How Zoos Keep Track of Animal Family Trees.

The Studbook

 

Studbooks are used to keep track of different species of endangered animals.  Zoos use studbooks to trace back the family tree of a particular animal.  Studbooks also let you know what the inbreeding co-effiency is. 

For instance, the studbook keeper for the Amur Leopard, will recommend that a particular Amur Leopard from say, California will go to Tennessee this year. He will pair up about 20 Amur Leopards this year, in trying to keep up with the target population of 120 Amur Leopards in the studbook program.  This number will increase to 150 leopards when the program is fully operational.  Each animal in the studbook will be given a number and an ID.  It also lists the mother and father's number in the studbook.  The birth date is listed as well as what sex it is.

Sometimes there is more than one studbook for a particular species.  Take for instance the Snow Leopard.  There is an international studbook and a North American studbook.  The international version is administered from Helsinki, Finland.  The North American studbook, is managed from Chicago. Illinois.

Every year studbooks must be updated to keep up with deaths and births.  Sometimes, new founders have to be introduced.  In the case of clouded leopards who have been traced back to one founder, the need for additional founders is necessary.  I find it interesting to take an animal and trace it back to where its ancestors came from.  The studbook makes this possible. 

Thanks to Alan Shoemaker from the Riverbanks Zoo for this information on amur leopards.

 

Dan Kozlow

Director, Felids and Friends