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Losing anti-predatory behaviour: A cost of translocation



Translocation of endangered species to habitats where exotic predators have been removed is now a common conservation practice around the world. Many of these translocated populations have thrived, and they are often used as sources for the harvesting of individuals for translocations to sites where exotic predators still exist, albeit at reduced densities. This study investigates how isolation from exotic predators affects the ability of individuals to recognize such predators using the North Island robin (Petroica longipes) as a model. The study was carried out in three robin populations in the North Island, New Zealand: a translocated population on Tiritiri Matangi Island, where exotic mammalian predators are absent; a population reintroduced from Tiritiri Matangi Island to Wenderholm Regional Park, a mainland site where these mammals are controlled to low densities; and a mainland population at Benneydale where exotic predatory mammals are common. The response intensity of robins to a model stoat was high at Benneydale and low at Tiritiri Matangi and Wenderholm. This result indicates that isolation from mammalian predators on Tiritiri Matangi has suppressed the ability of North Island robins to recognize these predators. It is possible that the low predatory mammal densities at Wenderholm have reduced robin contact with stoats, therefore reduced the opportunity for robins to learn to recognize stoats. Thus, translocation of individuals from populations without predators to places where key predators still exist could be unsuccessful if translocated individuals fail to perform appropriate anti-predator behaviours.