Increasing the success of wildlife translocations is critical, given the escalating global threats to wildlife.
“Understanding of the complexity of social behavior in both wild and captive populations has greatly expanded over recent years,” says Shifra Goldenberg, Ph.D., Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute ecologist and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research fellow.
The study offers wildlife managers a framework in which to analyze and evaluate social relationships within a translocation program, which entails evaluation of an individual animal’s social interactions before, during and after human intervention.
“Elephants are exceptional candidate species for release efforts; despite the support and broader benefits inherent to elephant release projects, elephants are challenging animals to translocate,” says Megan Owen, Ph.D., director of Population Sustainability at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.
The paper suggests that improved data collection on individual animal social structure before translocation and rewilding can significantly inform decision-making and increase post-translocation success—including the consideration and mitigation of problems that can arise post translocation, such as human-animal conflict.
“Careful consideration of the ways in which social relationships shape how wildlife use landscapes can be an important tool for conservation translocations, whether the species is territorial and solitary or highly interactive,” adds Goldenberg.