Inbreeding occurs when members of the same family mate (make babies). It can cause problems for the newborn. Inbred animals tend to have lower birthweight, higher death rate as babies, smaller adult size, higher chance of disease, and can't make babies themselves.
When a baby is created it receives half of its genes from the mother and the other half from the father. These genes are matched up in a child's DNA. When the child's parents are not related, the child receives two different groups of genes. This difference improves the child's chances of receiving a gene with a good characteristic. When parents are related the child still receives two groups of genes, but they are almost identical in information. If the mother has a bad gene that causes a disease, it means the father has the same bad gene too. The child will most likely develop the disease.
In the past, zoos would prevent inbreeding by going into the wild and capturing a mate that was not related to their captive animal. After the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, zoos were no longer allowed to take endangered animals from the wild for breeding reasons only. Zoos around the world would have to work together and share breeding stock for their animals in captivity.
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