Seven years into this new millennium, species and habitat loss continue at an accelerated rate. While there have been individual examples of conservation success, the trend towards catastrophic loss of biological diversity persists. If we are to be successful in saving even a handful of critically endangered species, it is clear that they will need to be intensively managed using a variety of in situ and ex situ approaches. The highest profile ex situ conservation strategy is captive breeding. Although its relative role in an overall conservation management plan varies, captive breeding may present the only viable option for propagating the future of a species once rendered extinct in the wild. The study of Iyengar et al. in this issue of Molecular Ecology on one such species, the scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah), represents an important contribution to ex situ conservation, demonstrating how critical insights into demographic history and population genetic structure obtained using molecular approaches may significantly contribute to captive breeding and reintroduction strategies.