Home on the Range: The Comeback of Pronghorn Antelope
The peninsular pronghorn Antilocapra americana peninsularis is one of the most endangered large mammals in Mexico today. Historically this subspecies ranged over most of the Baja California peninsula. Between 1950 and 1980 population distribution and abundance dramatically declined to critical levels and this subspecies is now listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. In response, the Mexican government teamed up with the Ford Motor Company and several U.S. zoological organizations to begin an in situ recovery program within the El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve on the Baja California Sur peninsula.
A conservation program was implemented in 1997 by the Los Angeles Zoo, in collaboration with Mexican wildlife authorities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the El Vizcaino Reserve, including the La Choya Peninsula region, of Baja California Sur, Mexico.
The project goals and objectives are to build a comprehensive and multifaceted conservation program through the restoration of previous pronghorn habitat, establishing genetically managed in situ and North American captive and semi-captive breeding programs, development of comprehensive husbandry and veterinary programs, reintroduction of a viable, sustainable pronghorn population to restored habitat, capacity building for Mexican wildlife personnel, and community environmental and educational programs on local, national and international levels, as well as the potential goal of allowing supporting zoos to exhibit this endangered species in support of conservation and education programs.
Recent major successful events including tranquilization and translocation of 43 animals in January 2009 and then 268 more animals in June with release of 216 (basically doubling the wild population) into protected habitat, were in large part only possible due to the monetary, staffing and equipment (trucks, crates, trailers, supplies) provided by San Diego Zoo Global.
Over the next few years, we hope to establish two more protected release sites in the Los Cirios region, import animals into U.S. facilities for education and breeding purposes, and then hopefully work with the Mexican government on potential wildlife management plans moving forward. Future goals include continuing captive breeding, reintroduction, education, habitat protection, and development of improved husbandry and medical protocols.