We are pleased to confirm attendance of the following esteemed scientists who will present their work on the science of reintroductions:
New areas of genetics research employed in the design, implementation and assessment of endangered species reintroduction efforts.
Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York 10024
The accelerating rate of extirpations of fragmented populations of endangered species requires a much more active management of these populations if the extinction of that species is to be avoided. Similarly, for the suite of species for which successful ex situ conservation programs are in existence in spite of extinction in the wild, only intensive management, including reintroduction, offers the only hope of survival. Research applications from the fields of molecular genetics and genomics provide powerful new approaches to improving efforts in endangered species reintroductions. These include detailed genotyping of present and historic in situ and ex situ populations, accurate empirical analysis of pedigree information, genetic analyses at a landscape level examining relevant biotic and abiotic factors, and even assessments of quantitative genetic characters associated with fitness. Examples of these areas of research in current conservation programs will be presented along with a suggested protocol for future reintroduction efforts.
What questions should reintroduction practitioners try to address?
Doug P. Armstrong
Wildlife Ecology Group, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North, New Zealand
A major criticism of past reintroduction programmes has been their failure to learn from the process and therefore to improve our ability to recover species and restore ecosystems. The amount of research on reintroduction has increased dramatically over the last 15 years. However, as Phil Seddon will advocate in his talk, a more strategic approach is needed whereby the research accompanying reintroduction projects targets key questions identified a priori. Here I will briefly outline a set of 10 general questions that should be considered (see Trends in Ecology & Evolution 23: 20–25), and then consider how reintroduction practitioners should decide which of these question(s) to focus on in any particular project. The first issue is to consider where the uncertainties lie with respect to the persistence of the species at the site and the effect on the ecosystem. For example, if the key uncertainty is whether the habitat has regenerated to a condition that can support the species, practitioners should focus their research effort on this question rather than being distracted by red herrings such as “soft vs. hard” release, numbers released, disease screening and genetic variability. The second issue is to consider the opportunities to produce research results likely to have wide application to other projects. I suggest that reintroduction practitioners need to work less on a case-by-case basis and make greater effort both to build on prior information and to produce information that can in turn be incorporated into subsequent projects.
Transfer of existing scientific know-how on species re-introductions can help to improve reintroduction plans of related species
Peter Beeck1, Philippe Jatteau2, Thierry Rouault2, Richard St. Pierre3, Heiner Klinger4
1.Stiftung Wasserlauf, Projekt Maifisch, Aquazoo Löbbecke Museum. 2. CEMAGREF. 3. 1315 Buckwheat Road, Millerstown, PA 17062, USA. 4. Bezirksregierung Arnsberg.
Historically, the Susquehanna River was a major producer of American shad (Alosa sapidissima) on the Atlantic coast of the United States. However, significant environmental problems led to the virtual extirpation of American shad in the Susquehanna River. Fish reintroduction and project evaluation activities have been undertaken over a three-decade period by numerous state, federal and utility company partners. The shad population returning to the lowermost dam on the Susquehanna grew from only a few hundred to a maximum of over 200,000 fish in the past years. The reintroduction was accompanied by extensive scientific research on fish culture, marking, stocking and monitoring techniques. In a new European project on the re-introduction of the closely related allis shad (Alosa alosa) to the River Rhine the existing scientific work on the re-introduction of the American shad was tested for applicability in a feasibility study; i.e. artificial reproduction of shads with hormone stimulation and fish mass marking with Oxytetracycline. In both cases the application of existing experimental protocols also worked for the related species. In the case of artificial reproduction even better results could be obtained under certain circumstances. Both techniques are now implemented in the re-introduction plan of allis shad.
Are avian reintroduction protocols a model for other animals? A test comparison of avian and reptile reintroductions on New Zealand islands
Speaker: Charles H. Daugherty1
Kimberly A. Miller1, Nicola J. Nelson1, Susan N. Keall1, David R. Towns2, Charles H. Daugherty1
1. Victoria University of Wellington. 2. Department of Conservation.
Worldwide and in New Zealand, reintroduction protocols have most frequently been designed for and tested upon birds. However, birds may be a poor choice as a model because many aspects of their biology are not representative of the animal kingdom, for example, homeothermy, relatively large size and detectability. We compare the results of 18 reintroductions of reptile species with 29 avian reintroductions on New Zealand islands where the probable primary cause of local extinction, invasive mammalian predators, has been removed, and we evaluate how differing biological characteristics between the classes affect translocation outcomes. Unlike birds, tuatara and lizards increased in body condition and size after translocation, indicating indeterminate growth. The resulting higher reproductive output could lead to more rapid recovery than anticipated, even in K-selected species. However, cryptic behavior, low detectability and low intrinsic rates of increase can make assessments of success more difficult for reptiles than for productive and visible birds, even 10 years after the reintroduction. Additionally, genetic bottlenecks and performance-related consequences of inbreeding were detected despite rapid increases in population size. We conclude that biological differences mean that protocols should be extrapolated with great care from one taxon to another; mistakes can be expensive and even dangerous.
