Genetic Restoration of the Florida Panther

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Science  24 Sep 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5999, pp. 1641-1645
DOI: 10.1126/science.1192891

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The rediscovery of remnant Florida panthers (Puma concolor coryi) in southern Florida swamplands prompted a program to protect and stabilize the population. In 1995, conservation managers translocated eight female pumas (P. c. stanleyana) from Texas to increase depleted genetic diversity, improve population numbers, and reverse indications of inbreeding depression. We have assessed the demographic, population-genetic, and biomedical consequences of this restoration experiment and show that panther numbers increased threefold, genetic heterozygosity doubled, survival and fitness measures improved, and inbreeding correlates declined significantly. Although these results are encouraging, continued habitat loss, persistent inbreeding, infectious agents, and possible habitat saturation pose new dilemmas. This intensive management program illustrates the challenges of maintaining populations of large predators worldwide.

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