Techniques to assist conservation breeding of the babirusa (Babyrousa celebensis)
With the current rate of loss of biological diversity worldwide estimated at 100- 1000x the natural background rate, solutions are urgently needed to avoid a catastrophic and irreversible loss of species. Conservation breeding is a tool now widely used to assist in maintaining populations in a safe environment until such time as they can be released back into their natural habitat. The babirusa (Babyrousa celebensis) is a threatened species for which conservation breeding is an integral part of its conservation management. Native to a few Indonesian islands, the babirusa is under threat from habitat destruction and hunting and is estimated to have a wild population of only a few thousand. Conservation breeding was established in 1972 with the translocation of animals from Sulawesi to the Surabaya Zoo in Java, Indonesia. It is thought that 1.2 animals founded what is now a worldwide ex-situ population of around 200 individuals. With concerns mounting regarding likely levels of inbreeding and reduced reproductive success, particularly within the European population, this thesis aimed to utilise a number of techniques to assist the conservation breeding programme. Extensive studbook analysis was used to assess typical reproductive parameters for the babirusa in a captive setting; genetic analysis using microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA markers was used to clarify some aspects of the studbook and to estimate the level of variation within and between populations in different geographical areas; and faecal steroid analysis has been used to shed light on the physiological processes underpinning female reproduction. The combined output from these studies has added to our knowledge of this species and its performance in an ex-situ setting, and has now been used to inform future management of the conservation breeding programme.