Towards more individual-based and fitness-oriented captive mammal population management

Many captive populations of birds and mammals are not likely to reach sustainability due mostly to breeding problems. Identifying the conditions under which breeding problems and poor population growth are likely to occur and establishing more appropriate conditions, therefore, will be a necessary prerequisite for future successful conservation breeding and the long-term survival of captive populations. This article analyses the basic approaches and concepts of management programmes for captive mammals. It discusses and propagates an approach which might help increase the productivity of the populations and decrease the risk of viability problems. Evolutionary biology, ecology and conservation biology provide concepts that propose a critical role of the individual phenotype in the context of evolutionary processes, population development and conservation practice. It is assumed that this is not yet sufficiently reflected in the management of captive mammals and possibly other populations, thus contributing to fitness problems. A more individual-based population management that intends to focus on the ‘quality’ of the individuals and the individual phenotype therefore is proposed. Individuals have to be managed such that they are phenotypically represented in future generations.