The who, where, what, when, why and how of avian reintroductions
Alexander Center of Applied Population Biology, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, IL
Hundreds of releases of avian species have occurred in reintroduction and translocation programs over the last two decades. Thus, scientists and managers who are planning future releases are not developing their plans in a vacuum; they have an opportunity to gather information from past releases. Yet gathering this information is a challenge as it is dispersed over many different sources and media. In addition, the variables that impact the efficacy of releases are diverse, ranging from the species’ biology and ecology, habitat suitability, demography and genetics to management. To centralize this information, we developed a comprehensive, standardized database, the Avian Reintroduction and Translocation (AVRT) database. Data were collected from a wide range of sources, including peer-reviewed and gray literature, and the AVRT is now populated with data for releases of 128 species at 405 sites and 602 release events. In this presentation I use Guam rails as a species example; data on what birds and when and how they were released in different sites were extracted from the database and identify different release approaches depending on the reason for release. In analyses across programs, I use the entire database to produce descriptive statistics such as which species are released by order, diet, IUCN status, how the source influences mortality, how many birds are released per event and per site, and what types of habitats. The AVRT with data on factors in past releases is available on our web site to inform managers and scientists as they plan future releases.
A strategic plan for augmenting desert tortoise populations in the southwestern United States
Kimberleigh J. Field
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The recovery strategy for the threatened Mojave Desert tortoise consists of several key elements, one of which is the augmentation of depleted populations via a strategic program. The program’s goals include maintaining tortoise populations in the wild for the continued study of threats to the species’ persistence and hastening recovery of decimated populations following mitigation of threats. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is drawing from research conducted by numerous entities to develop the strategic program for desert tortoise population augmentation. To date, head-starting research has shown promising results in increasing nest success, first-year hatchling survival rates and growth rates under semi-natural conditions. Initial success in translocation of adult tortoises appears to be high. Genetic studies have revealed putative populations important in conserving the range-wide diversity of the desert tortoise. Disease studies have documented exposure to important pathogens and suggest existence of natural antibodies to some pathogens. Population monitoring in combination with a new habitat model is helping to identify areas in which to focus efforts, and research into site-specific threats has revealed complex and interacting factors. Although the long-term effects of augmenting populations of this long-lived reptile will not be immediately evident, the existing data suggest that decimated populations would not make strong strides toward recovery without such a research-based augmentation program.
A model for evaluating reintroduction success
Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford
As a model for assessing reintroduction success, I evaluated one of the most extensive efforts to date to reintroduce an endangered species, namely the establishment of an actively managed meta-population of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) in South Africa. This intensive management approach involves the re-introduction of wild dogs into suitable conservation areas and periodic translocations among them. Analyses of individual survival and population viability suggested that the crucial issue for wild dog reintroductions to be successful is dispersal behavior “natural or artificial” and the outcome thereof, the formation of new packs, given the dependency of wild dogs to live in a cohesive social group for survival and reproduction. This case study provides several lessons for reintroduction biologists: it illustrates the virtue of setting measurable objectives and defining criteria with which to gauge reintroduction success; it presents two modeling tools for assessing short- and long-term reintroduction success; it highlights how reintroduction success may be related to unanticipated factors and accordingly has changed reintroduction practice; it proposes future avenues for investigation specifically targeted at improving reintroduction success; and, maybe most importantly, it demonstrates the importance of monitoring and evaluation in reintroduction programs.
Importance of long distance dispersal to conservation of swift fox in the Northern Great Plains
Kevin M. Honness1, Shaun Grassel2, Jonathan A. Jenks2
1. Turner Endangered Species Fund. 2. Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Long-distance dispersal (LDD) events have the potential to overcome difficulties posed by isolation and habitat fragmentation. However, their rarity make LDD events difficult to document both in frequency and magnitude and are likely under-estimated in importance to conservation efforts. This may be especially true for swift foxes (Vulpes velox), which are thought to exhibit limited dispersal abilities. We trapped, translocated, released and monitored 276 swift foxes (144 females, 132 males) that were reintroduced or wild born on private lands in western South Dakota and on the Lower Brule Indian Reservation, South Dakota from 2002 to 2006. We recorded 12,302 relocations using aerial- and ground-based telemetric monitoring. Overall dispersal distance from release sites averaged 27.2 ± 7.7 km. For our purposes, LDD was defined as distances greater than the 95th percentile, or 73.9 km. We documented 14 such events with an mean distance of 167.9 km. Results indicate that both reintroduced and wild-born foxes travel widely enough to provide connectivity between three reintroduction areas and the remnant native population in South Dakota. Documented LDD events may indicate the ability to provide metapopulation connectivity to core populations within the Northern Great Plains region such as those found in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming.
