Article about low breeding efficiency of European mink in captivity: what causes it?

New research article is just published on-line in Zoo Biology. It is about the problems behind low breeding success in European mink conservation breeding program.

This is the first time the problem of aggressive and passive males has been properly mapped. It is a good starting point for attempts to solve this mystery.

The abstract of the article (click here to download it):

The Causes of the Low Breeding Success of European Mink (Mustela lutreola) in Captivity

Kairi Kiik,1*

Tiit Maran,2,3

Astrid Nagl,4

Kadri Ashford,2

and Toomas Tammaru1

1Department of Zoology, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia
2Species Conservation Lab, Tallinn Zoological Gardens, Tallinn, Estonia
3Institute of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Tallinn University, Tallinn, Estonia
4Department of Biomedical Sciences and Biochemistry, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria

High among‐individual variation in mating success often causes problems in conservation breeding programs. This is also the case for critically endangered European mink and may jeopardize the long‐term maintenance of the species’ genetic diversity under the European mink EEP Program. In this study, breeding success of wild and captive born European minks at Tallinn Zoological Garden are compared, and the mating behavior of the males is analyzed. Results show that wild born males successfully mate significantly more often than captive born males (89% and 35%, respectively). On the basis of an extensive record of mating attempts, both male aggressiveness and passivity are identified as primary causes of the observed mating failures. All other potential determinants have only a minor role. Mating success as well as a male’s aggressiveness and passivity are shown to depend more strongly on the male than the female partner. Wedid not find any evidence that the behavior of an individual is dependent on the identity of its partner. We suggest that aggressiveness and passivity are two expressions of abnormal behavior brought about by growing up in captivity: the same individuals are likely to display both aggressive and passive behavior. The results point to the need to study and modify maintenance conditions and management procedures of mink to reduce the negative impact of the captive environment on the long‐term goals of the program.

Zoo Biol. XX:XX–XX,
2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals Inc.

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