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Classroom Resources: The Last Gladiators

By Scott Weidensaul
July-September 2007 / Vol. 8 No. 3

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Discussion Questions

  1. What is the basic dilemma that Weidensaul is posing? Should we bring back the Barbary lion? Why or why not?
  2. Captive breeding and reintroduction of a huge, nearly extinct carnivore may seem to be tilting at windmills, but is there a philosophical limit to how far the human species should go in protecting and restoring biodiversity? A practical limit?
  3. What are some of the biological issues (think genetics) that such a project to restore the Barbary lion (or any other nearly extinct species with many years being bred in captivity)? What steps have zoos taken in the past to tackle these issues, and what research and management tools are at their disposal?
  4. Do you think that 40,000 ha is enough space for a viable population of a large, mammalian carnivore such as the Barbary lion? How would you (or any conservation biologist) go about finding the answer to this question? What conservation biology tools are at your disposal?

Websites for Further Information

Peer-reviewed Literature

  • Barnett, R., Yamaguchi, N., Barnes, I., and Cooper, A. 2006. Lost populations and preserving genetic diversity in the lion Panthera leo: implications for its ex situ conservation. Conservation Genetics 7: 507-514.
  • Snyder, N.F.R., Derrickson, S.R., Beissinger, S.R., Wiley, J.W., Smith, T.B., Toone, W.D., Miller, B. 1996. Limitations of captive breeding in endangered species recovery. Conservation Biology 10: 338-348.

Key Concepts

  • Environmental ethics
  • Captive breeding and reintroduction of endangered species
  • Conserving subspecies variation
  • African conservation
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