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The Guts of the Captive Breeding Problem

Captive lions have different skull shapes compared with their wild counterparts, possibly due to a high-quality diet and fewer bones to chew. Credit: Cat Bell/Adobe

Captive lions have different skull shapes compared with their wild counterparts, possibly due to a high-quality diet and fewer bones to chew. Credit: Cat Bell/Adobe

By Stephanie Courtney Jones

The discovery that captivity affects the internal organs of animals has significant implications for their successful reintroduction to the wild.

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Captive breeding first came about with the domestication of animals and plants thousands of years ago, followed by the keeping of animals in royal menageries and zoological gardens for amusement, and only as recently as the 1960s with the development of captive breeding programs for the conservation of threatened species.

However, breeding and raising animals in captivity presents challenges for animals once they are reintroduced back into the wild, potentially reducing their ability to survive and to find mates. To this end, a wave of conservation research has investigated ways to improve the success of captive breeding programs, with researchers now attempting to predict how an individual animal will perform following reintroduction.

Much of this work has focused on the behaviour of animals in captivity, with the absence of predators and competition for mates leading to behaviours that contribute to their failure at reintroduction. However, morphological changes that occur in captivity are often unnoticed.

In captivity, animals face changes in various environmental conditions, such as diet, nutrition and cognitive stimulation. These changes in the captive environment can lead to changes in external morphological traits. For example, captive lions and tigers have different skull shapes compared with their wild counterparts, possibly due to the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.