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Keywords:

  • population management;
  • Species Survival Plan®;
  • Population Management Plan;
  • masterplan;
  • recommendations

Abstract

To meet their exhibition, conservation, education, and scientific goals, members of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) collaborate to manage their living collections as single species populations. These cooperative population management programs, Species Survival Plans® (SSP) and Population Management Plans (PMP), issue specimen-by-specimen recommendations aimed at perpetuating captive populations by maintaining genetic diversity and demographic stability. Species Survival Plans and PMPs differ in that SSP participants agree to complete recommendations, whereas PMP participants need only take recommendations under advisement. We evaluated the effect of program type and the number of participating institutions on the success of actions recommended by the Population Management Center (PMC): transfers of specimens between institutions, breeding, and target number of offspring. We analyzed AZA studbook databases for the occurrence of recommended or unrecommended transfers and births during the 1-year period after the distribution of standard AZA Breeding-and-Transfer Plans. We had three major findings: 1) on average, both SSPs and PMPs fell about 25% short of their target; however, as the number of participating institutions increased so too did the likelihood that programs met or exceeded their target; 2) SSPs exhibited significantly greater transfer success than PMPs, although transfer success for both program types was below 50%; and 3) SSPs exhibited significantly greater breeding success than PMPs, although breeding success for both program types was below 20%. Together, these results indicate that the science and sophistication behind genetic and demographic management of captive populations may be compromised by the challenges of implementation. Zoo Biol 0:1–11, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.