Zoo Wildlife Alliance Supports Research into ‘Insurance Populations’ of Endangered Species

Tasmanian Devil
The Tasmanian Devils at the San Diego Zoo, McLovin and Quirindi, at their home inside the Conrad Prebys Australian Outback. Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo.

New research shows that insurance populations – those isolated from extinction threats – could help save many animals.

The study was written and funded in part by Wildlife Zoo San Diego Alliance and the Toledo Zoo, both of which have such captive populations, in this case the endangered Tasmanian devil.

The project, one of largest wildlife genetic studies in the worldfound that the carnivorous marsupial insurance populations at zoos and Maria Island off the east coast of Tasmania are as genetically diverse as wildlife populations.

This means that insurance animals are just as healthy and likely to breed and can be reintroduced into the wild, enhancing the number of species.

The research, published in iScienceis led by the Wildlife Genomics team at the University of Sydney, in collaboration with the Government of Tasmania.

The Tasmanian devil’s population – which is only in the homonymous state – has been reduced by about 80% since 1996 due to a contagious cancer, the devil’s face tumor disease (DFTD). They are also threatened by killings, habitat destruction and climate change.

The fact that the animals of the insurance population are as genetically robust as the wild shows that these breeding strategies are effective, said study co-author Dr. Carolyn Hogg.

“The consequence is possible thanks to the ongoing strategic management of the insurance population, which includes more than 37 zoos, as well as devils on Maria Island,” he explained. “By integrating orphaned joeys exposed to DFTD in nature, we have ensured that we have documented any genetic changes as a result of the disease.

James Biggs, director of conservation and population management at the Tasmanian Devil Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Association, said: “This program demonstrates the role and value of zoos in the market for a long time. the primary threats and Wildlife can be restored ”.

Hogg added that the breeding strategy can be applied to other endangered species and is therefore a useful tool for tackling the global biodiversity crisis.

“We have already applied it to species that are part of different populations of safe havens (fenced sites) on the mainland of Australia, such as stems and muscles – an extremely rare, small marsupial,” he said.

Nearly 1 million species are already endangered worldwide, many in decades, according to a recent evaluation report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Between 2012 and 2021, researchers looked at more than 1,300 wild and insurance devils in Tasmania. They were collected from 31 sites across the range of the species – covering more than 40,000 square miles.

The researchers analyzed both the diversity of the entire genome and the diversity of more than 500 critical genes involved in immunity and reproduction, and found no significant differences between wild and insurance animals.

The researchers began pilot releases of the devil population of the insurance population in 2015. According to the results of the new study, they will continue to monitor the health and genetics of animals for at least four to six years – equivalent to two to three generations of devils.

The largest carnivorous marsupial in the world, the Tasmanian devil was once widespread throughout Australia, but is believed to have disappeared on the mainland about 400 years ago due to hunting by wild dogs.

The name of the devils, a courtesy of the early European settlers, comes from their crazy nature – their settlers had observed them fighting angrily for companions and defending themselves from predators.

Zoo Wildlife Alliance Supports Research into ‘Insurance Populations’ of Endangered Species Source link Zoo Wildlife Alliance Supports Research into ‘Insurance Populations’ of Endangered Species

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