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Captive carnivores not up to wild living
Date:1/20/2008

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 nee
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Contact: Sarah Hoyle
s.hoyle@exeter.ac.uk
392-262-062
University of Exeter
Source:Eurekalert

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