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Linklater W.L.,Victoria University of Wellington | Linklater W.L.,Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University | Gedir J.V.,Victoria University of Wellington | Law P.R.,PRLDB Modeling | And 5 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Species translocations are remarkable experiments in evolutionary ecology, and increasingly critical to biodiversity conservation. Elaborate socio-ecological hypotheses for translocation success, based on theoretical fitness relationships, are untested and lead to complex uncertainty rather than parsimonious solutions. We used an extraordinary 89 reintroduction and 102 restocking events releasing 682 black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) to 81 reserves in southern Africa (1981-2005) to test the influence of interacting socio-ecological and individual characters on post-release survival. We predicted that the socio-ecological context should feature more prominently after restocking than reintroduction because released rhinoceros interact with resident conspecifics. Instead, an interaction between release cohort size and habitat quality explained reintroduction success but only individuals' ages explained restocking outcomes. Achieving translocation success for many species may not be as complicated as theory suggests. Black rhino, and similarly asocial generalist herbivores without substantial predators, are likely to be resilient to ecological challenges and robust candidates for crisis management in a changing world. © 2012 Linklater et al. Source

Linklater W.L.,Victoria University of Wellington | Linklater W.L.,Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University | Linklater W.L.,San Diego Zoos Institute for Conservation Research | Adcock K.,IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group | And 6 more authors.
Journal of Applied Ecology | Year: 2011

1. Most hypotheses for translocation success are elaborate, hierarchical, and untested combinations of socio-ecological predictors. Empirical support for those tested is vulnerable to spurious single-predictor relationships and does not account for the hierarchy amongst predictors and non-independence amongst individuals or cohorts. Testing hypotheses as a priori multi-level models promotes stronger inference. 2. We apply a 25-year (1981-2005) data base including 89 reintroduction and 102 restocking events that released 682 black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis into 81 reserves to test 24 hypotheses for translocation success, defined as survival to 1year post-release. We made information-theoretic comparisons of hypotheses represented as hierarchical models incorporating random effects for reserve and release cohort predictors of death. 3. Mortality rates after restocking were higher than for reintroductions (13·4 cf. 7·9%, respectively) due largely to intraspecific fighting. No predictors strongly influenced reintroduction success, although cohorts consisting entirely of adult males were 8·2% of individuals but contributed 21·9% of deaths, and reserves with lowest carrying capacities (i.e. <0·1rhinokm-2) had a 16·3% mortality rate. Most models for restocking success were not supported. Only those including age class received substantial support. Age was the only predictor to strongly influence death rates. Predictors previously thought influential, like population density, reserve area and quality, and cohort size, were not supported. 4. Synthesis and applications. Simple rules succeeded where complex ecological and demographic hypotheses failed to predict survival after translocation of critically endangered black rhinoceros. Results support bold attempts by managers at translocations towards species recovery in most ways that they have historically occurred. Groups of rhinoceros of different size and composition can be successfully moved over large distances between different ecological contexts. Also, the release of cohorts into reserves that are relatively small, poorer habitat or already stocked need not be avoided so long as calves and all-male cohorts are not reintroduced, and only adults used for restocking. Our analysis demonstrates the importance of information-theoretic comparisons of a priori hierarchical models to test hypotheses for conservation management. We caution against interpreting simple correlations or regression amongst a large number of nested ecological and demographic variables. © 2011 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology © 2011 British Ecological Society. Source

Naidoo R.,World Wildlife Fund | Du Preez P.,Directorate of Scientific Services | Stuart-Hill G.,World Wildlife Fund | Jago M.,Directorate of Scientific Services | Wegmann M.,University of Wurzburg
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Partial migration (when only some individuals in a population undertake seasonal migrations) is common in many species and geographical contexts. Despite the development of modern statistical methods for analyzing partial migration, there have been no studies on what influences partial migration in tropical environments. We present research on factors affecting partial migration in African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) in northeastern Namibia. Our dataset is derived from 32 satellite tracking collars, spans 4 years and contains over 35,000 locations. We used remotely sensed data to quantify various factors that buffalo experience in the dry season when making decisions on whether and how far to migrate, including potential man-made and natural barriers, as well as spatial and temporal heterogeneity in environmental conditions. Using an information-theoretic, non-linear regression approach, our analyses showed that buffalo in this area can be divided into 4 migratory classes: migrants, non-migrants, dispersers, and a new class that we call "expanders". Multimodel inference from least-squares regressions of wet season movements showed that environmental conditions (rainfall, fires, woodland cover, vegetation biomass), distance to the nearest barrier (river, fence, cultivated area) and social factors (age, size of herd at capture) were all important in explaining variation in migratory behaviour. The relative contributions of these variables to partial migration have not previously been assessed for ungulates in the tropics. Understanding the factors driving migratory decisions of wildlife will lead to better-informed conservation and land-use decisions in this area. © 2012 Naidoo et al. Source

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