• nucleus population;
  • gene diversity;
  • immigration;
  • AAZPA Species Survival Plan©


A nucleus population is a small captive population genetically supported by periodic importation of wild caught animals. Periodic importation will allow nucleus populations to maintain the same amount of gene diversity as larger captive populations that do not import wild caught animals. The function of nucleus populations as envisioned by the IUCN/SSC Captive Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) is to make additional captive space available for endangered taxa not currently maintained in captivity. In this article, mathematical models are developed to assess the effectiveness of the nucleus population concept in reducing the population sizes necessary to maintain appreciable amounts of gene diversity in captive populations. It is shown that the Nucleus I population concept, as defined and promoted by the CBSG, requires an importation rate 10–20 times greater than they have indicated. Whereas nucleus populations are not appropriate for maintenance of significant amounts of gene diversity in long-term breeding programs, small populations can be valuable for research, education, and reintroduction projects with short-term goals. Decisions have to be made on which of the many endangered taxa will be maintained and for what purposes, if captive breeding is to be an effective component of species conservation. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.