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Conservation: Researchers use ZIMS data to discover differences in tiger sub-species

The Amur tiger is a keystone species requiring large, contiguous forest habitat. Using data recorded by Species360 member institutions using ZIMS, researchers discovered that sub-species differ in reproductive and survival parameters – a finding that impacts the way that populations are managed.

As tigers (Panthera tigris) face habitat encroachment and other pressures, advocates often lack the fundamental data needed to anticipate whether, and for how long, populations can survive. What’s missing is surprisingly simple. They are the fundamental demographic parameters – such as age structure, birth rates, mortality, and sex ratio – required to predict how quickly a population will decline or grow.

By analyzing ZIMS data for more than 9,200 zoo-based tigers, researchers found differences in reproductive and survival parameters that could influence conservation strategies. In particular, they looked at sub‐species and sex‐specific variability of survival and reproductive parameters with age.

The results, published earlier this year in Zoo Biology, highlight that, for conservation purpose, zoos should continue to manage sub-species of tigers separately as they differ in reproductive and survival parameters. These findings and more are explained in the paper “Sex‐specific actuarial and reproductive senescence in zoo‐housed tiger (Panthera tigris): The importance of sub‐species for conservation.” Kudos goes to author Morgane Tidière, Centre for Population Dynamics at Southern Denmark University and Species360 Conservation Science Alliance member postdoc, along with four co-authors.

The findings can provide meaningful improvements to the husbandry of zoo‐housed tigers, emphasizing the importance of adult breeding females of 7–9 years‐old to control zoo‐housed population size, but also providing accurate demographic estimates, crucial to set up effective conservation plans.

Thanks to Species360 member zoos and aquariums that curate and share essential animal data using ZIMS (the Zoological Information Management System). For many endangered or threatened species, ZIMS bridges wide gaps in data that is essential to improving the welfare of animals and the conservation of species.

Learn more about how Species360 members are helping to inform conservation.

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