A Bit of Texas in Florida

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Science  24 Sep 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5999, pp. 1606-1607
DOI: 10.1126/science.1196738

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Harassed, hunted, and restricted to ever smaller areas, most populations of large carnivores are fragmented into archipelagoes of parks and reserves. Biologists have long warned of the negative genetic consequences of inbreeding in such small populations. To restore genetic health, they have prescribed “active management,” including moving, or translocating, individuals into inbred populations. In a time of budget cuts and inadequate funding for effective conservation, however, is translocation worth the costs? Moving a lion from Namibia to South Africa is not a trivial exercise, nor is the translocation of cougars from one part of the United States to another. But it may be worth the trouble, Johnson et al. (1) report on page 1641 of this issue. In the most comprehensive study ever conducted on the effects of inbreeding in wild carnivores, they find convincing evidence that the “quality” of a population of Florida panthers was successfully improved by the addition of panthers from Texas.