alexa Someplace like home: Experience, habitat selection and conservation biology
Environmental Sciences

Environmental Sciences

Journal of Biodiversity & Endangered Species

Author(s): Judy A Stamps, Ronald R Swaisgood

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Recent insights from habitat selection theory may help conservation managers encourage released animals to settle in appropriate habitats. By all measures, success rates for captive–release and translocation programs are low, and have shown few signs of improvement in recent years. We consider situations in which free-living dispersers prefer new habitats that contain stimuli comparable to those in their natal habitat, a phenomenon called natal habitat preference induction (NHPI). Theory predicts NHPI when dispersers experienced favorable conditions in their natal habitat, and have difficulty estimating the quality of unfamiliar habitats. NHPI is especially likely to occur when performance in a given habitat is enhanced if an animal developed in that same habitat type. Animals exhibiting NHPI are expected to rely on conspicuous cues that can be quickly and easily detected during search, and to prefer new habitats possessing cues that match those encountered in their natal habitat. A major obstacle to successful relocations is that newly released animals often reject the habitat near the release site and rapidly travel long distances away before settling. An NHPI perspective argues that long- distance movements away from release sites occur because releasees prefer to settle in familiar types of habitat, and reject novel areas lacking cues similar to those in their habitat of origin. Similarly, a preference by releasees for familiar cues may encourage them to seek out inappropriate, low quality habitats following release at a new location. We review evidence from a number of studies indicating that problems with habitat selection behavior compromise conservation efforts, and provide recommendations that may encourage animals to ‘‘feel more at home’’ in post-release habitats.

This article was published in ApplAnimBehavSci and referenced in Journal of Biodiversity & Endangered Species

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