Founder effects and inbreeding and their consequences for small island reintroduction programs
Ian G Jamieson
University of Otago, New Zealand
Genetic factors may be the rate-limiting step in ensuring population recovery and long-term survival in reintroduction programs focused on small isolated islands. Most of the evidence for inbreeding increasing the risk of extinction of small populations comes from models that assume such populations harbor considerable genetic load and express a large number of lethal equivalents summed over several life-history traits. We are in the unique position of testing these assumptions by collecting pedigree and fitness data from several species of endangered New Zealand birds that have been translocated as part of reintroductions to small islands. At our island study sites, we known the kin-relations of all birds and the fates of most nesting attempts. Our studies indicate that even when the number of founders is relatively small, the mean level of inbreeding increases only slowly as long as the reintroduced population grows steadily. Inbreeding depression was detected in some life history stages but not others, did not prevent populations from establishing, and is likely to play a minor role only in increasing the risk of extinction relative to the risk of re-invasion by exotic predators. We see the management of genetic factors in reintroductions as potentially enhancing the recovery process of threatened species rather than directly reducing the risks of extinction.
Translocation and early post-release demography of endangered laysan teal
Michelle H. Reynolds1, Mark Vekasy1, John Klavitter2, Nathaniel Seavy1
1. USGS Biology Pacific Islands Ecosystem Research Center, PO Box 44, Hawaii National Park, HI 96718 2. USFWS Midway Atoll, NWR
Translocation is a tool to restore endangered species, yet most reintroductions lack the post-release monitoring needed to assess early population establishment or failure. Hawaii’s Laysan teal (Anas laysanensis) provides an example of the conservation challenges facing many island species. Attempting to reduce the high extinction risks, we translocated the endangered ducks to a portion of their presumed prehistoric range. We monitored survival and reproduction using radio telemetry for two years after the first release. Forty-two wild Laysan teal were sourced directly from the only extant population on Laysan Island and transported two days by ship to Midway Atoll. The birds spent a mean of 9.4 days (? SD 4.0 d) in captivity. All birds survived the translocation with nutritional and veterinary support. Post-release survival was 0.857 (95% CI 0.857–0.989) or annualized 0.92 (95% CI 0.83–0.98). Seventeen of 18 founding hens attempted nesting, producing 46 nests in the first two breeding seasons. The effective founding female population (Ne) was 13 of 18. We describe reproductive and habitat use plasticity between source and re-introduced populations and used resultant demographic rates to model population growth. The nascent population size increased to more than 100 after only two years post-release (?=1.56). If this growth rate continues, the size of the Midway population could surpass the source population (~500 total birds) within 10 years.
Reintroduction of the otter (Lutra lutra) in the Netherlands: hidden life revealed by non-invasive genetic monitoring
Hans Peter Koelewijn and Hugh A.H. Jansman
In 1988 the otter went extinct in the Netherlands. The otter was regarded as the flagship of Dutch wetlands. Therefore, a reintroduction was started in 2002 with 26 otters, mainly originating from Eastern Europe. Besides traditional telemetry a non-invasive genetic monitoring was started. From all released individuals a genetic fingerprint was collected. Next, a sampling protocol was developed based on extracting DNA from freshly collected spraints (droppings). During the period 2002–2006 we collected DNA profiles from 205 spraints (out of 558 collected spraints). Because we are working in a “closed” population (there are no other otters in the Netherlands) and genotyped our population beforehand, we know what went in the population. This provides the unique situation of tracing the life of the elusive otter, because detailed information on i) territory use, ii) social structure, iii) paternity and newborns (pedigree) and iv) dispersal of individuals was collected. Moreover, the problems related to non-invasive genetic sampling could be properly evaluated. Besides, information on the dynamics of genetic diversity in a small isolated population was obtained, which allowed us to get a reliable estimate of the Ne (effective population size). Based on the genetic results it was decided to change the release strategy.
Evaluation of the conservation impacts of fish introductions
Heather Koldewey1, Janelle MR Curtis2, Gordon M Reid3
1. Zoological Society of London. 2. Pacific Biological Station, Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 3. North of England Zoological Society.
