Captive-bred carnivores less likely to survive if released in the wild

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Washington, Jan 21 : A new study has found out that captive-born carnivores have a low survival rate if they are released in the wild, with only one in three able to survive.

The study carried out at the University of Exeter, UK, reviewed 45 case studies, involving 17 carnivore species, and found that only 30% of captive animals released survived.

Over half the deaths were caused by humans in incidents such as shootings and car accidents. The animals were also more susceptible to starvation and disease than their wild counterparts and less able to form successful social groups.

According to Kristen Jule, lead author on the paper and University of Exeter PhD student, "Animals in captivity do not usually have the natural behaviours needed for success in the wild. Their lack of hunting skills and their lack of fear towards humans, for example, are major disadvantages."

"We have suspected for some time that captive born animals fared less well than wild animals, but here it is finally quantified, and the extent of the problem is critical," she added.

According to researchers, it is important for the reassessment of projects involving the reintroduction of carnivores in the wild, so that these animals are better prepared for living in their natural environment.

This could include reducing contact with humans, creating opportunities for hunting and encouraging the formation of natural social groups, while the animals are still in captivity.

The research also raised the need for long-term monitoring of released animals, so that success could be measured over several years.

In addition, the study points to the need for engagement with local communities before any reintroduction, especially as most carnivore extinctions were originally caused through conflict between animals and humans.

"Despite the problems raised in our research, I believe reintroduction projects are vital to conservation efforts," said Jule.

According to Jule, in some cases, the animals being released no longer exist in the wild because of human development or conflict.

"If we are to try and redress the balance, it's important for us to help provide captive born animals with the opportunity to gain the skills that they will need to survive in the wild," said Jule.

"The next step is for scientists, conservationists and animal welfare groups to develop guidelines to help captive animals prepare for a new life in the wild," he added.

ANI

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