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Managing inbreeding depression in captive breeding for translocation population of tchūriwat’ | tūturuatu, a nationally critical shorebird

Ilina Cubrinovska1, ilina.cubrinovska@pg.canterbury (student)

Tammy Steeves1,

Dave Houston2,

Rose Collen2,

Anne Richardson3

1University of Canterbury

2NZ Department of Conservation

3Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust

The ultimate goal of captive breeding for translocation programmes for threatened species is to prevent extinction by ensuring species have sufficient genetic diversity to adapt to environmental change, while also minimising inbreeding and any negative effects associated with it. One such threatened species currently facing this challenge is the endangered tchūriwat’ | tūturuatu (New Zealand shore plover, Thinornis novaeseelandiae). Once widespread across New Zealand, this endemic bird is now confined to a single self-sustaining wild population on the Chatham Islands, two small translocated populations on predator-free islands (Motutapu and Waikawa), and a captive breeding for translocation population which was sourced from a small number of wild individuals in the 1990s. The captive population has become genetically differentiated from the wild population, and has been suffering from infertility and unusually frequent and severe avian pox outbreaks in recent years. Here, I will present preliminary results from my PhD research based on pedigree, life history, and genomic data to determine whether inbreeding is driving these negative fitness traits in the captive population. As well as assess whether the wild population could be used as a source for a genetic rescue to mitigate these effects. These results will be used to make recommendations for conservation genetic management of tchūriwat’ including pairing decisions for captive individuals, as well as highlight the importance of genetic augmentation of the captive population.