We present the first comprehensive review of the impacts of fish introductions worldwide. Our analyses were based on a literature review and on introduction records in FISHBASE. There are reports of more than 755 non-indigenous marine and freshwater fish species from 144 families, introduced to more than 200 countries. The majority of reported introductions (67.0 percent) are freshwater and most (67.9 percent) are intentional. Such introductions are mainly for commercial purposes, but also for biological control, research and conservation. The balance of these intentions has shifted over time. Determinants of “success” for fish introductions vary depending on the economic, social and biological criteria employed, which differ between fisheries biologists, aquaculturists and the conservation community. Our review shows that few introduction records report socioeconomic benefits, while most literature indicates strong negative ecological impacts. The high uncertainty associated with socioeconomic impacts is because these are largely unmonitored following introductions and few studies (less than 2.5%) focus on the socioeconomic implications of introductions. Following introduction, zoogeographically widespread, euryoecic species and those with some parental care seem to be at an advantage in their ability to become established, while predators evidently have none. The key recommendation is that strong precautionary principles should apply to fish introductions and that existing guidelines are followed.
PVA informs managment of captive breeding programs for reintroductions: An island fox example
Colleen Lynch1 and Phil Miller2
1. University of South Dakota. 2. Conservation Breeding Specialist Group.
Population viability analysis (PVA) is an important tool in the management of captive breeding programs for reintroductions. As an example, PVA was used to explore questions regarding management of island fox (Urocyon littoralis) captive breeding efforts. Are current in situ captive breeding populations sufficient to: 1) reduce extinction risk to acceptable levels? 2) maintain gene diversity at acceptable levels? 3) provide adequate numbers of release specimens? Should ex situ captive breeding facilities be added? Which of four managed subspecies should populate ex situ captive breeding facilities? Analyses using Vortex 9.5 were used to determine target population sizes for existing in situ captive breeding facilities and potential additional ex situ captive breeding facilities. These target sizes were determined with consideration for the estimated extinction risk, projected gene diversity retention and maximum sustainable harvest rate for existing and potential captive breeding populations. These analyses were combined with evaluations of financial, veterinary and logistical concerns to construct Island Fox Recovery Coordination Group recommendations to the US Fish and Wildlife Service for future island fox management. The results of these analyses and subsequent management recommendations are presented as a model of PVA as a decision tool for managed breeding and reintroduction programs.
Resolving the tension between science and management in reintroductions
Zoo-Logic LLC, Chevy Chase, MD
There is an inherent conflict between those who want to recover a species as quickly as possible and those who wish to use a scientific/experimental approach to a recovery program. This may lead to compromises that neither benefit the science nor the recovery itself. Few reintroduction programs are ever sufficiently scientifically based to evaluate relative success or to determine the most cost effective approaches. Part of the problem, especially with reintroductions using captive-born animals, is the plethora of variables that must be controlled in order to test only a few hypotheses and the fact that most endangered species populations are small. This panel will explore with scientists, practitioners and managers how to achieve the balance between recovering a species and increasing our knowledge base to improve future recovery programs.
Effects of differing ecology and taxonomy on the facilitation and evaluation of reintroduction success
Centre for Conservation Research, Calgary Zoological Society, 1300 Zoo Road N.E., T2E 7V6, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
North American conservation efforts are increasingly habitat-based and reintroductions, which are generally species-specific and expensive, may not attract the support of government agencies or conservation managers. Monitoring extant and re-established populations of reintroduction species is crucial to refine captive-breeding techniques or assess the suitability of species such as whooping cranes (Grus americana) or Vancouver Island marmots (Marmota vancouverensis) for release. However, political pressure has also mounted to down-list imperiled species and managers consequently demand relevant and timely data regarding the demographics and geographic distribution of reintroduced populations. Successful swift fox (Vulpes velox) reintroductions in Canada and northern Montana have benefited from life history, census, habitat suitability and population viability data that have been collected over the last two decades. This information is now being utilized by government agencies to implement conservation policies that will help to protect the population over time. In contrast, over two decades of burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia)reintroductions in British Columbia have been challenging to evaluate because survival rates of these small, migratory birds are difficult to estimate. Ecological differences between life-stages and large-scale variation in the annual population dynamics of reintroduced northern leopard frogs (Rana pipiens) in Alberta also hamper estimations of population sustainability. Consequently, the choice of reintroduction species should not only be based on the biological or socio-economic parameters that are necessary for reintroductions to proceed, but also on the life-history and ecological characteristics that are conducive to obtaining data for statistically defensible evaluations of reintroduction success over time.
