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Management and Conservation of Captive Tigers

Foreword by Ulysses Seal, Chair, IUCN/SSC CBSG

Talking about the husbandry and management of tigers in captivity conjures visions of day-to-day management, including health and survival, nutrition, breeding and rearing of young, diagnosis and treatment of an ever-broadening spectrum of diseases, exhibit design and display, and continuing redesign of behavioral goals and standards. Most of our expertise in these domains is personal, scattered, usually unpublished, and certainly unassimilated into an available resource for the new manager. This knowledge and these skills are fundamental to any conservation program based upon captive populations of tigers. The skills in tiger management developed in zoos over the past 70 years have made possible the development of more ambitious conservation programs.

A sense of unbalance in these conservation programs has been accompanied by a rapid and continued application of current biological science to the problems of genetic and demographic management of captive tigers. Knowledge of tiger reproductive biology, when coupled with advances in assisted reproductive technology and genome resource banking, is providing even newer tools that will be integral to the management of wild and captive populations of this species in the future. These tools and processes are providing innovative ideas in management planning for small and fragmented wild tiger populations as well.

Today, tiger programs are evolving across international boundaries, with conservation linkages being forged among range country wildlife agencies, protected areas management staff, and zoo communities, bridging their long separation. These genetic, demographic, and reproductive programs, developed during the past 20 years, have benefited from intensely focused research and experimentation in their application to management needs.

What we have not developed is the same efficiency in organizing and testing our knowledge of many other aspects of husbandry and captive management, including nutrition, preparation of balanced diets with different local resources, infectious disease, parasites, immunology, heritability of behavioral sequences, personality differences, physiological and behavioral development sequences, skeletal changes associated with captive rearing, bone density and exercise requirements, and the influence of spatial arrangements on behavior.

This husbandry manual is the result of an eight-year effort to assemble and assimilate information that might be applied to some of these needs. The focus has been on preparing a document that would be of practical use to tiger managers to meet the goal of a healthy, potentially reproductive, and behaviorally adjusted, managed population of captive tigers. This manual has required several major international symposia, numerous regional workshops, and a major synthesis by the editors. It is an excellent start towards a manual that can be used wherever tigers are kept in captivity. Its development demonstrates our need to apply more effective processes to the development of husbandry manuals and to the systematic evaluation of different management practices.

The editors and contributors are to be congratulated for the excellent work they have achieved in assimilating the available information, for the quality of the product, and for providing a solid basis of improving our husbandry of captive tigers.