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Nov 16, 2010

Genetics of African Wild Dogs

Genetics of African Wild Dogs from RZSS - Edinburgh Zoo

An assessment of the genetic status of African wild dogs in European zoos

Two vital roles of captive breeding programs are to serve as an insurance against extinction and as a source of individuals for re-introductions.

To achieve these roles it is essential to establish a healthy and self-sustaining captive population that represents the genetic diversity from wild populations. However, in reality most breeding programmes are initiated with few founders and thus may become inbred and suffer losses in genetic diversity.

African wild dogs are an endangered species which has suffered extensive declines in the wild to a few small and fragmented populations which together total less than 8,000 individuals. In addition to wild populations, there is also a growing captive population of wild dogs, with almost half held in European zoos. In this study studbook information was combined with genetic data to assess the genetic status of the European captive population of wild dogs.

The analysis showed that a large proportion of the genetic diversity from wild populations is represented in captivity. This high diversity appears to be the result of both the diverse origin of the wild founders as well as recent imports of ‘new blood’ from South African captive facilities. However, it was also shown that many founder lineages are currently over or under-represented and that ~10% of the population was produced by recent first order inbreeding events.

Based on these findings genetic management suggestions were devised with the EEP Species committee and have now been implemented to prevent further losses of diversity and to reduce inbreeding.

Developed by:  RZSS - Edinburgh Zoo

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