T.P. Moorhouse, M.C.Gelling, D.W. Macdonald
Wildlife Conservation Reserach Unit, University of Oxford
There is growing interest in which factors influence the “success” of reintroductions, and a recognition for the need for an experimental approach towards testing these. We present a replicated reintroduction experiment on an endangered British rodent, the water vole. Water voles (Arvicola terrestris) underwent the largest decline of any British mammal in the last century. Reintroductions are growing in popularity as a tool for the reversal of this decline. We undertook 12 replicated reintroductions in which habitat quality varied between sites. Initial modeling work suggested that all sites could support a viable population of water voles. We tested the hypothesis that the proportion of the release cohort establishing, the subsequent survival and breeding rates and the resultant population densities would be higher at sites supporting a greater abundance of suitable habitat. Water voles established and bred at eight sites. The cause of failure at the remaining sites was unrelated to habitat quality. At high quality sites, more of the release cohort survived and post-establishment survival rates and population sizes were larger. These eight reintroductions were “successful”, but only a proportion were “optimal” for this species. In this case, “success” ignores the ethical considerations of releasing individuals into potentially sub-optimal habitat.
Introducing ungulates to unfamiliar environments: Behavioral and endocrine responses in bighorn sheep
Amanda Leigh Murray and Johan T. du Toit
Department of Wildland Resources and the Ecology Center Utah State University
Restoring bighorn sheep to their former range requires active metapopulation management involving frequent translocations between subpopulations and reintroduction to new areas. One strategy is to maintain a closely monitored non-hunted subpopulation in a predator- and disease-free environment, such as Antelope Island State Park (AISP) in Utah, for use as a source from which to regularly translocate batches of selected animals. Potential problems, however, include (1) susceptibility to cougar predation when naïve bighorns are released, (2) decreased immunocompetence caused by poor nutrition and elevated stress when adults are released during winter into unfamiliar environments with new social hierarchies and (3) dispersal of introduced animals into areas occupied by domestic sheep, leading to further disease concerns. A study is currently underway to compare pre- and post-translocation vigilance behavior and fecal glucocorticoid profiles in a group of 45 bighorns scheduled for translocation from AISP. The same comparisons are also being made between animals raised on AISP and those “wild-raised” in the planned release area (Stansbury Mountains, UT), while post-release ranging patterns of AISP-raised animals are being compared with those of “wild-raised” residents. Data collection is stratified by age and sex class to identify the optimal composition of groups for future translocation efforts.
Models for complex questions: Individual-based spatially explicit models in reintroduction research
Department of Conservation Biology, Estación Biológica de Doñana, Spanish Council for Scientific Research CSIC Avda Maria Luisa s/n Pabellón del Perú E-41013 Seville, Spain
Individual-based spatially explicit models are commonly used in many scientific disciplines and reintroduction research is no exception. Due to their unlimited flexibility, they are most useful when investigating complex systems in which there are one or several feedback processes. Apart from their flexibility, we can cite the following advantages: they can generate data at multiple levels of resolution (that can be sampled and analyzed with the same experimental and statistical techniques as field data) and they offer the capacity to answer case specific questions. Between the drawbacks we can cite that we need specific programming skills or a specialist modeler, their development is time consuming and they do not offer closed solutions. However, their use in ecology and conservation biology has been criticized for being unnecessarily complex, difficult to analyze and prone to error propagation. These criticisms are based on the presumption that modeling of complex systems falls within the statistical modeling paradigm. Focusing on model complexity defined as the number of parameters alone, and not on the structural realism of model processes, is one of the most topical misconceptions. This type of models can be as simple as any other, with complexity determined only by the complexity of the question they are built for. I will review the main properties of this type of models by using two examples on reintroduction research. In the first we show that the dense road network in Germany will limit the establishment of a large spatially structured population of Eurasian lynx in the available potential habitat. In the second, we develop an adaptive management plan for the conservation of one population of Iberian lynx, showing that under some specific conditions the IUCN Reintroduction Guidelines should not be followed (or the Guidelines should be modified).
Disease risk assessment for reintroductions: Are we relying on the wrong data?
Bruce Rideout, Alan Lieberman, Pat Morris, D.V.M.
