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Still, the study said there seemed to be a slowing of the population growth after 2004 _ and the big question is how long the improvements will last.

“Over time, the genetic variation will start to decline again,” said Onorato.

Beyond Florida, a park in South Africa tried a similar importation of 16 lions into a dwindling pride, resulting in some improved reproduction although not a big population jump right away, Craig Parker of the University of Minnesota noted in an accompanying article.