Different strokes: Can managing behavioral types increase post-release success?☆

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Jason V. Watters, Cheryl L. Meehan
Applied Animal Behaviour Science
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Re-introduction programs for endangered animals operate under the hope that protected habitats can sustain viable populations that rely little on humans. The goal of these programs is to supply animals with the resources and skills they need to succeed in the modern wild. However, predicting the set of skills necessary to respond to unpredictable selection events is difficult and efforts sometimes fail as animals respond inappropriately to environmental variation because they lack behavioral flexibility. Population resilience to environmental change may be enhanced if all members of a population do not exhibit the same response when selection pressures change. In many species individual animals express behavioral types that exhibit alternative responses to the same stimuli. Yet when animals are prepared for release to thewild, there is rarely consideration of consistent behavioral variation between individuals. Since experience influences both behavioral and physiological responses to varied stimuli and can shape the future behavioral type of captive animals, pre release environmental enrichment may be successful in facilitating the expression of varied behavioral types in populations slated for release. This approach to environmental enrichment requires a departure from a ‘one size fits all’ strategy and may also involve exposure to increased challenge and competition. In addition, there is a need for empirical evidence to better understand the role of environmental enrichment and behavioral types on post-release success. The zoo environment provides an excellent arena for examining the development and expression of behavioral types and for taking a novel functional approach to environmental enrichment research that may prove to be very important to re-introduction efforts.


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