

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

National Geography Standards

  • Standard 14:  How human actions modify the physical environment

National Science Education Standards

What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Pens

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per learner

Physical Space

  • Computer lab


  • Large-group instruction

Background Information

Captive-breeding programs breed endangered species in zoos and other facilities to build a healthy population of the animals. By becoming familiar with the issues surrounding these programs, you can make judgments about whether or not they save species from extinction.

Prior Knowledge

  • None



all the different kinds of living organisms within a given area.

captive-breeding program

plans, research, and work done by an organization, such as a zoo, to control reproduction of rare species in that organization's facilities (not in the wild).


environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.


native, geographic area in which an organism can be found. Range also refers to the geographic distribution of a particular species.