A broader perspective needed for population management of animals in zoos

A broader perspective needed for population management of animals in zoos

Reproducing efficiently in captivity is crucial for the survival of many wildlife species, yet reproductive success is often lower than in the wild. Currently, many zoo population management strategies prioritize the genetic diversity of captive populations. Scientists now argue that a broader perspective is required which also includes behavior, life-history, husbandry and environmental considerations. This would improve breeding success in zoos and the maintenance of the diversity of traits, behaviors, and phenotypes of threatened species. In a paper published recently in the scientific " Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research " they compare different population management approaches and conclude that prioritizing genetic factors to the exclusion of all others may have detrimental effects: For example, in small groups of unrelated adults, conflicts are likely to be more frequent than in larger groups with relatives present who had the chance to develop differentiated socialization and learning repertoires. Many species of birds and mammals reproduce better in the wild than in captivity. When wild populations are threatened, it is of utmost importance to conservation that captive populations are healthy and sustainable. In a new paper, wildlife biologists Werner Kaumanns (LTM-Research and Conservation), Nilofer Begum (Freie Universität Berlin) and Heribert Hofer (Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research) evaluate decades of scientific literature on the reproduction of captive populations and compared two well-known population management paradigms. The "small population paradigm" focuses on the genetic reservoir of the species and attempts to maximize genetic diversity within the captive populations, for example by exchanging mating partners frequently or by avoiding groups of closely related individuals. In the "declining population paradigm" on the other hand measures target the causes of population decline and thereby reproduction processes and conditions. We argue that under the latter paradigm better management options can be developed without necessarily contradicting genetic assessments and their relevance to population management." Werner Kaumanns, lead author, LTM-Research and Conservation Related Stories



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