How the rehabilitation of animals in captivity affects survival rates upon release : focus on a reintroduction project with Amazonas vinacea Burk, Karen
The topic of rehabilitation is of special importance when concerning animals that are near extinction. Biodiversity is the variety of animals, plants, their habitats and their genes. It is a key part of the functioning of the planet; if it is changed over a large scale then major responses can be expected. Successful reintroduction projects have aided in the presence of the American bison [Bison bison] and the Bald Eagle [Haliaeetus leucocephalus]. However, there are negative impacts that could occur during reintroduction projects. These include disease transfer, increased competition, and human influence. The most successful relocation projects have involved large numbers being released, removal of the cause of decline, and a population that was originally wild. A successful reintroduction example of European hedgehog [Erinaceus europaeus] involved a short period of captivity, selecting specific release sites, gradual transition from captivity to the wild, and well documented monitoring following release. Failed reintroduction projects, that involved different bear species, provided insight on why projects were unsuccessful. Human contact with bears had the greatest influence across the projects; generally, failed reintroduction resulted in death or recapture of the released individuals. Through successful techniques regarding animal care during captivity, the survival rate of individuals following release could be improved. A current study regarding a project with the vinaceous Amazon parrot [Amazona vinacea] in Santa Catarina, Brazil has shown successful results thus far. This project is still underway, therefore, only the short term results following release are discussed. Understanding the feasibility of the project and selecting an appropriate release site was vital to success of the project. Preparation for release was vigorous but necessary. Ensuring only healthy individuals were released provided the best chance of the population’s survival. By promoting natural behavior and survival techniques while in captivity, the self-sustainability of the population post-release was improved. Tests while in captivity included ‘distance of flight’, ‘human approach’, ‘distance to escape’ and the ‘ability of flight’. These were conducted in the first and last months of the project to observe the changes during training. The actual release provided a smooth transition from captivity to the wild. Proper monitoring, by radio collars and site visits, provided useful information. This is important for gauging the success of the project and whether intervention would be necessary. There were some deaths of released individuals; however, they were natural and not a result of the project methods. Rehabilitation and reintroduction is pricey and may not be appropriate for all situations. Each circumstance is different and not every species will respond the same; proper analysis must be conducted prior to commencing any rehabilitation project. A widely accepted set of methods, proper monitoring, and a universal measure of success are important tasks that need to be completed in order to improve the current management of these projects.
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