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Implications of Infectious Diseases for Captive Propagation and Introduction Programs of Threatened/Endangered Reptiles

Elliott R. Jacobson
Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
Vol. 24, No. 3 (Sep., 1993), pp. 245-255
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20095276
Page Count: 11
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Implications of Infectious Diseases for Captive Propagation and Introduction Programs of Threatened/Endangered Reptiles
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Abstract

Health and disease are becoming extremely relevant issues for the conservation biology of members of all major groups of vertebrates. The importance of disease in captive propagation, relocation, repatriation, and translocation (RRT) programs is just being appreciated. All of us experience multiple diseases in our lifetimes. Reptiles are not different. They are susceptible to the range of infectious agents known to occur in other vertebrates. The causes of disease in captive reptiles are better understood than those in their wild counterparts. However, several important diseases have recently been documented in wild chelonians. One of these, upper respiratory tract disease in the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) is thought to have been introduced into populations of tortoises in the Mojave Desert in the southwestern USA by release of ill captive desert tortoises. A similar situation appears to exist for certain populations of the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) in Florida, USA. Although conservation strategies such as RRT programs have been implemented for a number of threatened/endangered reptiles, results indicate that the success rate is rather low. Because of this low success rate and the recent awareness of the possible introduction of exotic pathogens acquired in captivity, release programs should be scrutinized more closely.

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