Zoological Society of San Diego
The traditional approach of developing a list of diseases of concern, testing animals for those diseases and making release decisions based on the test results suffers from several fundamental problems, including a misunderstanding about diagnostic test performance and interpretation. This leads to reliance on potentially misleading test results for critical decision-making. We propose a different approach. First, we assign a qualitative risk category to each population. Movement of animals between similar risk categories reduces opportunities for inadvertent disease transmission. This often reveals that animals destined for reintroduction require greater biosecurity than zoos have traditionally provided. Second, we believe long-term necropsy data from the population is far more important than results of screening tests performed on individual, apparently healthy, animals. Comprehensive postmortem evaluations suffer from few of the problems associated with diagnostic test performance, and have the advantage of providing surveillance for a wide range of agents of concern (both anticipated and unanticipated). Comprehensive necropsy and clinical data combined with judicious use of carefully selected surveillance tests has the greatest potential to reduce disease risk for reintroduction programs. We propose that zoos engaged in reintroduction efforts place more emphasis on population-level biosecurity and comprehensive postmortem investigations to mitigate disease risk.
Application of behavioral ecology to captive breeding and reintroduction programs of lekking bird species
Michel Saint Jalme 1, Adeline Loyau, Rémi Chargé 2
1. Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle. 2. ECWP
In lekking bird species, the “good genes” model of sexual selection assumes that males differ in condition and viability and that this difference can be inherited. Furthermore, parents can affect the quality of their offspring via the allocation of non-genetic resources. We empirically verified these two assessments on peafowl. Both behavioral displays and feather ornaments of males used by females to choose a mate honestly reflect heath status. In addition, females paired with more ornamented males laid larger eggs with higher amounts of testosterone into the yolk. If ornamented males do transmit good genes, the maternal differential investment can amplify the effect of such good genes on the offspring fitness. Similar results were obtained in the houbara bustard, an endangered species bred in captivity to restock wild populations. Experiments showed that health status of males was related to intensity of display, semen quality and hatchability. Current data seems to indicate that father genetic quality could also be related to ability of their progeny to survive after release. In breeding programs, potential mates are chosen on the basis of genetic and demographic considerations to maintain genetic diversity by equalizing founder representation while minimizing inbreeding. However, this strategy may increase the genetic load of the population. When effective population sizes are adequate, it could be valuable to propose that sexual selection be given more room in conservation breeding programs. When the “good genes” model is expected and when potentials mates differ in their heritable viability, minimizing reproductive skew might not be the best conservation strategy. Decisions regarding mating could also be manipulated to optimize parental investment.
On the relationship between reintroductions and spatial ecology
Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
Spatial ecology and reintroductions are strongly linked. Central topics in spatial ecology, such as the metapopulation, corridor and SLOSS paradigms, are important during the to planning stages of reintroductions, while empirical spatial data, such as home range establishment and other movement patterns, are useful in evaluating the success of reintroductions over the short term. At the same time, reintroductions can play a key role by producing important empirical results in the field of spatial ecology, some of which are relevant to conservation. As an experiment in spatial ecology, reintroductions offer a unique opportunity stemming from the fact that reintroduced individuals must establish themselves in an unfamiliar area and as such their behavior in space is presumably similar to that of dispersing individuals. With the advance of current tracking technology, new insights can be gained in the emerging field of movement ecology. In reintroductions that rely on repeated releases, questions addressing movement ecology may be especially telling as trends in dispersal resulting from increased presence of conspecifics (and hence increased competition for space) emerge. Spatial ecology was a significant component in the planning stages and in the evaluation of the success of reintroductions of Persian fallow deer (Dama mesopotamica) and Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx) in Israel. We also used the process to investigate various topics along the seam between conservation and spatial ecology. These reintroductions were based on multiple releases in multiple locations relying on a metapopulation-corridor approach. For the fallow deer, we evaluated seasonal home range dynamics and compared our findings with other cervids to determine if the reintroduced individuals utilized space similarly to other wild cervids. We also used movement patterns to assess the impact of multiple releases in both reintroduction programs. Changes in male territorial behavior of reintroduced Asiatic wild ass (Equus hemiounus), combined with the movement of females, provided insight into how such processes influence effective population size. Conditions at the breeding facility and age also influenced the spatial behavior of the reintroduced animals and their ability to establish themselves spatially in the wild. Currently we are focusing on two topic related to spatial ecology: (1) How does absence of information about space affect the movement behavior of individuals and (2) what is the role of the species in dispersing plant seeds and how does it contribute to the genetic flow and neighborhoods of various plant species. This latter topic is intended to provide support to the importance of reintroductions for ecosystem restoration.
