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Science, not romance, controls mating at Smithsonian's National Zoo
Date:2/8/2008

This Valentines Day, Cupid wont be making a stop at the Smithsonians National Zoo. Unlike the spontaneous attraction that most humans equate with love and romance, mating and dating at the National Zoo is planned, strategic and science-basedquite an unromantic encounter.

Successful breeding is often much more complicated than putting a male and female together and expecting nature to take its course. Animals in captivity need to be managed carefully to ensure the most genetically diverse populationwhich leads to healthier animals and a sustainable population that can safeguard a species from extinction.

The National Zoo facilitates this controlled and strategic breeding through its participation in the Species Survival Plan, a cooperative population management program among the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Species Survival Plans maintain the pedigree of each animal in a particular program and make breeding recommendations for those animals based on which is most genetically important, as well as taking into account whether the facility has space for potential offspring. Without a Species Survival Plan, animal populations are at risk of stagnation and eventual extinction. The plan ensures both a good genetic match and an environment that enables optimal breeding conditions for the animal, such as healthy diets and environmental control.

At the National Zoo, having a pair of animals with the right genetics is only half the battle in successful breeding. The science of managing the animals and ensuring they have the right habitat for their needs are also essential to successful reproduction. National Zoo animal care staff are experts in ensuring quality habitat and have had numerous successes during the past years in captive breeding.

  • The Zoos cheetah population requires strategic planning prior to breeding times due to their notorious resistance to reproduce. Scientists at the Zoos Cheetah Conservation Station fo
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  • Contact: Sarah Taylor
    Taylors@si.edu
    202-633-3081
    Smithsonian
    Source:Eurekalert  

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