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Data are presented from an island in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia which has …

Biology Articles » Conservation Biology » Wildlife reintroduction: considerations of habitat quality at the release site » Background

- Wildlife reintroduction: considerations of habitat quality at the release site

The principal objectives of a reintroduction project are to establish a viable, free-ranging population in the wild, of a species, which has become globally or locally extinct in the wild [1]. Within this reintroduction concept there are two types of reintroduction: (a) re-establishment: the use of captive-bred animals to re-establish an extinct population and (b) stocking reintroduction which involves supplementing a declining population with captive-bred animals [2]. I propose a third definition: 'population reintroduction' which should refer to the use of wild-born, captive-raised animals to re-establish a population where it has become locally extinct, but only if the area can be adequately protected. Reintroduction addresses conservation on two levels: (1) animals kept illegally as pets are rescued, rehabilitated and returned to the wild, thereby addressing the illegal trade in wild animals and the welfare of these animals while in captivity and (2) by reintroducing animals into areas where they are locally extinct, the wild populations are supplemented and additional areas of forest can be protected. Reintroduction may be the only viable way of repopulating areas of forest that have been devastated by hunting.

For rehabilitation to succeed, equal care and planning should go into both the pre-release and post-release phases. Past experience has identified several factors that affect the success of the release of previously held captive animals: negative impact on the native flora and fauna (chimpanzees and orang-utans, [3]), mortality due to animals being unused to natural predators in the release site (golden lion tamarins, [4]), poaching, traffic, shooting by humans (drills, [5]), inter- and intra-specific competition (gibbons, [6]), and poor habitat quality at the release site (gibbons, pers. obs.).

With post-release, not only must the animal's behaviour be monitored, but also the habitat of the release site must be surveyed adequately. Providing that a detailed habitat survey is carried out prior to the release, there should be limited impact on the native flora and fauna by gibbons. Post-release monitoring of forest as well as individuals must be as comprehensive as possible and should follow established scientific data collection methods. The result of poorly planned releases and reintroduction of primates has clear results: failure of the primates to adapt to the wild, failure of the population to increase and negligible conservation impact.

Here I present data from the habitat survey of an island where a pair of captive-raised adult Hylobates agilis albibarbis were released in January 2003 from the Kalaweit Gibbon Rehabilitation Project in Central Kalimantan. The habitat analysis was carried out to ensure that the island was capable of supporting the gibbons and the resident wildlife i.e "can Mintin Island sustain a population of gibbons, and if so, how large a population?"

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