The Calgary Zoo says it has opened the first breeding facility in Canada for one of the country’s most endangered birds.
The zoo says estimates put the number of greater sage grouse in Canada between 250 and 350, although some have put that number as low as 140.
The zoo has had a breeding program for two years and currently has 18 sage grouse.
The goal is to build a sustainable captive population that will one day bolster the birds in the wild.
The greater sage grouse in Canada is found only in southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan.
It is primarily threatened by habitat destruction and human development.
The 31,000-square-foot breeding centre will focus on all aspects of captive breeding and will offer sage brush and other native vegetation for the birds.
The facility will also have cameras to monitor the grouse and provide space for research to improve approaches for incubation, survival and breeding.
“I see the greater sage grouse as an iconic part of our Canadian heritage, a key component of our prairie ecosystem,” Axel Moehrenschlager, the zoo’s director of conservation and science, said in a release.
“Our new facility … will help to build a strong, wild population for this species.”