Rescue, rehabilitation, translocation, reintroduction, and captive rearing: Lessons from the other big cats

By 23rd November 2023Conservation Papers


The capacity to rescue, rehabilitate, and release wild (or captive) individuals back into the wild to supplement existing or recreate lost populations can be extremely useful components of a conservation “toolkit” ensuring long-term persistence and recovery of large felid populations. What these processes all have in common is that they require “hands-on” management, i.e., animals are either captured in the wild or managed in captivity with the intent of release back into the wild. Individuals in distress (wounded, diseased, and starving) may be captured in the wild (rescued), held in captivity (for rehabilitation and/or assessment), and released back into the wild (reintroduction/ translocation). Additionally, individuals may be raised in captivity (from wild or captive sources) for restoration or supplementation of a wild population. In nearly all cases, these types of management actions are highly controversial. When the primary goal is long-term viability of a wild population, “rescue” attempts of lone individuals may often seem to have little to do with conservation objectives, and often require excessive investments of time, labor, and funding (Jackson and Ale, 2009). For this and other reasons, such management protocols need to be critically examined before they are applied to a large felid population in the wild.

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