Captive carnivores not up to wild living

Jan 21, 2008

A study by the University of Exeter has highlighted the problems of reintroducing animals to the wild for conservation projects. Published online in the journal Biological Conservation, the research highlights the low survival rates of captive carnivores that are released into their natural habitats. On average only one in three captive-born carnivores survives in the wild, with most deaths related to human activities.

Recent high-profile conservation projects have involved reintroducing wolves into the Scottish Highlands, bringing red kites back to England and reintroducing golden lion tamarins to Brazil. Most of these animals were born in captivity, with zoos playing a major role in such projects, while other schemes involve moving wild animals to new areas.

This study reviewed 45 case studies, involving 17 carnivore species, and found that only 30% of captive animals released survived. Over half the deaths were caused by humans in incidents such as shootings and car accidents. The animals were also more susceptible to starvation and disease than their wild counterparts and less able to form successful social groups.

Kristen Jule, lead author on the paper and University of Exeter PhD student, says: “Animals in captivity do not usually have the natural behaviours needed for success in the wild. Their lack of hunting skills and their lack of fear towards humans, for example, are major disadvantages. We have suspected for some time that captive born animals fared less well than wild animals, but here it is finally quantified, and the extent of the problem is critical.”

The research team highlights the need for these projects to be reassessed so that animals are better prepared for living in their natural environment. This could include reducing contact with humans, creating opportunities for hunting and encouraging the formation of natural social groups, while the animals are still in captivity. The research also raised the need for long-term monitoring of released animals, so that success could be measured over several years. In addition, the paper points to the need for engagement with local communities before any reintroduction, especially as most carnivore extinctions were originally caused through conflict between animals and humans.

Kristen Jule continued: “Despite the problems raised in our research, I believe reintroduction projects are vital to conservation efforts. In some cases, the animals being released no longer exist in the wild because of human development or conflict. If we are to try and redress the balance, it’s important for us to help provide captive born animals with the opportunity to gain the skills that they will need to survive in the wild. The next step is for scientists, conservationists and animal welfare groups to develop guidelines to help captive animals prepare for a new life in the wild.”

Source: University of Exeter

Explore further: Prehistoric conflict hastened human brain's capacity for collaboration, study says

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Surrogate sushi: Japan biotech for bluefin tuna

Nov 20, 2014

Of all the overfished fish in the seas, luscious, fatty bluefin tuna are among the most threatened. Marine scientist Goro Yamazaki, who is known in this seaside community as "Young Mr. Fish," is working to ...

Viruses impaired if their targets have diverse genes

Nov 18, 2014

When a viral infection spread through five genetically identical mice in a row, the virus replicated faster and became more virulent or severe. But when the infection spread one-by-one through five genetically ...

Saving Christmas Island's reptiles

Nov 17, 2014

Environmental scientists are working alongside park rangers to protect Christmas Island's remaining reptilian wildlife from extinction.

Giant otter's repertoire includes 22 distinct vocalizations

Nov 12, 2014

Giant otters may have a vocal repertoire with 22 distinct vocalization types produced by adults and 11 neonate vocalization types, according to a study published November 12, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Chr ...

Recommended for you

Amazonian shrimps: An underwater world still unknown

1 hour ago

A study reveals how little we know about the Amazonian diversity. Aiming to resolve a scientific debate about the validity of two species of freshwater shrimp described in the first half of the last century, ...

Factors that drive sexual traits

2 hours ago

Many male animals have multiple displays and behaviours to attract females; and often the larger or greater the better.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

HarryStottle
not rated yet Jan 21, 2008
Not good news for Shaun Ellis...
http://channel.na...phy.html

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.