• A comparison of walking rates Between wild and zoo African elephants

      Miller, Lance J.; Chase, Michael J.; Hacker, Charlotte E. (2016)
      The goal of the current study was to compare the walking rates of elephants in the wild versus elephants in zoos to determine if elephants are walking similar distances relative to their wild counterparts. Eleven wild elephants throughout different habitats and locations in Botswana were compared to 8 elephants at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Direct comparisons revealed no significant difference in average walking rates of zoo elephants when compared with wild elephants….
    • A High-Quality, Long-Read De Novo Genome Assembly to Aid Conservation of Hawaii's Last Remaining Crow Species

      Sutton, Jolene; Helmkampf, Martin; Steiner, Cynthia C.; Bellinger, M. Renee; Korlach, Jonas; Hall, Richard; Baybayan, Primo; Muehling, Jill; Gu, Jenny; Kingan, Sarah; et al. (2018)
      Genome-level data can provide researchers with unprecedented precision to examine the causes and genetic consequences of population declines, which can inform conservation management. Here, we present a high-quality, long-read, de novo genome assembly for one of the world’s most endangered bird species, the ʻAlalā (Corvus hawaiiensis; Hawaiian crow). As the only remaining native crow species in Hawaiʻi, the ʻAlalā survived solely in a captive-breeding program from 2002 until 2016, at which point a long-term reintroduction program was initiated. The high-quality genome assembly was generated to lay the foundation for both comparative genomics studies and the development of population-level genomic tools that will aid conservation and recovery efforts. We illustrate how the quality of this assembly places it amongst the very best avian genomes assembled to date, comparable to intensively studied model systems. We describe the genome architecture in terms of repetitive elements and runs of homozygosity, and we show that compared with more outbred species, the ʻAlalā genome is substantially more homozygous. We also provide annotations for a subset of immunity genes that are likely to be important in conservation management, and we discuss how this genome is currently being used as a roadmap for downstream conservation applications
    • A management experiment evaluating nest-site selection by beach-nesting birds

      Swaisgood, Ronald R.; Nordstrom, Lisa A.; Schuetz, Justin G.; Boylan, Jeanette T.; Fournier, Joelle J.; Shemai, Barak (2018)
      It is important to understand nest-site selection in avian species to inform appropriate conservation management strategies. Studies of habitat selection alone, however, may be misleading unless the consequences for survival and reproduction are also documented....
    • A multi-model approach to guide habitat conservation and restoration for the endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat

      Chock, Rachel Y.; Hennessy, Sarah McCullough; Wang, Thea B.; Gray, Emily; Shier, Debra M. (2020)
      The San Bernardino kangaroo rat (Dipodomys merriami parvus) is a federally listed endangered species endemic to Southern California and limited to three remaining populations. Its native habitat of alluvial fan sage scrub faces many anthropogenic threats, including urban and agricultural development, and the resulting flood control and fire suppression. With the loss of natural processes such as scouring or burning from floods and fires, the mosaic of seral stages across the landscape has shifted to dense vegetation, and active restoration may be necessary to provide suitable habitat for the San Bernardino kangaroo rat. Species distribution modeling using the partitioned Mahalanobis distance method on all occurrence points collected in the past 16 years revealed that alluvial scrub cover and fluvent soils were most strongly associated with San Bernardino kangaroo rat occupancy. Through surveys at 14 locations across the species’ range, we identified non-native grass cover, shrub cover, bare ground and sandy soils as microhabitat features related to San Bernardino kangaroo rat abundance. We also calculated the optimal range of cover for each habitat type that was correlated with higher kangaroo rat abundance. The results of this multiple-model approach can be used by the agencies to assess the value of conserved habitat, set targets for microhabitat enhancement to facilitate population growth and expansion, or identify receiver sites should translocation be required for recovery. This work lays the foundation for more coordinated and strategic restoration efforts, given the compressed and rigid timelines of development projects that continue to impact remaining San Bernardino kangaroo rat populations.
    • A reliable method for sexing giant otters (Pteronura brasiliensis) in the wild

      Groenendijk, Jessica; Hajek, Frank (2015)
      ...Here, we present a reliable method of sexing wild Giant otters of all ages and sexual status, tested with known sex individuals.
    • Altitudinal movements of Guizhou snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus brelichi) in Fanjingshang National Nature Reserve, China: Implications for conservation management of a flagship species

      Niu, K.; Tan, C.L.; Yang, Y.; (2010)
      Primate movements can include a substantial altitudinal component, depending on the complexity of the landscape and the distribution of the inherent vegetation zones. We investigated altitudinal movements of Guizhou snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus brelichi) at Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve, China. The monkeys ranged at elevations between 1,350 and 1,870 m with an overall mean of 1,660 m….
    • Applications of animal behavior to conservation