Behavioral theory to the rescue? How manipulating the behavioral environment at time of release can increase reintroduction success
Debra Shier and Ronald Swaisgood
CRES, Zoological Society of San Diego
Practitioners of reintroduction programs face two truisms: (1) the majority of these programs fail and (2) post-release monitoring is insufficient to determine the reasons for failure. A way forward is a hypothesis-testing approach in which competing, but plausible, theories are tested against one another. Here we offer a theoretical framework for some of the most promising ideas in behavioral ecology applied to reintroduction programs, identify behavioral mechanisms that can be manipulated and present real-world results from such an approach. We provide a brief overview of several of these ideas, but focus on three. (1) Two mechanisms known to guide dispersal and habitat settlement—conspecific attraction and natal habitat preference induction—can be influenced by alterations in the pre- or post-release environment to overcome maladaptive post-release behavior. (2) Founder group familiarity may promote release site settlement and substantially increase post-release survival by maintaining social interactions among group members. (3) For captive animals raised in an artificial environment, development of effective anti-predator behavior may depend on predator training in appropriate social contexts.
Reintroduction of Przewalski’s horses to the Kalameili Nature Reserve in Xinjiang Province, China: Challenges and opportunities?
Melissa Songer, Wynne Collins, Steve Monfort, Peter Leimgruber
Smithsonian National Zoological Park
The Przewalski’s horse’s (Equus ferus przewalskii) demise, in the wild and captivity, is well known. These last true wild horses were extirpated from the wild by the mid-1960s. In 2001, the Wild Horse Breeding Centre initiated the reintroduction of Przewalski’s horses to Kalameili Nature Reserve (KNR), Xinjiang Province, China. However, KNR is used heavily as winter pasture by nomadic herders. Ongoing reintroduction efforts may not be compatible with the existing livestock management, because of grazing competition, risk of disease transmission and interbreeding between domestic and wild horses. We used interview surveys to determine the importance of KNR for local herdsmen and to identify win-win management scenarios. We also initiated post-release monitoring of Przewalski’s horses using satellite transmitters. To assess domestic horse and Przewalski’s horse interactions, we plan to deploy GPS transmitters on domestic stallions. Results show that Przewalski’s horses use a small area of the KNR, but these areas also appear to be prime winter pastures. Interview surveys revealed that many families depend on the winter pasture but are interested in alternative solutions, especially if they lead to better educational and economic opportunities. Data on the interactions between domestic and Przewalski’s horse stallions should be available by spring of 2008.
The Arabian Oryx Project, Oman
Andrew Spalton, Salah Salim al Madhdouri, Yasser Hamdan al Kharousi
Office of the Adviser for Conservation of the Environment, Diwan of Royal Court, Muscat 113, Oman
Oman’s Arabian Oryx Project set standards for large mammal reintroductions in the 1980s and early 1990s. It received global applause not only for successfully achieving a viable wild population but for doing so hand in hand with the local community of pastoral Bedouin. However, in 1996 as the wild population topped 450 oryx, utilizing over 21,000 km2 of desert, the Oryx Project began 10 long years during which poaching for illegal trade decimated the wild herds. This paper considers the collapse of the wild population, ways forward and implications for reintroductions in the region.
Reintroduction as a technique to restore ecological communities and improve regional conservation
Zena Tooze1, Lynne Baker2, Sagan Friant1
1. CERCOPAN. 2. Conservation Biology Program, University of Minnesota
Sites selected for the reintroduction or supplementation of populations are often protected areas, such as national parks, and such projects usually focus on a single endangered species. The use of reintroduction as a method to restore ecological communities using multiple species, which may not be endangered, or increase the number or size of protected areas is less common. In relation to other mammalian reintroductions, we present data on site selection and the mitigation of causes of decline for a reintroduction of two non-endangered African Cercopithecine monkeys, with the aim of re-establishing a historic primate community in a legally unprotected forest in Nigeria. The process, carried out over several years, involved biological surveys, local community participation and consideration of connectivity with protected areas. Mitigation activities included establishing a no-hunting zone, creating protection for primates in community forest, and establishing economic benefits for the local community. Socioeconomic survey data show that 90 percent of hunters support the reintroduction project. We illustrate how this approach to reintroduction, in terms of both the site and species, can benefit regional conservation by increasing number of forest sites protected from human disturbance and restoring community structure, at least for one mammalian order.
California condor: Lessons learned in recovering a K-selected Species
Zoological Society of San Diego
Recovery of the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) focuses on captive breeding and reintroduction to the wild. From a wild population low of 19–22 birds in 1980 there are now 305 individuals with 160 in captivity and 145 wild released birds at five sites within their former range. Close to extinction, all wild condors were captured by 1987. With 27 condors (14 founding lines) in 1987, captive breeding at four zoos stalled extinction and refocused the program on re-establishing condor populations in the wild. Without wild mentors to emulate, pre- and post-release training includes power pole aversion and evolving rearing methods to increase survivorship and encourage normal behaviors. Continuous carrion proffered in release areas support the fledgling populations as foraging traditions are developed. Radio-telemetry and GPS/satellite transmitters allow both direct management/intervention and long term monitoring. The down listing goal of three disjunct populations with two in the wild and one in captivity all containing at least 150 birds and 15 breeding pairs each may be reached by 2020. Lead poisoning and micro trash ingestion by wild nestlings continue to hinder long-term recovery of this species.
