October 20 2010

12:00 LSB 2320

Ron Swaisgood
Dept of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA

From here to there: a journey from behavioral ecology to conservation biology in a zoo setting From here to there: a journey from behavioral ecology to conservation biology in a zoo setting


Behavioral ecological approaches have yet to be fully integrated into conservation biology, yet many behavioral processes are likely to influence the success of conservation programs. That the behavior of animals influences conservation is a truism, but the challenge for behavioral scientists has been to move from the implications phase of conservation behavior to more active applications to solve real-world conservation problems. Here I review the need for and merit of this transition, drawing on case studies from the literature but primarily my own work. I will briefly review the use of behavioral ecology in some of the San Diego Zoo’s conservation breeding programs, focusing largely on the role of sensory ecology in its signature program with the iconic giant panda. At the other end of the spectrum, I will discuss more recent research addressing habitat requirements and limiting ecological resources that influence population size in nature, again using the giant panda as the primary source of illustration. The third area of emphasis will be reintroduction biology. Reintroduction and translocation programs suffer from high post-release mortality and long-distance, unpredictable dispersal behavior exacerbates these risks. These programs are essentially exercises in “forced dispersal.” I will discuss several mechanisms known to influence dispersal and settlement, focusing on conspecific cueing, natal habitat preference induction (NHPI), and the social environment at the release site. I explore the possibility that these and other variables can be manipulated to encourage animals to settle, quickly and safely, in appropriate protected habitat, using real-world examples—primarily with local kangaroo rats and not-so-local black rhinoceros—to illustrate this application.















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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