Conservation Medicine: Ecological Health in Practice

By A. Alonso Aguirre; Richard S. Ostfeld et al. | Go to book overview

12
Animal Behavior as a Tool in
Conservation Biology
J. Michael Reed

The behavior of animals is important to conservation biology because behavior affects species persistence through a wide variety of mechanisms. These mechanisms can include social disruption of breeding, dispersal and settlement decisions, learned and socially facilitated foraging, translocation success, and canalized behavior that is maladaptive (Reed 1999). In addition, understanding behavior can be critical to solving problems such as reserve design. As an example, one of the current controversies in conservation biology is how to create proper corridors to facilitate dispersal among protected areas (Beier and Noss 1998). Haddad (1999) showed how corridor use might be predicted from animal behavior at habitat boundaries. If we understood the behaviors of endangered species as well as we do those of some domestic species (e.g., domestic sheep do not like walking into their own shadows; Kilgour and Dalton 1984), we could solve one aspect of corridor design. Behavior also can be critical to determining species management goals. For example, a recent study of pilot whales (Globicephala melas) showed that its unusual group structure and mating system require management for many pods rather than management for large numbers of individuals within a single pod (Amos et al. 1993). Beyond setting management goals, behavior sometimes can be manipulated to achieve a particular goal. Just as predators take advantage of prey behavior (Jabłoński 1999), species behaviors can be utilized to achieve conservation goals.

Despite the importance of behavior to species conservation, animal behaviorists only recently have entered the field of conservation biology (Clemmons and Buchholz 1997; Caro 1998; Gosling and Sutherland 2000). Sutherland (1998) clearly demonstrated the lack of integration between the fields of animal behavior and conservation biology. He reviewed the subject matter of papers published in 1996

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