Short Communication

European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 205-208

First online:

Comparing life expectancy of three deer species between captive and wild populations

  • Dennis W. H. MüllerAffiliated withClinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich Email author 
  • , Jean-Michel GaillardAffiliated withUnité Mixte de Recherche 5558 “Biométrie et Biologie Evolutive”, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1
  • , Laurie Bingaman LackeyAffiliated withInternational Species Information System (ISIS)
  • , Jean-Michel HattAffiliated withClinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich
  • , Marcus ClaussAffiliated withClinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich

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Abstract

Life in zoological gardens provides a number of benefits to captive animals, resulting in an artificial reduction of the “struggle for life” compared to their free-ranging counterparts. These advantages should result in a higher chance of surviving from 1 year to the next, and thus in longer average life expectancies for captive animals, given that the biological requirements of the species are adequately met. Here, we compare the life expectancy of captive and free-ranging populations of three deer species (reindeer Rangifer tarandus, red deer Cervus elaphus, and roe deer Capreolus capreolus). Whereas captive reindeer and red deer had life expectancies equal to or longer than free-ranging individuals, the life expectancy of captive roe deer was shorter than that of free-ranging animals. These results support the impression that roe deer are difficult to keep in zoos, whereas reindeer and red deer perform well under human care. We suggest that the mean life expectancy of captive populations relative to that of corresponding free-ranging populations is a reliable indicator to evaluate the husbandry success of a species in captivity.

Keywords

Capreolus capreolus Cervus elaphus Husbandry Longevity Rangifer tarandus Sex differences