CBSG was originally called the Captive Breeding Specialist Group when it was formed in 1979 to meet the need for a liaison between the academic/field conservation community (like the SSC) and the captive breeding community. Dr. Ulysses S. Seal was appointed as the first chairman in 1979. CBSG's eventual integration of risk assessment and conservation management planning workshop processes for ex situ and in situ populations, with an emphasis on maintenance or restoration of wild populations, led us to change our name from 'Captive' to 'Conservation' Breeding Specialist Group in 1994.
In March of 2003, Ulie Seal passed away after a difficult battle with cancer. The whole conservation community mourned his loss. Before Ulie died, he and CBSG chose Dr. Robert Lacy to step into Ulie’s role as CBSG Chairman. Bob Lacy served as Chair from Ulie’s death until 2011. During this time, Bob redoubled CBSG’s commitment to the zoo and aquarium community, and continues to urge its strong commitment to conservation. In 2011, Bob chose to step down as Chairman and continue working with CBSG as Science Advisor. Dr. Onnie Byers, previously the Executive Director, stepped up into the Chair position and continues to lead the organization today.
Today, CBSG has a membership of 380 professionals coordinated by a headquarters staff of six, assisted by 10 Regional Networks on six continents. CBSG is supported by over 140 donor institutions, organizations, and individuals. Since our inception in 1979, CBSG has assisted in the development of conservation plans involving over 250 species through more than 600 workshops held in 71 countries. In 2013, CBSG developed the tagline "Planning a Future for Wildlife" to highlight our ongoing commitment to species conservation planning.