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Unsafe management of a zoological garden as a cause of introduction of an alien species into the wild: First documented case of feral naturalized population of Lama glama in Europe

Dodaro, Giuseppe, Battisti, Corrado, Campedelli, Tommaso, Fanelli, Giuliano, Monaco, Andrea
Journal for nature conservation 2019 v.49 pp. 22-26
captive animals, diet, feral animals, introduced species, llamas, zoos, Italy
Zoological gardens host large numbers of wild species and domestic forms, mostly not indigenous to the place where the zoological garden is located. Escapes (or releases) from zoological gardens are recognized as a pathway of introduction of alien species, leading in some cases to a naturalized population. Although previously reported worldwide, scientific accounts of escapes from zoos are rare and often anecdotal. In this note, we document, for the first time in Europe and, to our knowledge, in an area outside its native range, a case of introduction and establishment of a feral population of Llama (Lama glama), originating from a group of animals living in captivity at the Zoological Park of Cavriglia (Tuscany, central Italy). We reconstruct in detail the story of the population since 1974, also reporting preliminary data on abundance, distribution and diet. Finally, we critically evaluate the causes of this introduction, highlighting how unsafe the management of a zoological garden can be, and we discuss the implications for conservation and management perspectives.