Fitness for the Ark : are zoo bred amphibians ready to go back to the wild?

Passos, L 2018, Fitness for the Ark : are zoo bred amphibians ready to go back to the wild? , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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Zoos are playing an important role in the management of endangered species through the reintroduction of captive-bred animals into the wild. Reintroduction is becoming a high-profile management tool for many threatened species, but it is unknown how many generations of captive breeding can influence a species’ physical and behavioural characteristics. Considerable difficulty has been encountered in the reintroduction of endangered species, and genetic adaptations to captivity reducing fitness in the wild are one of several possible reasons for this low success rate. Evaluating the level of fitness and behavioural traits of captive animals could improve the success rates of such programmes.

This PhD project implements a multidisciplinary approach to explore and understand the effects that captivity has on different aspects of the golden mantella frog’s ecology and behaviour. During this study we used behavioural observations, microbiology, bioacoustics, playback experiments, and spectroscopy analysis of captive and wild frogs to understand the consequences of being born and reared in a captive environment. Specifically, we examined aspects of our species biology that affect an individual’s survival skills and discuss the consequences of this in the long-term for captive populations and for their future reintroduction.

It was observed changes on all the study aspects, skin colouration, body condition, vocalizations, anti-predator responses, skin associated bacteria and species recognition. The results obtained during this study show that captivity does have a significant impact on the behaviour and ecology of this species. However, the results cannot be extrapolated as a general captive effect. Individual frogs at the Mitsinjo breeding centre, when compared to parameters obtained from wild individuals, presented more significant effects on body condition, skin colouration, anti-predator response than Chester Zoo’s animals. On the other hand, vocalization from mantellas kept at Mitisinjo had a greater degree of similarity with wild frogs than Chester Zoo’s animals. One interesting result was the fact that wild individuals could still recognize the calls recorded from Chester Zoo animals, regardless of the changes observed.

Animal husbandry seems to play an important role in attenuating or increasing these negative consequences, since not all captive populations showed the same effects. From this it was possible to conclude that captive breeding can only be viable option for the conservation of threatened amphibians, if the necessary care is taken regarding husbandry protocols. Extreme care should be taken regarding husbandry to fulfil the environmental and behavioural needs of each species. The next stage for this research would be to test if a soft-release reintroduction protocol would work as a mitigating measure. If, during a soft release, the behavioural and morphological differences observed between captive and wild individuals diminished, then it could be a time and cost effective measure to solve negative captivity induced changes in amphibians.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Schools: Schools > School of Environment and Life Sciences
Funders: Sciences Without Borders - CAPES/MEC
Depositing User: L PASSOS
Date Deposited: 05 Apr 2018 10:04
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 23:37

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