Objective—To establish a demographic approach to facilitate the comparison of husbandry success for deer species in zoos and to test for factors that influence the performance of deer species in captivity.
Sample Population—Data collected from 45,736 zoo-kept deer that comprised 31 species.
Procedures—Data had been collected by the International Species Information System during the last 3 decades on zoo-kept deer around the world. The relative life expectancy (rLE) of a species (ie, mean life expectancy as a proportion of the maximum recorded life span for that species) was used to describe zoo populations. The rLE (values between 0 and 1) was used to reflect the husbandry success of a species.
Results—A significant positive correlation was found between the rLE of a species and the percentage of grass in the natural diet of the species, suggesting that there are more problems in the husbandry of browsing than of grazing species. The 4 species for which a studbook (ie, record of the lineage of wild animals bred in captivity) was maintained had a high rLE, potentially indicating the positive effect of intensive breeding management.
Conclusion and Clinical Relevance—The rLE facilitated the comparison of husbandry success for various species and may offer the possibility of correlating this quotient with other biological variables. Ultimately, identifying reasons for a low husbandry success in certain species may form the basis for further improvements of animal welfare in captivity.