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Keywords:

  • koala;
  • management;
  • Phascolarctos cinereus;
  • South Australia;
  • survival;
  • translocation

Abstract

Effective management of overabundant animal populations is a difficult challenge for wildlife managers around the globe. Translocation is often considered a viable management tool, whereby individual animals are removed from areas of high population density and released in areas where densities are lower. Typically, the success of a translocation program is measured at the population source, with little attention given to the fate of translocated individuals. Here we use a koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) translocation program from southeastern Australia as a case study to investigate the effects of translocation on individual animals. The koala is an iconic species that occurs at high densities in some parts of its southern range, leading to numerous conservation and animal welfare issues. Between 1997 and 2007 over 3,000 koalas from a high-density island population were captured, surgically sterilized, and translocated to the mainland. Annual post-translocation surveys at release sites revealed densities of ≤0.4 koalas/ha, despite release densities of 1.0 koala/ha. Radiotracking studies indicate that low densities were because of both mortality and high dispersal of translocated individuals. We observed a mortality rate of 37.5% for translocated koalas in the first 12 months post-release. No deaths occurred among animals that were not sterilized and translocated. Translocated koalas moved greater distances than non-translocated animals. Monitoring of translocated individuals should be performed routinely during translocation programs for overabundant species. Due consideration must be given to what is an acceptable level of mortality for translocated individuals. Although often considered an ethically acceptable management technique (especially for iconic and charismatic species), translocation may not always be the best option from an animal welfare perspective. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.