The endemic Australian greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis) is a vulnerable and iconic species. It has declined significantly due to habitat loss, as well as competition and predation from introduced species. Conservation measures include a National Recovery Plan that incorporates several captive breeding programs. Two of these programs were established within 12 months of one another (1997/98), with the same number and sex ratio of founding individuals, but executed different breeding strategies: (1) unmanipulated mating in semi-free range natural habitat versus (2) minimising mean kinship in large enclosures, with the supplementation of new individuals into both populations. This study evaluates the long-term genetic impact of these programs and examines the congruency between the pedigree studbook estimates of diversity and molecular data. Our data demonstrate that genetic diversity was maintained in both populations, with the supplementation of new individuals contributing to the gene pool. The studbook estimates of diversity and inbreeding are not consistent with the microsatellite data and should not solely be relied upon to evaluate the genetic health of captive populations. Our analyses suggest that captive breeding programs may not require costly and intensive management to effectively maintain long-term genetic diversity in a promiscuous species.
- conservation genetics
- wildlife management