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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 41:245-252 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01022

Giraffe translocation population viability analysis

Derek E. Lee1,*, Elmar Fienieg2, Cock Van Oosterhout3, Zoe Muller4, Megan Strauss5, Kerryn D. Carter6, Ciska P. J. Scheijen7, Francois Deacon7

1Biology Department, Pennsylvania State University, Muller Laboratory, State College, PA 16801, USA
2European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, Plantage Kerklaan 40, 1018 CZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands
3School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK
4School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Life Sciences Building, 24 Tyndall Ave, Bristol BS8 1TQ, UK
5Wild Nature Institute, 15 North Main Street #208, Concord, NH 03301, USA
6Elephant Connection, Mwandi, Western Province, Zambia
7Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences, University of the Free State, Nelson Mandela Drive, Bloemfontein, 9301, South Africa
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Most populations of giraffes have declined in recent decades, leading to the recent IUCN decision to upgrade the species to Vulnerable status, and some subspecies to Endangered. Translocations have been used as a conservation tool to re-introduce giraffes to previously occupied areas or establish new populations, but guidelines for founding populations are lacking. To provide general guidelines for translocation projects regarding feasibility, we simulated various scenarios of translocated giraffe populations to identify viable age and sex distributions of founding populations using population viability analysis (PVA) implemented in Vortex software. We explored the parameter space for demography and the genetic load, examining how variation in founding numbers and sex ratios affected 100 yr probability of population extinction and genetic diversity. We found that even very small numbers of founders (N ≤ 10 females) can appear to be successful in the first decades due to transient positive population growth, but with moderate population growth rate and moderate genetic load, long-term population viability (probability of extinction <0.01) was only achieved with ≥30 females and ≥3 males released. To maintain >95% genetic diversity of the source population in an isolated population, 50 females and 5 males are recommended to compose the founding population. Sensitivity analyses revealed first-year survival and reproductive rate were the simulation parameters with the greatest proportional influence on probability of extinction and genetic diversity. These simulations highlight important considerations for translocation success and data gaps including true genetic load in wild giraffe populations.


KEY WORDS: Founding population · Giraffe · Population model · PVA · Translocation · Population viability


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Cite this article as: Lee DE, Fienieg E, Van Oosterhout C, Muller Z and others (2020) Giraffe translocation population viability analysis. Endang Species Res 41:245-252. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01022

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