Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Genetic Management of Wild and Captive Populations

GLT group
GLT pedigree; John Ballou
CCEG scientists have managed the breeding of golden lion tamarins in zoos for more than 20 years in order to minimize inbreeding and the loss of genetic variability.
Photo credit: Mehgan Murphy

Genetic management of wild and captive populations: CCG scientists have intensively studied the problems associated with inbreeding in small populations. They have developed the theoretical bases for breeding programs to maintain a diverse gene pool over many generations. NZP scientists have also developed the software and database tools needed to help population managers translate this theory into formal breeding plans and strategies for both wild and zoo populations.

CCEG staff, working alone or in collaboration with scientists at other zoos, developed the software systems (PM2000, MateRx, and MetaMK) that are the primary tools conservation biologists use all over the world to manage interacting zoo and wild populations genetically and demographically, and to predict their long-term population viability. As scientific methods progress, needs change, and software environments evolve, these programs need to be revised and updated.

Genetic management methods have been applied by CCG scientists to countless cases involving captive and wild populations of endangered species. Some of the more extensive recent studies include Brazilian golden lion-tamarins, California condors, Assateague Island wild horses, and giant pandas.