Parrots, islands, cages, and hawks: The evolution of a successful adaptive management strategy
Thomas H. White, Jr.1, Francisco J. Vilella,2 Jaime A. Collazo3
1. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2. Mississippi Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. 3. North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
The current reintroduction program for the critically endangered endemic Puerto Rican parrot (Amazona vittata) represents the continual evolution and application of a successful adaptive management strategy developed over the course of 10 years of successive releases of captive-reared parrots both in Puerto Rico (A. vittata) and the Dominican Republic (A. ventralis). Strategies and techniques are refined based on real-time input from the results of each release event, each of which is critically evaluated to identify the interplay between management practices and environmental factors and how subsequent releases may be modified to increase survival of released parrots and facilitate their rapid adaptation to the release environment. Starting with the application of the surrogate species concept for development of target species methodologies, and culminating in site-specific single species release strategies, the current reintroduction program has resulted in the recent re-establishment of the first free-flying Puerto Rican parrot population outside the Caribbean National Forest, until now home to the sole wild population of the species, in over 60 years. We also discuss how this strategically adaptive process is being applied to develop plans to reintroduce yet a third wild population of Puerto Rican parrots on the island.
The use of PVA to define success criteria in reintroduction
University Pierre et Marie Curie, Lab Conservation des Espèces, Restauration & Suivi des Populations, UMR 5173 MNHN-CNRS UPMC, 61 Rue Buffon, 75005 Paris France.
The strong and recent development of reintroduction science mostly aims at improving reintroduction success. However, despite numerous recommendations and meta-analyses, there is no general agreement on the definition of reintroduction success criteria. Restoration ecology already set up a detailed list of success criteria for ecosystem restoration that could provide directions for reintroduction. Indeed, sustainability, resilience and connection clearly remind that long-term population viability is the ultimate goal of these programs. Nevertheless, if all agree that reintroduced populations should be viable, we still need general approaches, targets and threshold to define success. I propose simple elements that may help to structure these issues and may be widely used among reintroduction programs. First, it seems necessary to distinguish between “global” versus “local” targets. In the first case, reintroduction is necessary for the conservation of a globally threatened species. In the second one, reintroduction is locally important but concerns a species that is not globally threatened. Second, we can split reintroduced population dynamics into three basic phases: settlement, growth and regulation. Their duration may vary, and they can even overlap, but in each phase, PVA approaches may help to define success criteria accounting for individual and environmental quality. Finally, the ultimate long-term success relies on the third phase, where IUCN Red List criteria for viability may be used at a global or regional scale according to the type target previously defined. Examples based on long-term studies on scavenger reintroduction in Europe will be used to illustrate these proposals.
Developing the Science of Reintroduction Biology
Philip J. Seddon
Department of Zoology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand
When the last members of a species have been lost from parts of their historical range, often the only option for restoration is through reintroduction, involving the translocation and release of either captive or wild-caught individuals. High-profile programmes in the 1970s and 80s raised awareness of reintroduction as a conservation tool and contributed to a proliferation of new management projects, many poorly planned. Subsequent low success rates of reintroductions worldwide led to calls for improved post-release monitoring, Since 1990, there has been increased collaboration between reintroduction practitioners and researchers. This has resulted in an exponential increase in the number of peer-reviewed publications related to wildlife reintroductions, and there is now a recognizable field of reintroduction biology. However, a recent review (Seddon, Maloney & Armstrong Conservation Biology (2007) 21: 303-312) indicates that much of the research so far has been fragmented and ad hoc, consisting largely of descriptive accounts. Studies have often addressed questions retrospectively based on the available data, rather than the data being collected in organized attempts to gain reliable knowledge to improve reintroduction success. Using examples of fruitful research approaches, I suggest there is scope to improve reintroduction biology by advancing beyond simple observation and description of patterns (inductive reasoning) to formulation and testing of theory, particularly through the use of modeling tools and well-designed experiments. There is also need for a more strategic approach, whereby research and monitoring focus on questions identified a priori to be relevant to improving reintroduction success (Armstrong & Seddon Trends in Ecology and Evolution (2008) 23: 20-25), with different questions focusing at the population, metapopulation and ecosystem level. The specific questions will be outlined in Doug Armstrong’s talk. I conclude with a summary of ways in which a more strategic approach to reintroduction biology can develop under the proposed framework.