      Swaisgood, Ronald R.; Greggor, Alison L.; Choe, Jae (Academic PressOxford, UK, 2019)
      Animal behavior can influence conservation outcomes, and can be used as a tool for diagnosing anthropogenic impacts and managing species’ recovery. Researchers from disparate backgrounds in animal behavior, most notably behavioral ecology and applied ethology, are using their research to contribute to conservation efforts, including reserve design, human disturbance, and reintroduction programs....
    • Applying SNP-derived molecular coancestry estimates to captive breeding programs

      Ivy, Jamie A.; Putnam, Andrea S.; Navarro, Asako Y.; Gurr, Jessica; Ryder, Oliver A. (2016)
      ...Although pedigree-based breeding strategies are quite effective at retaining long-term genetic variation, management of zoo-based breeding programs continues to be hampered when pedigrees are poorly known. The objective of this study was to evaluate 2 options for generating single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data to resolve unknown relationships within captive breeding programs...
    • Assessing California's Relocation Guidelines for Burrowing Owls Impacted by Renewable Energy Development.

      Hennessy, Sarah McCullough; Wisinski, Colleen; Ronan, Noelle; Gregory, Chris; Swaisgood, Ronald R.; Nordstrom, Lisa A. (California Energy Commission, 2020)
      Once common and widespread throughout the western United States and Canada, the western burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea) population has declined to the point where the species is now designated as a Species of Special Concern in California. Their presence in development areas, including renewable energy facilities, necessitates an effective strategy for protecting them. This study is the first of its kind to test both passive and active relocation techniques with burrowing owls and evaluate their relative effectiveness with and without the addition of conspecific cues (such as acoustic playback of owl calls and imitation whitewash to attract the owls)....
    • Assessing evolutionary processes over time in a conservation breeding program: A combined approach using molecular data, simulations and pedigree analysis

      Wright, Belinda R.; Hogg, Carolyn J.; McLennan, Elspeth A.; Belov, Katherine; Grueber, Catherine E. (2021)
      …We have quantified the effects of selection, drift and gene flow in 503 individuals across five generations from the Tasmanian devil insurance population. To determine whether different processes were acting in different settings, we separately analysed animals housed under individual-based management, versus those that were released to an island site. We found that a greater proportion of alleles were lost over time in the smaller island population than in captivity and propose that genetic drift is the most likely process influencing this result….
    • Assessing the effectiveness of China’s panda protection system

      Wei, Wei; Swaisgood, Ronald R.; Pilfold, Nicholas W.; Owen, Megan A.; Dai, Qiang; Wei, Fuwen; Han, Han; Yang, Zhisong; Yang, Xuyu; Gu, Xiaodong; et al. (2020)
      ...Together these findings indicate that China’s panda reserves have been effective and that they are functioning better over time, conserving more and better habitats and containing more pandas. While China’s protected area system still has much room for improvement [4, 5], including to support pandas [16], these findings underscore the progress made in China’s nascent environmental movement.
    • Automated telemetry reveals post-reintroduction exploratory behavior and movement patterns of an endangered corvid, ʻAlalā (Corvus hawaiiensis) in Hawaiʻi, USA

      Smetzer, Jennifer R.; Greggor, Alison L.; Paxton, Kristina L.; Masuda, Bryce M.; Paxton, Eben H. (2021)
      Continuous movement monitoring is a powerful tool for evaluating reintroduction techniques and assessing how well reintroduced animals are adjusting to the wild. However, to date, continuous monitoring has only occurred for large-bodied species capable of carrying heavy tracking devices. In this study we used an automated VHF radio telemetry array to investigate the exploratory behavior and movement patterns of critically endangered ?Alal? (Corvus hawaiiensis), reintroduced to the Island of Hawai?i in 2017. The 11 juvenile ?Alal? we tracked exhibited high site fidelity and initial survival. Over time the birds showed decreased time spent at the supplemental feeders, and transitioned to more focused use of the landscape, suggesting increased foraging on wild food items. Birds with seemingly less spatial neophobia at release also made larger post-release exploratory movements. This study provides the first evidence that 1) supplemental feeding can support site fidelity for reintroduced ?Alal? without restricting a transition to independent foraging, and 2) that pre-release personality metrics may be useful predictors for predicting post-release movements of ?Alal?. Our work is the first to demonstrate the utility and power of automated telemetry for monitoring the reintroduction of small species.
    • Behavior coding and ethogram of Guizhou snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus brelichi)

