• Religion;
  • wildlife release;
  • biological invasions;
  • Lithobates catesbianus;
  • establishment;
  • prevention


An understanding of anthropogenic factors influencing wildlife invasions is crucial to development of comprehensive prevention and management strategies. However, little attention has been paid to the role religious practice plays in biological invasions. The tradition of wildlife release is prevalent in many areas around the world where Asian religions are influential and is hypothesized to promote species invasions, although quantitative evidence is lacking. We used an information-theoretic approach to evaluate the influence of Buddhist wildlife release events on establishment of feral populations of American bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus) in Yunnan province, southwestern China, from 2008 to 2009. We identified frequency of release events and lentic water conditions as factors that promote establishment of bullfrog populations, whereas hunting activity likely helps to prevent establishment. Our study provides the first quantitative evidence that religious release is an important pathway for wildlife invasions and has implications for prevention and management on a global scale.