Critically-endangered species should be encouraged to breed in the wild rather than in captivity, suggests a new research by the University of East Anglia (UEA).
The study looks at the critically-endangered Great Indian Bustard, a rare bird in India, which faces major threats from agriculture, powerlines and hunting. Its numbers have declined from more than 1,000 in 1970 to as few as 100-200 today, Xinhua news agency reported.
The research team used population models to evaluate the potential effectiveness of a captive-breeding and release program compared to an alternative strategy of conservation in the wild, according to UEA.
Researchers said the results indicate that only urgent and effective action to protect and extend the Great Indian Bustard's natural habitat can prevent extinction in the wild.
"Without conservation in the wild there is no point in captive breeding - as the birds would be trapped in captivity with no hope of returning to nature.
"Effective conservation offers a better chance to save this species, without diverting energy and funds away from the urgent action needed in its last remaining habitats," said lead researcher Paul Dolman.
The new research challenges the assumption that when a species is perilously close to extinction in the wild, it is always a good idea to set up a captive breeding population, he added.
The study has been published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.