      Cui, Duoying; Niu, K.; Tan, Chia L.; Yang, M.; Zhang, Y.; Zhang, J.; Yang, Y. (2014)
      We observed the behavior processes and habitats of free-ranging Guizhou snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus brelichi) in Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve (FNNR) and captive Guizhousnub-nosed monkeys in Wildlife Rescue Center in FNNR and Beijing Zoo from October 2009 to April 2014…. We found that there were some behavioral differences among Guizhou snub-nosed monkey, Sichuan snub-nosed monkey and Yunnan snub-nosed monkey in individual and social behaviors, and these might be related to the different habitats.
    • Behavioral adaptations of a large carnivore to human activity in an extremely arid landscape

      Barocas, Adi; Hefner R.; Ucko M.; Merkle J. A.; Geffen Eli (2018)
      Abstract Driven by the availability of food subsidies and landscape transformation, large carnivore populations are increasingly inhabiting the vicinity of humans. To persist in human proximity, while avoiding conflict and mortality, they must make adjustments in their spatial behavior....
    • Biosphere reserve to transshipment Port: Travesty for Jamaica's Goat Islands.

      Grant, Tandora D. (2014)
      You know what is a huge bummer? Being a part of an amazing conservation success story to recover a species, only to reach the point where all those efforts appear lost. I know I’m not the only conservationist who has fought similar battles — many losing, but occasionally winning. I still have hope that reason will prevail and my colleagues and I can make further progress toward true recovery and the long-term goals of sustainability. The Jamaican Iguana (Cyclura collei) is a really big lizard that was thought to have been extinct for 40-something years when a small number of individuals were found in the rugged limestone interior of the Hellshire Hills on the southern coast of Jamaica…
    • Blood Lead Levels in Captive Giant Pandas

      Wintle, Nathan J. P.; Martin-Wintle, Meghan S.; Zhou, Xiaoping; Zhang, Hemin (2018)
      Fifteen giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) from the Chinese Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP) in Bifengxia, Sichuan, China were analyzed for blood lead concentrations (Pb-B) during the 2017 breeding season. Thirteen of the 15 bears showed Pb-B below the method detection limit (MDL) of 3.3 µg/dL....
    • Bringing the Tiger Back from the Brink—The Six Percent Solution

      Walston, Joe; Robinson, John G.; Bennett, Elizabeth L.; Breitenmoser, Urs; Fonseca, Gustavo A. B. da; Goodrich, John; Gumal, Melvin; Hunter, Luke; Johnson, Arlyne; Karanth, K. Ullas; et al. (2010)
      ...Wild tiger numbers are at an historic low. There is no evidence of breeding populations of tigers in Cambodia, China, Vietnam, and DPR Korea. Current approaches to tiger conservation are not slowing the decline in tiger numbers [1]–[3], which has continued unabated over the last two decades. While the scale of the challenge is enormous, we submit that the complexity of effective implementation is not: commitments should shift to focus on protecting tigers at spatially well-defined priority sites, supported by proven best practices of law enforcement, wildlife management, and scientific monitoring. Conflict with local people needs to be mitigated. We argue that such a shift in emphasis would reverse the decline of wild tigers and do so in a rapid and cost-efficient manner....
    • Building a new burrowing owl subpopulation through collaboration and translocation

      Wisinski, Colleen L.; Hennessy, Sarah M.; Marczak, Susanne A.; Mayer, D.; Nelson, T.; Nordstrom, Lisa A.; Rice, K.; Sin, H.; Stevens, Michael T.; Swaisgood, Ronald R. (Virtual, 2021)
      The western burrowing owl (BUOW, Athene cunicularia hypugaea)–a California species of special concern–has experienced range-wide declines, including in San Diego County where only one breeding population remained by the 2010s. As such, local conservation goals include increasing the number of breeding sub-populations to guard against extirpation of BUOW from the county. A working group including government agencies, non-profit organizations, and biological consultants was created to carry out adaptive management and conservation planning in support of these goals. Through a systematic and collaborative effort, we identified Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve (RJER) as the first site for expanding the BUOW population. Site preparation techniques included vegetation management, targeted enhancement of the California ground squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) population, and retrofitting/installation of artificial burrows. Population viability analysis utilizing 3 years of local demographic data predicted positive population growth from a small initial translocation population, and in 2018, we began translocating BUOW to RJER using a soft-release technique. Over three successive breeding seasons, we documented reproduction and retention of translocated owls, recruitment of their offspring, and recruitment of non-translocated owls. Here, we detail our methodologies and success metrics, and discuss leveraging our collaborative efforts to achieve conservation goals with limited resources.
    • California condor recovery: a work in progress

      Wallace, Michael P.; Lamont, Miles M. (Hancock House PublishersToronto, Ontario, Canada. Surrey, BC, Canada., 2014)