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Leus, K.; Lacy, R.C.
Genetic and demographic management of conservation breeding programmes oriented towards reintroduction (Gestión genética y demográfica de los programas de cría en cautividad con fines de reintroducción)
2009  Book Chapter

This paper aims to summarise the general principles of the genetic management of conservation breeding programmes with the aim of reintroduction. One of the most important aims for such programmes is to retain as much gene diversity as possible. Gene diversity represents the evolutionary potential captured within the population and is correlated with population fitness. Populations in captivity are often small, lack gene flow between subpopulations without human intervention, and live under unnatural conditions. This makes captive populations vulnerable to genetic changes that may affect reintroduction success, such as loss of genetic variation through genetic drift and inbreeding, inbreeding depression, and genetic adaptation to captivity. Gene diversity can best be maintained in captive populations by 1) maximising the number of founders (without compromising the wild source population); 2) maximising the growth rate in the growth stage of the population (implying good knowledge of natural history and captive husbandry); 3) maximising carrying capacity, and 4) basing the pairings of individuals, especially during the capacity stage of the Programme, on their mean kinship (mk) values, while 5) minimising inbreeding. The mk value of an individual is a measure for the relatedness of this individual to the entire population. Animals with low mk values have few relatives in the population and vice versa. If an individual with few relatives dies, chances are high that unique genetic variation is lost forever. In contrast, most of the genetic material of an individual with many family members (i.e., high mk) is likely also present in its relatives. By giving breeding priority to low mk individuals, combining individuals with similar mk values for mating, and minimising inbreeding, the amount of gene diversity retained can be maximised. A degree of compromise will be necessary to take into account the biological and social characteristics of the species, non-genetic peculiarities of the individuals involved, as well as practical circumstances. Finally, the captive born individuals best chosen for reintroduction are those that benefit the gene diversity of the wild population, but are genetically well represented in the captive population. The above principles are explained while paying particular attention to the specific case of the Iberian lynx.

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