Introduction: Animal Behavior & Conservation

Bridge Between Behavior and Conservation

Tami Wetterlind and Bobbi Benson

Behavior and conservation go hand-in-hand. Understanding and accommodating behaviors that maximize survival is necessary to design a successful conservation program. Tinbergen classifies animal behavior studies into four categories: behavioral causation, ontogeny, adaptive or survival value, and evolution or phylogeny (Linklater 2004). Captivity and release programs for conservation purposes are a result of these behavioral studies.

Captivity can compromise animal behavior, and in turn, the success of reintroduction programs (McPhee 2002). A well-designed conservation program can maximize the success of reintroduced species. Information necessary to obtain a detailed study of the behavior and ecology of free-ranging wild-born animals should include descriptions of the animals’ movements, home range size, habitat preferences, shelter requirements, and foraging and feeding behavior, all of which may determine a species’ critical needs (Kleiman 1989). A comprehensive conservation effort realizes the role of behavior in survival and utilizes that information when designing practices that maximize behavioral success.

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Kleiman, DG. 1989. Reintroduction of captive mammals for conservation. BioScience 39: 152-162.

Linklater, WL. 2004. Wanted for conservation research: behavioral ecologists with a broader perspective. BioScience 54: 352-360.

McPhee, EM. 2002. Generations in captivity increases behavioral variance: considerations for captive breeding and reintroduction programs. Biological Conservation 115: 71-77.


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