Nutrition as a major facet of reptile conservation


Oftedal OT, Allen ME. 1996. Nutrition as a major facet of reptile conservation. Zoo Biology 15:491 – 497


The importance of nutrition has not received much recognition in conservation biology. However, captive breeding is possible only if nutritional requirements of animals are met, and effective habitat management requires an evaluation of nutritional resources. Three examples involving reptile conservation are presented. The formulation and testing of experimental meal-type diets proved essential for the large-scale rearing of green iguanas (Iguana iguana) in Panama and Costa Rica, thousands of which have been released into the wild. Survival and growth of captive land iguanas (Conolophus subcristatus) in the Galapagos Islands was markedly improved by development of a complete feed based on locally available ingredients; this was essential to continuation of the conservation program in which juvenile iguanas were repatriated to islands where populations had previously been exterminated. Research on the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) in the Mojave Desert has identified nutritional constraints that may limit utilization of potential food plants. Thus, nutritional status of wild tortoises may depend more on availability of plant species of high nutritional quality than on overall amounts of annual vegetation. Federal and local agencies involved in the conservation and management of tortoise habitat have recognized the need to fund research on tortoise nutrition. We contend that nutrition should be given a central role in conservation programs for reptiles and other animals.


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