Adapting reintroduction tactics in successive trials increases the likelihood of establishment for an endangered carnivore in a fenced sanctuary

Belinda A. Wilson, Maldwyn J. Evans, Maldwyn J. Evans, William G. Batson, Sam C. Banks, Iain J. Gordon, Iain J. Gordon, Iain J. Gordon, Iain J. Gordon, Donald B. Fletcher, Claire Wimpenny, Jenny Newport, Emily Belton, Annette Rypalski, Tim Portas, Adrian D. Manning

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Abstract

Threatened species recovery programs are increasingly turning to reintroductions to reverse biodiversity loss. Here we present a real-world example where tactics (techniques which influence post-release performance and persistence) and an adaptive management framework (which incorporates feedback between monitoring and future actions) improved reintroduction success. Across three successive trials we investigated the influence of tactics on the effective survival and post-release dispersal of endangered eastern quolls (Dasyurus viverrinus) reintroduced into Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, Australian Capital Territory. Founders were monitored for 42 days post-release, and probability of survival and post-release dispersal were tested against trial, origin, sex, den sharing and presence of pouch young. We adopted an adaptive management framework, using monitoring to facilitate rapid learning and to implement interventions that improved reintroduction success. Founders released in the first trial were less likely to survive (28.6%, n = 14) than those founders released the second (76.9%, n = 13) and third trials (87.5%, n = 8). We adapted several tactics in the second and third trials, including the selection of female-only founders to avoid elevated male mortality, and post-mating releases to reduce stress. Founders that moved dens between consecutive nights were less likely to survive, suggesting that minimising post-release dispersal can increase the probability of survival. The probability of moving dens was lower in the second and third trials, for females, and when den sharing with another founder. This study demonstrates that, through iterative trials of tactics involving monitoring and learning, adaptive management can be used to significantly improve the success of reintroduction programs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0234455
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS One
Volume15
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

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