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Survival of very small macropod pouch young followingshort-term isolation from the pouch at various environmental temperatures

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 November 2002

David A. Taggart
Affiliation:
Department of Conservation and Research, Royal Zoological Society of South Australia, Frome Road, Adelaide, South Australia, 5000 Department of Anatomical Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, 5005 Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia, 3010 Department of Environmental Biology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, 5005
Glenn A. Shimmin
Affiliation:
Department of Environmental Biology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, 5005
Geoff Underwood
Affiliation:
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, ACT Parks and Conservation Service, Environment ACT, RMB 141, Tharwa, ACT, Australia, 2620
Kevin Phillips
Affiliation:
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, ACT Parks and Conservation Service, Environment ACT, RMB 141, Tharwa, ACT, Australia, 2620
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Abstract

There is considerable interest in the use of assisted breeding techniques as a component of conservation programmes for a variety of macropods threatened with extinction. While cross-fostering is being conducted in some programmes in captivity, little is known about the best techniques for carrying this procedure out from wild populations. In this study we compare the success of various procedures for isolating small tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) and brush-tailed rock wallaby (Petrogale penicillata) pouch young (0.4 g–410 g) for short periods (6 hours) as a first step towards establishing a methodology for recruiting endangered macropod pouch young directly from the wild for foster-rearing in captivity. Pouch temperature and humidity were determined. Pouch young from females in experimental groups were weighed, measured and then isolated, at 30°C, 27°C or 23°C, and 100% humidity. After isolation the weight of pouch young maintained at 30°C and 27°C had declined significantly (2–17% of body weight), whereas those held at 23°C and 100% humidity lost less than 0.5% of body weight. All young were reattached to the active teat of their mother following pouch isolation and their survival and growth monitored. Pouch young from the control group and those isolated at 23°C and 100% humidity survived and grew at normal rates. Only the largest pouch young maintained in isolation at either 30°C or 27°C survived to day 7 following reattachment. Data indicated that the proportion of weight lost by pouch young as a result of isolation decreased with increasing size and age of the pouch young. These trials indicate that it would be possible to harvest very small macropod pouch young from a species in the wild with a very high probability that they would survive short-term isolation from the pouch and reattachment to the teat. The use of this procedure in combination with cross-fostering techniques will allow small pouch young from threatened macropod species to be recruited directly from the wild into captivity, for captive breeding or to improve genetic diversity in captive colonies. It should also act to reactivate diapause embryos in these animals and hence may accelerate breeding in wild-based mothers.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
2002 The Zoological Society of London

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