Boldness towards novelty and translocation success in captive-raised, orphaned Tasmanian devils
Sinn, DL and Cawthen, L and Jones, SM and Pukk, C and Jones, ME, Boldness towards novelty and translocation success in captive-raised, orphaned Tasmanian devils, Zoo Biology, 33, (1) pp. 36-48. ISSN 0733-3188 (2014) [Refereed Article]
Translocation of endangered animals is common, but success is often variable and/or poor. Despite its intuitive appeal, little is known with regards to how individual differences amongst translocated animals influence their post-release survival, growth, and reproduction. We measured consistent pre-release responses to novelty in a familiar environment (boldness; repeatability = 0.55) and cortisol response in a group of captive-reared Tasmanian devils, currently listed as "Endangered" by the IUCN. The devils were then released at either a hard- or soft-release site within their mothers' population of origin, and individual growth, movement, reproduction (females only), and survival across 2–8 months post-release was measured. Sex, release method, cohort, behavior, and cortisol response did not affect post-release growth, nor did these factors influence the home range size of orphan devils. Final linear distances moved from the release site were impacted heavily by the release cohort, but translocated devils' movement overall was not different from that in the same-age wild devils. All orphan females of reproductive age were subsequently captured with offspring. Overall survival rates in translocated devils were moderate (∼42%), and were not affected by devil sex, release method, cohort, release weight, or pre-release cortisol response. Devils that survived during the study period were, however, 3.5 times more bold than those that did not (effect size r = 0.76). Our results suggest that conservation managers may need to provide developmental conditions in captivity that promote a wide range of behaviors across individuals slated for wild release.